Two men arrested for cutting up a bridge on state Department of Natural Resources land in a timber theft scheme on the Upper Hoh River were covered with sawdust and reeked of …
Two men arrested for cutting up a bridge on state Department of Natural Resources land in a timber theft scheme on the Upper Hoh River were covered with sawdust and reeked of chainsaw gas, according to police.
Troy Stephen Crandall and Jose Carmen Salinas were charged with first-degree trafficking of stolen property, first-degree malicious mischief, and second-degree theft Friday in Jefferson County Superior Court.
Crandall and Salinas, both from Forks, entered pleadings of not guilty to the three felonies.
The pair were arrested Oct. 22 after a concerned deer hunter reported hearing a chainsaw in the woods where he was planning to hunt.
The area was about a mile and a half past a closed DNR gate off Upper Hoh Road. The hunter, according to court papers, then discovered a silver sedan and blocks of cedar wood in a nearby ditch. He immediately reported the wood cutting, and an DNR officer responded and found two men, later identified as Crandall and Salinas, in the sedan near a wooden bridge they allegedly had been dismantling with chainsaws.
When questioned about the cedar blocks, the men allegedly said “they were hungry and needed cash.”
Crandell then allegedly told the officer, “This is corporate bull——; this bridge is rotting anyway.”
Crandell said he had cut up the bridge, according to court documents, and the officer discovered the outside span of the north side of the bridge had been cut apart and removed, and the cables that were holding the bridge together were dangling beneath the span.
The girder on the bottom of the west side of the bridge had also been sawed apart.
After the arrival of a sheriff’s deputy, Salinas, 42, was arrested, and Crandall, 62, was arrested 30 minutes later. Authorities seized two large chainsaws, a Stihl with a 50-inch bar, and a Poulan with a 34-inch bar, as well as two axes, a metal wedge, and a peeve hook.
Damage to the bridge was first estimated to cost $20,000 to repair, while the stolen cedar was valued at $3,000.
During their arraignment late last week in Jefferson County Superior Court, Lilly Powers, Crandall’s attorney asked bail to be dropped from $50,000 to $10,000 based on Crandall’s indigent status. He was on Social Security disability, and also receives food stamps and medical assistance.
He also grew up in the Forks area, and Powers said it was a crime centering on the theft of wood.
“It’s not a violent case; it’s not a sex case. It doesn’t appear that any person was harmed,” Powers said.
Deputy Prosecutor Anna Phillips noted Crandall’s history of not showing up when he was supposed to in court, and pointed to 15 prior warrants in earlier cases.
“He’s basically deconstructing a public bridge,” Phillips added.
“He put people in peril on a rural road that was being used for hunting and by outdoor enthusiasts,” she said. “This is not just somebody who picked up some cedar.”
Judge Keith Harper said the bail would stay the same, noting that Crandall was a “very, very extremely high risk to not show up and not comply with court orders.”
Crandell’s trial was set for
Public defender attorney Scott Charlton also asked for the bail to be lowered for Salinas. Bail had also been set at $50,000.
“He was not the leader of this enterprise that led to this hearing,” Charlton said.
Salinas was recently married, his attorney noted, and added, “I’ll make sure he gets to court.”
That prompted a fast question from the judge.
“How will you be doing that?” Harper asked.
Charlton promised regular contacts with his client, but talk soon turned to the large number of court warrants in Salinas’ past: 94.
“The bail is going to remain,” the judge said. “There’s an extraordinary risk that he will never show up regardless of his attorney’s efforts.”
“These are serious offenses and circumstances.”
Salinas’ trial was scheduled for Jan. 21
First-degree malicious mischief and first-degree trafficking in stolen property can both result in a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine upon conviction, while the maximum for second-degree theft is five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
The alleged timber theft led to the Department of Natural Resources sending out a blunt tweet last week: “Can’t believe we have to say this, but don’t take chainsaws to our bridges.”
In following messages on Twitter, DNR noted the cedar chunks could “be sold on the black market for mill owners to turn them into shake and shingles.”
“This happened behind what had been a locked gate, but the lock was broken off. DNR staff now have to reinspect the bridge to ensure that it remains safe. This is incredibly dangerous for our staff who work in the woods, as well as members of the public,” DNR said in a following tweet.