Posted: 5:16 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012

Woman admits she burned down 3,500-year-old tree

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SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. —

A woman was arrested for burning down a historic Seminole County tree named The Senator, and only WFTV reporter Mary Nguyen was at the scene. 

The historic cypress tree, believed to be thousands of years old, was destroyed in a fire on Jan. 16.

State agents arrested 26-year-old Sarah Barnes, who hid her face when deputies took her away in handcuffs.

Barnes was arrested for burning down The Senator in Big Tree Park in Longwood.

The 118-foot-tall bald cypress was about 3,500 years old and was the fifth oldest tree in the world.     



"That's sad. A tree that is so historic is gone because someone is being careless," said one resident.  

In January, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service initially suspected an arsonist, and also believed that lightning could have caused the fire.

However, through Crimeline tips, they learned Barnes and a friend were inside the tree taking methamphetamine.

Agents said Barnes took pictures of the fire and downloaded the images to her cellphone and computer. Officials said she showed people the images, and said "I can't believe I burned down a tree older then Jesus."

Flames burned the tree from the inside out.

Barnes admitted to authorities that she lit the fire.

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