Photo by Laura McCallister
COVINGTON -- The Covington/Newton County Special Investigations Unit shut down an active, indoor "grow" house late Thursday afternoon, confiscating 50 pounds of fresh marijuana plants.
SIU Commander Lt. Philip Bradford said after a two-month investigation, his team executed a search warrant at 230 Falls Crossing and discovered the "sophisticated, full-size grow operation."
Arrested and charged with trafficking in marijuana and cultivation of marijuana was resident Charlie Williams, 47.
The house is located in the Falls Crossing subdivision, near the intersection of Ga. Highway 212 and Butler Bridge Road.
"He had actually begun to dismantle or take apart his operation, but everything was still there," Bradford said, adding that there were more than 40 mature plants in a trash bag that were obviously still fresh.
"With marijuana, if it's been watered and nurtured, when it's cut, it wilts, but it's soggy and moist. That's the way this was," he said, adding that after confiscating it, agents laid it out to dry so it could be destroyed.
Bradford said neighbors in the subdivision had no idea what was going on at the house. The suspect also lived in the house, using a large area within the house to cultivate the marijuana.
He explained that the "grow" area had its own electrical system that was rigged to illegally obtain electricity.
"The electricity didn't run off the meter of the house. These growers bypass and steal power," he said, adding that it takes an enormous amount of electricity for one of these operations.
"It had its own breaker box, and where a breaker box at a house is divided out by each room, this one was set up for different sections of lighting. The lights are so powerful ... 600 to 1,000 watts for the bulbs that usually are used for street lights and outside lighting," Bradford said. "Typically, the lighting they put in these things would light a parking lot in a small shopping center."
He said the area was heavily insulated and also had to have an air conditioning system running full-time; otherwise the lights would make it too hot for the plants to grow.
"The lights throw off so much heat that it has to have its own cooling system. Everything has to be just right for it to grow," he said.
Bradford said the investigation into the operation is ongoing.
In other crime news, the Newton County Sheriff's Office and the Covington Police are jointly investigating the theft of some 70 brass vases attached to grave markers at Lawnwood Cemetery on Access Road. The estimated value of the vases is $21,000.
A man contacted the NCSO and reported that someone had stolen his truck around 5:30 a.m. Saturday.
According to NCSO spokesman Lt. Tyrone Oliver, the man said he was at a residence in the area of Varner Street and Anderson Creek Road with a female friend and several other people. He said they were all drinking and a physical altercation began.
"During the altercation, he said he looked up and saw his truck being driven away. He told deputies he was not sure who was driving it and that he had left the keys in the truck," Oliver said.
The vehicle is a white 1995 Dodge Dakota. Also taken was the man's cell phone.