Kentucky man charged with illegally cutting down neighbor’s black walnut trees

Published 5:25 am Thursday, April 14, 2022

A Kentucky man is accused of stealing 10 walnut trees from a neighbor’s farm recently.

Franklin County Sheriff’s deputies were called to Benson Valley Road on March 4 in reference to the theft.

The victim, Kevin Colston, told law enforcement that his neighbor, Lee Rarden, of Frankfort, trespassed onto his farm and cut down 10 black walnut trees.

According to a sheriff’s report, Rarden admitted to taking three trees down off the property and selling them to a sawmill in Owenton. Rarden told authorities that he thought the trees were on his parents’ property.

Six days later, Colston took FCSO Sgt. Phillip Ray around his property to show him the damage that was done and the property lines, which run parallel and around Rarden’s farm and are clearly marked by old and new fencing.

In his report, Ray noted that 10 very large black walnut trees — some measuring between 24 inches and 36 inches in circumference — had been cut down on the property.

“Six of the trees were in a secluded area that Colston and his son use for a camping retreat near the creek,” Ray wrote in his report.

On March 22, a Franklin Circuit Court grand jury indicted Rarden, 34, on charges of first-degree criminal mischief, a Class D felony, and second-degree persistent felony offender.

He is scheduled to be arraigned at 9 a.m. on Friday, April 29.

Court records indicate that in January 2015, Rarden pleaded guilty to first-degree promoting contraband, a Class D felony; third-degree possession of a controlled substance and operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol/drugs, second offense, both Class A misdemeanor; and controlled substance not in original container, a Class B misdemeanor.

This isn’t the first reported walnut tree theft locally.

Last month, the Henry County Sheriff’s Office and Shelby County Sheriff’s Office partnered to investigate large-scale thefts of walnut trees that were cut down along the road of a wildlife management area.

Two Shelbyville men, James Morgan and Carroll Ivan Cunningham, were charged with first-degree theft by unlawful taking and first-degree criminal mischief, both Class D felonies.

“We caught two suspects and think these thefts are related, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other crews doing the same thing,” Henry County Sheriff Keith Perry told the Henry County Local last month.

SCSO Capt. Blake Lisby said that suspects sneak onto agriculture farms in the area with trucks and trailers and go where they are unseen from the road. The thefts target the straightest trees, he said.

“This isn’t a one-person job,” added Lisby. “This isn’t a quick thing. It takes a long time to cut and load. Thieves can get five or six logs per trailer load.”
Walnut trees are always one of the most demanded trees in the wood industry. The larger the diameter, the more a black walnut tree is worth.
For example, black walnut trees can grow to be well over 30 inches and up to 40 inches in diameter. The larger tree logs can be worth $2,000 or more, depending on lumber grade.