- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 2, 2016

PINEVILLE, Mo. (AP) - DNA evidence has cleared a southwest Missouri family of going onto other people’s land without permission to cut down walnut trees.

The Joplin Globe (http://bit.ly/2f0KYGY ) reports that charges were dismissed Tuesday against Melvin and Ronda Bickford and their two sons, 21-year-old Ashton, and 24-year-old Johnathon. Prosecutor Bill Dobbs says testing of evidence collected at the crime scene didn’t match any of the family’s DNA.

The Bickfords and a friend were charged last year with cutting down 17 walnut trees in northern McDonald County. The friend, 41-year-old John Ellis, pleaded guilty in March to two counts of theft and two counts of property damage in a plea bargain allowing suspended sentences and probation.

Dobbs says Ellis’ conviction still stands. But the DNA test results scuttled the prosecution’s case against the Bickfords.

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Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com

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