The Merry Main Christmas Tree is the center of Mesa, Arizona’s annual holiday market. Each year thousands of families ooh and ah over the towering $40,000 tree as they take a trip to the ice skating rink, visit with Santa, or catch a live performance at Mesa Arts Center. For most people, a trip to the holiday market is a joyous experience making memories with friends and family throughout the holiday season, however, one man would single-handedly put a damper on the city’s holiday spirit.

On December 13, 2017, police and fire officials were called to the market at approximately 2:30 am when a report was made that the town’s tree was engulfed flames. Firefighters were able to extinguish the fire relatively quickly, but it was too late. The tree was destroyed.

MesaTreeArson

Police caught up with 34-year-old Samuel Antone Johnson, who was spotted in the area at the time of the fire. He admitted to police that he used a book of matches to set the four-story-tall tree on fire but did not state a motive behind the arson.

GrinchofMesa

The Grinch was taken into police custody and is currently facing arson charges. Police say the city is now attempting to find a replacement tree.