May 17, 2006 at 8:48 AM CDT - Updated July 26 at 4:15 PM
Police Find $2.5 Million Worth of Marijuana By: Carly O'Keefe
Franklin County, IL - When police investigated a rural Franklin County man's death Monday night, they uncovered a massive marijuana growing operation.
Neighbors called police when they noticed 50-year-old Stephen Reese lying on his front porch. When police arrived they discovered Reese had passed away. No foul play was suspected, but when investigators entered the home to make sure no one else was inside the made quite a discovery.
"As you entered the house, you could smell the odor of the fresh marijuana, especially as you went further into the house towards the entrance to the basement where the operation was," said COMIT Drug Task Force Coordinator J.R. Moore.
Police discovered over 300 marijuana plants and an elaborate indoor growing operation in the basement; they discovered more while searching the grounds.
"They discovered 505 plants that had been transplanted outside for the season," said Moore.
COMIT Drug Task Force agents uprooted and confiscated close to 840 marijuana plants. The street value of what the plants were capable of producing is estimated at upwards of $2.5 million.
"According to DEA statistics, the average marijuana plant matures at a kilo, so that's 2.2 pounds. In Benton, a pound of marijuana sells for 1500 to 2200 dollars a pound, so that's $2.5 million of marijuana in maturity," said Moore.
Neighbors say Reese was a nice guy who just kept to himself.
"I met him personally face to face once, and he helped watch our horses when we went south on vacation," said neighbor Stephanie Putnam.
While Reese's death was certainly unexpected around the neighborhood, the massive amount of marijuana discovered on his property, to some, comes as even more of a shock.
"It's bizarre, almost unimaginable. I've never been around nothing like that, I didn't grow up around drugs or drink, and so it just being three doors down from where I live, I know it's reality, but it's just kind of nerve-wracking, for it to be so close," said Putnam.
Perhaps it shouldn't shock neighbors that they didn't suspect, even drug task force officials--who are aware of most local drug dealers--say this operation was even under their radar.
"This was someone who was not known to the drug task force, or any officers on the scene. That leads us to believe he was a large dealer and probably dealing outside of the area," said Moore.