06/04/06 — More than 15,000 marijuana plants found in Wayne

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More than 15,000 marijuana plants found in Wayne

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on June 4, 2006 2:07 AM

Helicopters flew over sections of western Wayne County throughout the day Friday guiding law enforcement officers to one of the largest marijuana seizures in the county's history.

The aerial search resulted in the location of 15,284 plants ranging in size from just a few inches to nearly 4 feet, said Lt. Tom Effler of the Wayne County Sheriff's Office.

"It's pretty common to find smaller plots, but this is the largest amount of plants we've ever seen," Effler said.

The search began at 9:30 a.m. Friday when officers found a large plot of marijuana plants near Black Jack Church Road and four smaller plots near Ferry Bridge Road.

Sheriff Carey Winders said if the plants would have grown to maturity, the street value would have been more than $36.5 million.

The amount of plants makes it the largest marijuana raid in Wayne County history and the largest reported in North Carolina this year.

"I am proud that we were able to stop this drug from hitting the streets of Wayne County and North Carolina. We are continuously vigilant toward any type of drug problems on our streets or what could reach our communities. This is a prime example of teamwork between several agencies and departments, pooling their resources together for a good cause," Winders said.

A sheriff's helicopter, a National Guard helicopter and a State Bureau of Investigations plane joined the search and assisted the sheriff's search and rescue team, volunteers and the Goldsboro-Wayne drug squad in finding the plants, Effler said.

Officers wouldn't have been able to get to the marijuana plots without the assistance of the state forestry department, whose plow allowed access to the plants near Ferry Bridge Road.

Effler said the Sheriff's Office finds large marijuana plots through tips from informants or locating the plants using available helicopters. He did not specify which method led investigators to the marijuana plots.

Authorities have not determined who grew the plants, but Effler said an investigation is under way.