The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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August 24, 2013

State Police on marijuana search and destroy mission

BECKLEY — West Virginia State Police from the Union detachment arrested a Hollywood-Glace couple Thursday after spotting several marijuana plants from a helicopter.

Lonnie Spence Jr., 18, and Kirsten Lester, 19, were allegedly growing eight marijuana plants outside of their residence, a single-wide mobile home located just outside of Gap Mills.

The property is owned by Spence’s father, said Sgt. C.K. McKenzie.

Troopers spotted the plants from the air as part of a region-wide marijuana eradication project, said McKenzie.

Although cultivators grow the “buzz”-producing plant year-round, marijuana plants are larger and easier to spot from the air in August and September.

“Tis the season,” McKenzie said. “We’re looking for a different kind of tree though.”

Spence and Lester were charged with one count each of cultivation of marijuana, conspiracy, obstructing and simple possession of a narcotic substance.

Both were released from Southern Regional Jail after posting an undisclosed amount of bail.

McKenzie urged the public to notify police of the locations of marijuana plants in their neighborhoods by calling his office at 304-772-5100.

“We get the most amount of marijuana when we receive tips from the public,” he said. “People that are out in the woods, on their farms looking around.”


A similar operation in Greenbrier County Tuesday turned up a crop of around 200 marijuana plants in the Cold Knob area.

According to Trooper W.B. Simmons of the Lewisburg detachment, those plants were 8 to 10 feet tall. Troopers in a helicopter unit spotted them from the air and alerted ground officers.

“It definitely had been cultivated by somebody,” Simmons said. “Those were really quality plants, I would say ... somebody was taking care of them.”

The plants held a street value of an estimated $300,000.

Simmons said troopers cut them down and plan to destroy them by a pit burn in a safe, isolated location.

“That probably hurt somebody’s operation,” Simmons commented. “We’re still looking into it. The investigation is still ongoing at this time.”

Simmons said anyone with information on the crop may contact him at 304-647-7600.

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