Police bust grow house in Covington
More than 23 pounds of marijuana confiscated

COVINGTON - Covington/Newton County Special Investigations Unit raided a marijuana grow house in the city of Covington on May 20, and confiscated more than 20 pounds of freshly grown marijuana, Commander Lt. Philip Bradford said.

Arrested was Jonathan Edwin Lee, 24, of 9112 Lakeview Place, who was charged with felony possession of marijuana; manufacturing, distributing, etc. of an illegal substance; marijuana cultivation; and trafficking in marijuana.

"He had a pretty good operation going there," Bradford said, adding that Lee lived at the location as well. "We were pretty impressed at how neat he had maintained the operation. He had converted a back bedroom - pulled the carpet out and gutted that room. It had a bathroom attached and he had even taken the vanity and toilet out of it in order to have more space. He rerouted duct work because it has to have a well-maintained climate control and he had timers so everything would go on and off on time."

Bradford said he asked Lee how he learned to implement such a sophisticated operation.

"It's in my 'Marijuana Grow Bible'," Bradford said Lee replied, "And sure enough, back there in that room he's got his copy of the 'Marijuana Grow Bible.'"

Bradford said information on the grow house, which was located off Lakeview Drive, first came in by an anonymous tip.

"In checking our resources, all flags flew on this investigation," he said. "There are several ways we can check to know if you have an indoor grow - three to four things we would immediately look at. All those things were positive. We executed a search warrant about 8 p.m."

Bradford said Lee apparently did not own an automobile and he had staked out the house to make sure Lee was at home when the agents served the search warrant.

"I saw him go around behind the house, and I called Lt. Mark Jones, the agent in charge of this operation, and said, 'He's here. Y'all come on.' I stayed right there in the cul-de-sac watching the house and I knew he was still in the backyard," Bradford recounted.

"Lt. Jones, being the brave, step-up leader that he is, told the rest of the guys to go in the house and said, 'I'll run around back. I'll take him into custody,'" Bradford said. "I opted to go around to the back on the other side of the house while everybody else was going inside.

"We rounded the back of that house and there's this guy (Lee) playing with a full-grown, unleashed pit bull and he charges at Mark," he said with a laugh because it all turned out OK. "We're all out there doing the chicken dance trying to get away from the dog. The violator is trying to grab his dog so we don't shoot it. After the dog ran up to every one of us like he was going to eat us alive, he was OK. He (Lee) was able to get the dog to come back to him while we went into the house so he could tie him up on a leash.

"Later his sister came and got the dog, so he's OK.

"Talk about a hairy moment, no pun intended," Bradford said.

Once inside the house, Bradford said he found between 24 to 26 plants, 18 of which were full-size and over 6 feet tall.

"When the marijuana is budding out, it gets heavy and you have to tie them up from the top," Bradford said. "He had string run all over that room in grid to keep the plants up because they were so heavy. All the plants together weighed a little over 20 pounds, plus we found 23 pounds of raw marijuana that he had already harvested in the refrigerator."

In other crime news, Bradford said SIU served a search warrant earlier in the day on May 20 at Meadowbrook Mobile Home Park on Ga. Highway 142, Lot 57.

Two prior offenders known to SIU were arrested, as well as two other individuals who had rented a room from them.

"We heard the Whatley brothers, Vincent and Alex, are selling drugs again after going through all the court proceedings where we arrested them when they were living out on (Ga.) Highway 162 at the end of 2007," he said. "We sent an informant in and did some undercover buys out on Highway 142. They had only lived there about a week before we busted them."

Alex Whatley, 31, was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute after more than 3 ounces of marijuana and digital scales were found in his bedroom. His brother, Vincent Whatley, 27, was charged with sale of marijuana, which stemmed from the undercover buys.

The renters - Adam Cobb, 24, and Kayla Webb, 18 - were both charged with possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce after a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia was found in their room, Bradford said.

Barbara Knowles can be reached at barbara.knowles@newtoncitizen.com.