by Mark McDermott
The crooked little trees started appearing around the South Bay early in the summer of 2005.
The trees were about seven inches tall, made out of metal, and usually found in pairs hanging off power lines, much the way pairs of sneakers are sometimes thrown over power lines. They veered slightly leftward, like a little pine tree enduring the wind as it grows in some unlikely place, like a mountain cliff or a canyon gorge. Conspicuously, some were hung from piers, or near good surf breaks, like El Porto, or post-surf hangs, like Martha’s diner in Hermosa Beach. Others appeared as bright green decals on paired bottles likewise hung over lines, and not only in the South Bay — Ventura, Newport, Huntington, San Clemente and Topanga beaches also reported the appearance of the weird little trees.
Police were perplexed.
“As much as I would love to have an answer for you on this story, I haven’t got a clue,” Hermosa Beach Police Sgt. Paul Walcott told the Daily Breeze crime reporter Larry Altman in top-of-the-fold, page 1 story titled “Mystery trees stump local authorities.” “There appears to be a methodology to it,” said Sgt. Phil Keenan of the Redondo Beach Police Department.
This went on for months. In November, when the story hit Channel 13 nightly news, Andrew Sarnecki knew it was time to get a lawyer. Sure enough, within days HBPD officers tracked him down and arrested him. The Breeze cover story was in his backpack, along…