Barnes Burner: Police Arrest Alleged Culprit In The Burning Of “The Senator”

We previously discussed the senseless burning of the oldest pond cypress tree in the world — “The Senator” at Big Tree Park in Longwood. Now police have arrested the woman who they say committed the destruction. She is Sara Barnes. Barnes has been charged with the third degree felony of intentional burning of land. It was an over 3,500-year-old cypress tree . . . until it encountered Barnes in 2011.

The tree was named after Florida Sen. M. O. Overstreet, who in 1927 donated the property of the park. It was 120 feet tall with a trunk of nearly 18 feet in diameter.

Barnes reportedly told police that she and a friend stood inside the tree and lit a fire to see better. This would amount to essentially “I am a moron” defense by claiming stupidity rather than intent to burn. Yet, witnesses told police that she had pictures of the tree burning. It is not a good thing to be snapping pictures for friends when you say that you accidentally torched the world’s oldest pond cypress tree.

She has also been charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Jodi Hill, 41, was also arrested on charges of possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Barnes’ Facebook account shows shots from happier times. One question for the court will be if (and how much) to aggravate the sentence on the third-degree arson in light of the historic status of the tree.

The police opted for the higher charge under the Florida statute:

590.28 Intentional or reckless burning of lands.—
(1) Whoever intentionally burns, sets fire to, or causes to be burned or causes any fire to be set to, any wild land or vegetative land clearing debris not owned by, or in the lawful possession of, the person setting such fire or burning such lands or causing such fire to be set or lands to be burned without complying with s. 590.125, commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

(2) Whoever recklessly burns, sets fire to, or causes to be burned any wild lands not owned by, or in the lawful possession of, the person setting the fire or burning the lands or causing the fire to be set or lands to be burned, commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
History.—s. 1, ch. 29919, 1955; s. 15, ch. 99-292; s. 33, ch. 2000-308.

This will not likely turn out well for Barnes, particularly if the police find images of the burning tree on her cellphone. It would seem likely that she will receive jail time in such a case — as likely as her new cellblock nickname of “Third Degree Barnes.”

Source: Daily Mail, WTSP.

22 thoughts on “Barnes Burner: Police Arrest Alleged Culprit In The Burning Of “The Senator””

  1. “Barnes reportedly told police that she and a friend stood inside the tree and lit a fire to see better.”


    That’s like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed saying he wanted to topple the World Trade Center to get a better view of New York Harbor.

  2. Swoogle,
    In japan the shinto worshippers would have eaten him for lunch.

    And I suppose that the 1500 year old standing Buddha statue is not worth protecting from the Taliban either? But then the only heritage you revere is perhaps Happy Meals.

  3. So we all agree that a human should be incarcerated because a very old tree is gone? that explains much of what is going on in this effed up country…

  4. “Her Facebook page, which describes her as a model who attended Winter Park High School, contained several profanity-laced comments late Tuesday. One decried her for “destroying a global treasure,”” -from the Orlando Sentinel link supplied by Mike Appleton…

    Winter Park is somewhat “upscale”, as I recall…, FWIW. (Thanks for the link, Mike Appleton. The one that I supplied isn’t a particularly good one..)

  5. I have visited the Senator a number of times over the years because it is fewer than 10 miles from my home. It was a magnificent tree and was located in a small state park. No camping or camp fires have ever been permitted in that park.

    It appears that the defendant may be a meth addict. Here is the story from today’s Orlando Sentinel.,0,4902574.story

  6. They are going to have a difficult time proving intentional conduct. Reckless conduct? Was there a campfire site nearby where others have had fires for years, perhaps centuries? If I was the lawyer I would be out there with a camera. Was there signage stating no campfires?
    Other commenter says her name is Barnes not Burnes– If I was a Burnes family member I would be offended by this article.

  7. AN,

    Apparently… The tree had an 18 foot hollow at the base…. It is sad…. Then I read the comments… And not much different than here…. Some of the comments blamed Obama…. How he is responsible…I am unsure…. But something to do with being a drug addict welfare queen…

  8. Who says drugs don’t destroy the mind? Those who use them.
    Of course, then there are those who enjoy and become sublimely united on mushrooms. Your choice.

  9. AY,

    Check out the corrections page… I wasn’t clear…

    So “she lit the fire so she could see better?” Lovely, just lovely…

  10. AN,

    I read the article…. I think she said she lit the fire so she could see better…. I maybe wrong but arson is a specific intent crime…

  11. OK – so unless they have film of her doing it while stating her name & announcing she is indeed setting fire to the tree her defense lawyer has the shadow of doubt card given him by the first reports. They said the fire wasn’t arson because the burning started at the top.

    That should just about wrap it up.

  12. Yeah just luk at her with the gee-tar, that wuz den and her arresting foto dis is now, to see da effects of crystal meth.

  13. Sad, from the corrections page via Bob Esq.

    “You need to delete the article about The Senator immediately.

    According to the article you posted, the name is Sara Barnes, not Burnes, and there’s no mention of a Jodi Hill 41 being arrested for methamphetamine. It does say that the cops found Methamphetamine at the home of Barnes.”

    According to Ms. Elaine the Daily Mail is controlled by right-wing British billionaire Jonathan Harmsworth, Viscount Rothermere so they cannot be trusted. You should have used the link I gave you on the corrections page.

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