Indoor pot farm busted

Friday, January 23, 2009
Nineteen marijuana plants were confiscated in Cornersville this week.

CORNERSVILLE -- A routine traffic stop late Monday night led to the discovery and confiscation of an indoor marijuana-growing operation here, according to police.

Nineteen marijuana plants were confiscated and stored in Police Chief Todd Bone's office until they could be transported to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the chief said Wednesday.

Timothy Paul Gooden, 35, of Wilson Hollow Road in the Liberty Community, was arrested on Monday and charged with driving under the influence of an intoxicant and manufacture of marijuana, public records show.

Information arising from that traffic stop prompted law officers to obtain a search warrant and that led them to the South Main Street, Cornersville, home of Erin Elizabeth Becktold, 33, who was charged with manufacture of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The plant growing operation was discovered in the attaic of her home, according to Tim Miller, director of the 17th Judicial District Drug Task Force that's headquartered in Shelbyville and has a primary jurisdiction in four counties.

Cornersville Police, assisted by officers of the Drug Task Force, searched South Main Street house on Tuesday and found what Bone called a complete operation to grow and prepare marijuana for use, lawmen said.

Officers found the plants, grow lights, drying lines, and fans, Bone said.

"Most citizens don't realize it could be here," Bone said. "The truth is, drugs are everywhere."

Town police found two marijuana plants in the car driven by Gooden, the lawmen said. Bone said the driver had been seen leaving the residence where the plants were found.

The investigation unfolded slowly throughout Monday night, and ended with the search of the house and discovery of the plants at about noon on Tuesday, Bone said.

The chief praised Cornersville Police officers saying, "Our guys work hard and, because of their diligence, they see results. We're very fortunate to have them here in Cornersville."

Bone says that he and his canine partner, Ivan, routinely patrol the parking lot at Cornersville High School, and Ivan has not alerted to any drugs in students' cars in the last two years.

The man who was arrested and charged with DUI is not believed to have participated in the marijuana-growing operation, according to Bone and Lane.

Lane agreed and elaborated on Thursday.

"We have no reason to believe they grew marijuana to distribute, Lane said. "They're hippies."

Referring to Becktold, Lane said, "We think she showed one of her friends the plants and that was the man who was stopped in the vehicle."

Relying on a report from his assistant director, Tim Miller, Lane said, "We think they ended up giving them two marijuana plants.

"The problem with that is that it's still distribution and it's still a felony," he said. "And the fact that they were growing it is the felony."

As for whether there was what might be called a drug ring, Lane said, "We look to see if they're generating revenue from the operation and there was no indication of that."

Asked about his references to more than one person, the task force director replied, "There may be more arrests and they should know it."

Senior staff writer Clint Confehr contributed to this story.