04/28/06 — Deputies destroy 48,0000 marijuana plants

View Archive

Deputies destroy 48,0000 marijuana plants

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on April 28, 2006 1:56 PM

KENANSVILLE -- Duplin and Wayne County sheriff's officers have discovered and destroyed a field of marijuana in the northeastern part of Duplin County that investigators said contained 48,000 plants.

The street value of the plants upon maturation would be an estimated $18 million, lawmen said.

The plants were in the infancy stage of growth, officers said at a news conference Thursday at the Duplin County Sheriff's Office.

Duplin Sheriff Blake Wallace said that he had asked Wayne Sheriff Carey Winders for help in maintaining surveillance of the field but that after a week with no suspects coming to the site, the effort was abandoned and the plants destroyed.

The seedlings were just beginning to poke through the potting soil in hundreds of plastic cups when deputies found them in four plots near the Wayne County line. Wallace would not reveal the specific location.

The cups contained about 10 seedlings each, he said, and were located on raised beds surrounded by drainage ditches in a heavily wooded area. The entire site was under camouflage netting to keep them hidden from the watchful eye of law enforcement helicopters.

Five deputies from Wayne County joined seven from Duplin in keeping an eye on the field. The state Bureau of Investigation also participated. But after waiting a week with no results, Wallace said he could not afford to continue to keep so many officers tied up.

"We decided to destroy it," Wallace said. "We had so much going on, and the plants were in the early stages of growth. It could have been several more weeks before anybody came to tend them."

"You never know if they've been tipped off or just plan to come back later," Winders added.

The investigation will continue, Wallace said.

He said whoever planted the seedlings likely would have transplanted them somewhere else after they reached several weeks in age. He said the landowner was not aware of the presence of the plants and was not being considered a suspect.

Wallace and Winders said the same time of year that is good to plant tobacco and corn is good for planting marijuana. Woodland owners would be smart this time of year to walk around their property to see if it is being used for such illegal fields, they said.

Along with the plants, officers found boxes of insect and deer repellent.

Winders said a deer would have a good time foraging in the young plants.

"The deer that ate it are probably the ones that run into the cars out there," he said, joking. But he added that there is no doubt the mature marijuana would have eventually ended up in Wayne, Duplin and surrounding counties.

"We're glad to get this off the street," Wallace said.

Both sheriff offices are offering rewards for information leading to a arrests and convictions in this case. Anybody who has information about the little marijuana farm is asked to call 910-296-2150 if they're in Duplin County or Crime Stoppers in Wayne County at 735-2255.