Woman who chopped down kids' trees gets probation, service

Probation, restitution and community service are in store for a Central Point woman who chopped down three trees planted by elementary school students in 2008.

Phyllis Ingram Fairless, 65, of the 100 block of Bush Street, was sentenced Tuesday in Jackson County Circuit Court. She pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal mischief before Judge Ron Grensky. An additional misdemeanor charge of second-degree criminal trespass was dismissed in a plea agreement.

In addition to serving 18 months of probation, she must perform 24 hours of community service and pay $200 restitution for the trees.

Students of fifth-grade Central Point Elementary teacher Mack Lewis were upset in February 2008 to discover that three of the 10 sweet gum trees they had planted had been cut down and covered with salt in an apparent effort to halt regrowth.

Police moved promptly in citing Fairless, who lives near the school, as a suspect after the incident as she had history of bizarre behavior and conflicts with neighbors, Central Point Lt. Chuck Newell said.

Jackson County court records show Fairless has previous convictions for animal abandonment and improper use of 9-1-1.

News of the tree eradication reached entertainer Billy Bob Thornton, for whom one of the trees was named, prompting the actor/musician to offer to donate a replacement.

That tree and others were replanted recently.

— Sanne Specht

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