Many big marijuana plants seized near Franklin Pike

Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Marshall County Sheriff Norman Dalton stands among some of the 98 marijuana plants found Monday near Berlin and destroyed on a county-owned gravel parking lot between the jail and a metal building.

Law enforcement officers confiscated and burned marijuana from "the biggest field" of the illegal weed "I've ever seen," Marshall County Sheriff Norman Dalton said Tuesday.

The field was near Franklin Pike in the Berlin area. Nearly 100 well-maintained plants were found. They stood 4-7 feet tall and had the appearance of what some agents have called Christmas trees.

A Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter, its pilot and various other officers were searching for a man who was reported missing on Monday morning. That's how the marijuana was discovered, Sheriff's Detective Jimmy Oliver said Tuesday.

Nearly 24 hours later, the missing person had not been found, and Dalton announced, "We would ask anyone in the area to be on the lookout for (Thomas) Johnson and if you have any information, please contact the Marshall County Sheriff's Office at 359-6122."

Johnson, 56, is a white man standing six feet tall and weighing 180 pounds. He has brown hair and brown eyes, the sheriff said. "And, according to the family, he does have a mental condition."

"The Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter located a marijuana outdoor growing operation on Franklin Pike in the Berlin area," Dalton said. "The Sheriff's Office was guided into the patch and secured the area."

The helicopter hovered over the field to guide lawmen to the scene.

"The Tennessee Drug Task Force Unit for marijuana eradication was contacted and arrived on the scene at approximately 5 p.m." on Monday, Dalton said. "There were approximately 98 plants ranging from four to seven feet tall. [They] appeared to be well taken care of and had the appearance of a bushed out cedar tree.

"The Tennessee Drug Task Force will be investigating this case further," Dalton said.

Charges may be forthcoming, he said.

The number of plants confiscated from the field "is possibly the largest ever located in Marshall County," the sheriff said.

Dalton also asked the public for help in finding other outdoor growing operations. Information about that and other crimes may be provided, anonymously, by calling Crime Stoppers at 359-4867.