Obion County pot bust now biggest in state history - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Obion County pot bust now biggest in state history

By Holly Brantley

OBION COUNTY, MO (KFVS) – It's now officially a record for the state of Tennessee: 362,000 marijuana plants found in an elaborate growing operation in Obion County.

Special Agents with the Governor's Drug Task Force tell us the pot has a value of over 400 million dollars.

Officials say the rough terrain of the area hid the pot terraced into the hills, as well as the suspects living quarters.

 Authorities now ask the people of Obion and surrounding counties for any information that might help them track down the suspects. While Sheriff Jerry Vastbinder says he can't say much about the investigation to track them down, it is obvious the growers went to great lengths to plan and cultivate this crop. It appears, they were no amateurs.

 "We're still speculating on how they got in and out of here," said Vastbinder.

 Today our crew went into the compound where the alleged growers had carved tunnels into hillsides to help conceal their operation, slept on bamboo beds, and kept a stocked kitchen.

 "It was an operation of epic proportions," said Chief Deputy, Kent Treece. "This is bigger than we are used to dealing with. The people of the county are in shock."

 To get to the site, Heartland News took an ATV a half mile down into a gully on a road newly bulldozed by authorities. Monday night, Sheriff Vastbinder and a team of investigators discovered the 362,000 marijuana plants in the area. Some were already harvested and dried.

"Monday it was unbelievable," said Vastbinder. "It looked like a bunch of Christmas trees because the plants were so manicured. Now it looks like a Vietnam War movie,"

 They're still pulling plants out of the hills, something Sheriff Vastbinder says they'll be doing for a few more years until they fully get rid of the crop. What's amazing to the Sheriff and his team: the lengths the alleged growers went to to cultivate a crop of the highest quality. Trees were sawed off to let the sun get to the plants terraced into the hills. The stumps were then painted green to remain camouflaged from the air.

"They had an elaborate irrigation system with hundreds of yards of piping," said Sheriff Vastbinder. "They hid generators in the tunnels they dug to muffle the sound."

Apparently, the suspects tended to their crop and kept watch constantly. They left behind a number of personal possessions among their sleeping quarters. There are enough beds for six.

"We think we spooked them Monday," said Sheriff Vastbinder. "It looked like they were preparing dinner. When we got up to the living quarters there was food still in their bowls. It looked like they just left it."

Authorities hope to pull fingerprints off the items left behind.

"This could have been very dangerous," said Treece. "We had to clear the area to make sure there were no traps. People that put this much time and money into something like this are usually very protective of it. "

If you have any information, you can leave an anonymous tip with authorities.

Copyright 2011 KFVS. All rights reserved.

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