Dallas woman faces felony as punishment for pruning



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Posted on April 20, 2010 at 10:22 PM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 20 at 11:10 PM

DALLAS — Sandra McFeeley, 67, never figured thinning out a thicket in a heavily wooded neighborhood park would land her in so much trouble.

"It's a felony charge that's hanging over my head," she said. "It's definitely not a joke."

But it is hard to believe.

Dallas police charged McFeeley with felony criminal mischief on March 15 for cutting back branches and overgrown vines on the city property down the street from her Oak Cliff home.

"She's just taking care of everything," said a neighbor who did not want to be identified Tuesday afternoon. "I don't understand. Who minds?"

What would seem like a good deed has descended into a community controversy — even name calling.

"Um-huh," McFeeley added. "They called me things like 'old, white and crazy.' I thought, 'OK?'"

Neighbors who live along the greenbelt are furious at McFeeley.

They cite a local law prohibiting anyone from defacing, damaging or destroying a city park. They want the wild greenbelt preserved — not picked on.

"I think it's been portrayed that there are some evil neighbors who want to keep a person from doing good," said Jack Hudson, who lives in the neighborhood. "And that's not it. We love where we live, and we want it to remain a natural habitat."

Suzanne O'Brien lives across the street from the wooded area. "It's a living entity which I grew up with since 1952," she said. "I hate to see it destroyed."

Sandra McFeeley, who is an attorney, said she could face up to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine as punishment for her pruning.

She wouldn't mind a community service sentence instead.

Neighbors just don't want her doing any of it around here.

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