Special to The Monitor
ATHENS–During a two-day operation, Henderson County Sheriff Botie Hillhouse and his team of narcotics investigators swarmed across acres of land finding 9,000 marijuana plants.
“This was a massive, coordinated production/growing operation,” Hillhouse said Thursday. “Too many people think having pot is a harmless crime, but this is a criminal organization that damages property owners’ land; and marijuana leads to other drugs.”
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has been recently operating in East Texas, targeting hidden marijuana-growing undertakings. Smith, Anderson, Van Zandt and now Henderson counties have been targeted.
“We found evidence of people recently at the scene of the crimes here,” the Sheriff said.
There were 6,387 individual plants growing at one site alone and 2,623 individual plants in various stages of maturity at another site nearby.
“This is no fly-by-night venture. These are professional criminals who hide their activities on the land of unsuspecting ranch owners,” Hillhouse said.
Because many properties in the county are used for hunting only or are owned by people who do not live here full-time, large swaths of property provide the perfect place for this sort of illegal activity.
This was a major multi-agency operation.
“The DEA has been very helpful locating these fields from the air and these teams of officers from multiple agencies have done a wonderful job handling the especially dangerous ground operation,” the Sheriff said. “Make no mistake, these are dangerous criminals who are too often heavily armed and willing to fight to protect their operations.”
Posted by : September 16, 2016| On :
Special to The Monitor
Posted by : September 14, 2016| On :
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
MABANK-Mabank ISD Police Chief Joey Rich placed a Eustace man under arrest the night of the homecoming game on a second-degree felony drug charge.
The action went down in the high school parking lot between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Rich was patrolling for suspicious activity and found a gentleman smoking by a pickup truck in the student parking lot. Upon coming within the vicinity, a strong odor of marijuana was detected and the chief called for backup from the Mabank Police Department. Officers were close by, working the football game. The chief obtained consent from the man to search his vehicle and found a number of small bags containing what was believed t0 be marijuana, along with a scale and empty bags and about two ounces of marijuana nearby.
Ricki Dewayne Kirkpatrick II, 43, was taken into custody. He is charged with delivery of a controlled substance/marijuana to a minor and is being held in the Kaufman County Law Enforcement Center on a surety bond totaling $75,000.
“We want to be perfectly clear; drugs will not be tolerated on school property,” Rich said.
Posted by : September 7, 2016| On :
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
SEVEN POINTS–Nob Hill resident James Hiatt attempted to file a formal complaint with the Seven Points Police Department against the West Cedar Creek Municipal Utility District, but he was refused. Hiatt told The Monitor the utility dug two trenches on his property, Sept. 2, one four-feet deep and 12 to 14 feet long. When he protested by telephone, he said, he was told to come down and initiate water and sewer service and they would stop digging. Soon afterward, he could hear over the crew’s two-way radio that they had been ordered to stop.
Evidentially, the crew was trying to locate the district’s pipe in order to cap it to prevent theft of service. Hiatt said, he was told that because he had a car parked at the property, the district had ordered the work. Utility office manager and district board member Wanda Sanders told The Monitor the district was at the property pursuing a theft of service investigation. When asked what tipped the utility off, had it read the meter and found a change from the last reading under the former customer? She said, “It’s not that simple. It’s different things in different circumstances.”
Hiatt said he went to the district office to initiate service with paperwork proving the property in question was his. He lives several doors down from the 233 Nob Hill Lane address. He had purchased the property about two months ago from the family of a deceased man and for the past four days was having a man and woman demolish the inside and begin hauling out the trash in order to make it ready to be rented out. He hadn’t turned on utility service because no one was living there and the pair he’d hired used water from his own home a few doors down at 324 Nob Hill Lane.
The utility stated that “Mr. Hiatt is not a customer of the district.” Technically, that is true, Hiatt verified. Water service is in his mother’s name, Jean Evans. “We own this house and the other property together,” Hiatt said, “and I pay the bills.”
“I felt I was being blackmailed,” Hiatt told The Monitor. “When I went down to the district office in addition to a security deposit of $125, they were charging me a $130 to reconnect it and $258 for the digging the crew had done in my yard. “I couldn’t afford all of that, right then and there, I told them.” Hiatt reports that when he returned to the property, there was a second hole dug, this time cutting the roots of two very old trees on the property.
Finally, they dug in the easement and found their pipe and capped it. The district had also called the police to the scene. “I was told I was being charged with theft of services, and I should just stand back,” Hiatt said.
A seven-year resident on Nob Hill, Hiatt told The Monitor, he was involved in a traffic accident, soon after purchasing the property with his mother. “Money’s been kind of short,” the military veteran said. ”And with no one living there, I didn’t see the sense in starting utility services.”
“The couple who have been helping me out, slept over two of the five nights they worked there late. They used my shower at my home. There was no water being turned on over there,” Hiatt said. “There wasn’t any reason for them to dig up my property to find their pipe, when they knew it would be in the easement. No, that was done to extort money from me,” Hiatt said.