Local tip leads UW police to cite three UW students cited for 'pine crime' case

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- On Monday, March 22, the UW-Madison Police Department (UWPD) received a tip from a community member about the November pine tree theft at the UW Arboretum that led officers to finally uncover the three guilty culprits of the crime.

Cameron Krahn, Cody Knepprath, and Joshua Michels -- who are all 19 years old -- admitted to UWPD they were the individuals involved in the theft of a rare 25-foot tall Algonquin Pillar Swiss Mountain Pine Tree that was cut down and stolen from the UW-Madison Arboretum property sometime between Nov. 5-9.

The trio claim to be a part of an unrecognized UW student organization, formerly known as Chi Phi — a group that was terminated as an official student organization in 2015.

In their interviews with police, the three men admitted to purchasing a chainsaw, renting a U-Haul, and stealing the tree as part of the organization’s “pledge.” When they learned how rare the tree was, and that UWPD was investigating, they destroyed the tree and disposed of it outside of the City of Madison.

The three students were each cited for removing the tree which is a $200.50 fine.

UW Authorities labeled the tree, planted in the arboretum in 1988, as "very rare" and estimated the tree to be worth $13,000.

UWPD thanks the community for their tips and for bringing closure to this case.

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