Skip to main content

3 Wisconsin students cited for stealing rare 25-foot tree

They stole the tree as part of a "pledge" activity for an unrecognized student group.

Three University of Wisconsin students have been cited for their involvement in stealing a rare 25-foot Algonquin Pillar Swiss Mountain pine from the university's Arboretum last fall. 

The University of Wisconsin Police Department on Friday said a tip from a community member about the early November 2020 pine tree theft at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum led officers to the three 19-year-old students: Cameran Krahn, Cody Knepprath and Joshua Michels. Knepperath is from Oconomowoc, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says, while the hometowns of the other students haven't yet been confirmed. 

According to police, the tip led officers to an unrecognized student organization known as Chi Phi, which was terminated as an official student group in 2015 for hazing. The members said as part of a "pledge," they bought a saw, rented a U-Haul and stole the tree. 

When they learned about how rare the tree was and that the UWPD was investigating, they destroyed it and disposed of it outside the city of Madison, the PD said. 

They've each been cited for removing the tree, which carries a fine of $200.05 each. 

This unusual theft of a rare tree had stumped the UWPD for months and they'd hoped someone in the community would come forward with a tip to solve the case, asking anyone who witnessed a large tree being transported in the area to call the police. 

According to the November news release on the tree, it was cut down sometime between Nov. 5-9, 2020. Another tree, a Compact White Fir, had a 12-foot section cut from the top of the tree, which was then left behind. 

The "very rare" Algonquin Pillar Swiss Mountain Pine was planted in 1988 and the Compact White Fir was planted in 1981. The Arboretum estimated the cost of the stolen tree and damaged tree is at least $13,000, police said. 

Next Up

Dave Hutchinson

Dave Hutchinson has police license suspended for 30 days

The sheriff's suspension will begin on Nov. 22.

minnesota bureau of criminal apprehension - bca

Man with sword, officers who shot him in North Branch identified

The 31-year-old was shot multiple times in the Friday incident.

Jeff Plush

MN-based USA Curling 'reviewing' report that CEO ignored abuse in NWSL

Jeff Plush is under fire for multiple allegations made by U.S. women soccer players.

Axdahl's Garden Farm & Greenhouse

7 Minnesota pumpkin patches to visit this fall

Plenty of patches to pick the best pumpkin

slushy snow

Sven Sundgaard responds to AccuWeather's winter forecast

Take anything beyond a couple weeks with a grain of salt, warns meteorologist Sven Sundgaard.


Rage Against the Machine cancels rest of tour, including MN shows

The cancellations include a 2023 stop at the Target Center.

Screen Shot 2022-10-04 at 11.03.16 AM

Watch: Speeding drivers use Minneapolis bike lanes to overtake

Community members have called for better safety precautions in response.

Jamal Smith

Jamal Smith sentenced to life for Plymouth road rage killing

A guilty verdict was determined by a jury this summer.


Northern MN man accused of cutting down, stealing $3,500 worth of trees

The white-barked trees are often used in decorations.

You can't just take Christmas tree tops from a national forest

He stole the tree tops, then sold them to wholesalers.

Randall Merrick

Remains of Wisconsin woman found in Blaine 3 years after her death

Last week, Rochester man was charged with murder in connection to her death.

Kelly Casper suring public schools wisconsin

Charges: Wisconsin superintendent strip searched 6 students

The superintendent searched the students as part of a vaping investigation, charges state.

First case of coronavirus confirmed in Wisconsin

Of the more than 24,000 confirmed cases worldwide, only 191 are outside of China.

hyobin lee

Charges: Eden Prairie taekwondo instructor raped student multiple times

The charges say that as part of the sport, it's embedded into a student's mind that they "always must comply."

Tony Evers, Wisconsin governor

Teachers unions urge Wisconsin governor to move classes online in the fall

Gov. Tony Evers had previously stated he supports classes beginning in-person instruction in the fall.