Former Mount Dora councilman charged with removing trees from African American Civil War cemetery

MOUNT DORA, Fla. — A former Mount Dora city councilman is facing charges for allegedly removing trees from a historic African American Civil War cemetery, according to a Lake County arrest affidavit.

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Edward Lee Rowlett, 74, is being charged with removing, disfiguring, destroying or injuring a tomb or monument; destroying or mutilating a tree, shrubbery or plane within a tomb or monument; and removing, vandalizing or disturbing an unmarked burial, the arrest affidavit states.

Mount Dora police met with a homeowners association board member in refence to a homeowner later identified as Rowlett.

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Rowlett admitted to detectives that he removed and destroyed trees in an African American Civil War historic cemetery, and that there were two tin grave markers under the refuge from the company that he hired to cut and remove the trees.

The cemetery housed three grave markers, according to the affidavit. A third grave marker was found damaged as well and “had been bent over, and was barely standing by itself,” the affidavit states.

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Rowlett told officers that, when he was a member of the Mount Dora City Council, he voted to have a nearby sign denoting the area as a private cemetery and member of the historic preservation board on behalf of the historical meaning of the cemetery, according to the affidavit.

Rowlett also told police he hired a tree company to remove the trees to keep them falling onto his home. He obtained a permit for the removal. City officials told him the trees do not belong to them and they were part of the HOA for the Country Club of Mount Dora.

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He was told by city officials he could not remove trees from the area because it was a historical cemetery, and they would not allow it.

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