MANSFIELD, Ohio (WJW) — Pieces of Ohio’s movie history were mistakenly burned, leaving their owner out of potential merchandising revenue, according to a new civil lawsuit filed in Richland County.
The iconic oak tree seen near the end of the film “The Shawshank Redemption” once stood along Pleasant Valley Road near Malabar Farm State Park in Lucas. It was toppled by high winds in 2011 and again in 2016, according to The Shawshank Trail tourism website.
Dan Dees of Mansfield, the property’s co-owner, cleared and divided up the tree’s remains, intending to have them turned into commemorative goods for sale, according to the civil complaint. In 2017, he contracted with William Spohn, owner of a Lucas sawmill, to keep the tree’s planks on his property and mill them on demand, so they could then be sold.
By October 2019, Spohn had about 500 board feet from the butt end of the tree. But that month, Dees found those pieces were gone, he alleges. Spohn claimed they had been mistakenly burned by one of his employees while clearing the property.
Dees’ civil lawsuit, filed in November, brings three counts against Spohn for financial losses and damages.
Spohn denied agreeing to store the tree’s remains on his property, in his answer to Dees’ complaint. Spohn argued that Dees left the remains from the tree’s butt end on his property for more than two years and that Dees isn’t entitled to sue for damages, since too much time has passed.
The case has been assigned to Richland County Judge Phillip Naumoff, who plans to begin scheduling court dates on Thursday, Feb. 9, according to court records.
“The Shawshank Redemption,” a 1994 prison drama starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, is considered one of the greatest films of all time. It currently holds a 98% audience score on RottenTomatoes. It was filmed at the former Mansfield Reformatory, just miles away from the site where the oak tree once stood.
The plot follows Robbins’ character Andy Dufresne, who’s sentenced to prison for a murder he didn’t commit, and later escapes. While in prison, he befriends Freeman’s character Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding, for whom he hides a gift beneath some stones near the tree.