Missouri family cleared of cutting down walnut trees
PINEVILLE (AP) — DNA evidence has cleared a southwest Missouri family of going onto other people's land without permission to cut down walnut trees.
The Joplin Globe reports that charges were dismissed Tuesday against Melvin and Ronda Bickford and their two sons, 21-year-old Ashton, and 24-year-old Johnathon. Prosecutor Bill Dobbs says testing of evidence collected at the crime scene didn't match any of the family's DNA.
The Bickfords and a friend were charged last year with cutting down 17 walnut trees in northern McDonald County. The friend, 41-year-old John Ellis, pleaded guilty in March to two counts of theft and two counts of property damage in a plea bargain allowing suspended sentences and probation.
Dobbs says Ellis' conviction still stands. But the DNA test results scuttled the prosecution's case against the Bickfords.