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Warrants show pair charged in Topsail forest destruction were familiar with the state park

Tom McLaughlin
Northwest Florida Daily News

Emory Gaultney and Michele Glantz were familiar with the state forest property they are accused of destroying, warrants for their arrests show. 

The pair were immediately recognized by park staff when investigators presented video footage of Gaultney and Glantz clearing trees inside the boundaries of Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, the warrants say.

More:Two charged with destruction of woodlands within Topsail Hill Preserve State Park

This photo shows the damage done at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park in late May as four people cut down some of the preserve's trees in an incident that remians under investigation by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. [CONTRIBUTED PHOTO]

The clear cutting within the state forest boundaries took place May 30 and four people, including Gaultney and Glantz, were caught on video by a neighbor who confronted them. Gaultney, 76, and Glantz, 66, were arrested Friday and charged with felony theft and felony criminal mischief along with numerous misdemeanors.

Michelle Glantz

Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said more arrests in the case are expected. 

More:Neighbors accused of taking chainsaws to trees in Topsail Hill Preserve State Park (VIDEO)

Gaultney's wife "was the president of the citizens' group that volunteers for the park," the warrant for his arrest said. "The night the incident was posted on social media, she contacted the park manager to tender her resignation."

Gaultney's wife also called the Walton County Sheriff's Office a day after videos of her husband were posted on social media. She reported that she was worried about his welfare "and stated he was the subject caught cutting trees ... in the park."

"(Glantz's) residence is in the immediate area of the trail that leads to the damage," the warrant for her arrest said.

Walton County Jail documents state that Glantz and Gaultney own homes on Cypress Drive near the state forest property.

The warrants state that video, shot by Bill Potter, showed Gaultney and Glantz wearing camouflage. Glantz was carrying lopping shears when caught on tape and Gaultney was holding a pole saw. "This video showed four subjects, equipped with a chainsaw, electric pole saw, and lopping shears, in the immediate area of freshly cut forest," the warrants state. 

Michelle Glantz, 66, and Emory Gaultney, 76, face felony charges of criminal mischief and grand theft.

More:State agencies not talking about tree-cutting investigation in Topsail Hill Preserve

The FWC warrants, released to the public Tuesday by the Walton County Sheriff's Office, were signed Oct. 7 by Walton County Circuit Court Judge Kelvin Wells.

They also spell out charges against Gaultney and Glantz for damaging habitat occupied by threatened, endangered or migratory species.

Arrests have been made in the alleged tree cutting incident that happened earlier this year at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park.

Debris left from the cutting covered gopher tortoise nests and the clearing destroyed habitat of the endangered Choctawhatchee beach mouse and the threatened American kestrel, the warrants said. 

Emory Gaultney

The clear cutting also affected 18 species of migratory birds protected under the Migratory Bird Treat Act, according to the warrants. Among the species listed as affected were the red-tailed hawk, great horned owl, common nighthawk, hermit thrush and northern cardinal.