Graffiti covers the base of the McBaine Bur Oak tree in January

Graffiti covers the base of the McBaine Bur Oak tree on Jan. 10. Officials believe the vandalism occurred in December but was not reported immediately.

COLUMBIA — On a cold morning in December, John Sam Williamson noticed fresh spray paint on the state champion bur oak on his property south of Columbia.

While acts of vandalism against the tree have happened before, this time there was evidence — incriminating Facebook photos.

An investigation by the Boone County Sheriff's Department prompted the Boone County Prosecutor's office to file second-degree property damage charges, a misdemeanor, against two Boonville men and one Boonville woman.

Joseph C. Cary, 22, of turned himself in and posted $1,000 bond. The other two suspects, Taylor S. Gee, 19, and Ethan F. Hessing, 20, still had active warrants for their arrest.

The social media posts, "most certainly provided us with direction and suspects to identify," said Maj. Tom Reddin of the Boone County Sheriff's Department. He declined to be specific about the information in the Facebook posts.

Cary's first court appearance was set for April 13 at the Boone County Courthouse. The other two will receive court dates after they post bond. 

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

  • Photographer, photo editor, reporter and graphic design for the Columbia Missourian. Ig: Twitter: reualleh Email:

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