DIALVILLE — Cherokee County investigators found and destroyed the largest single amount of marijuana in the history of the county, taking an estimated $18 million worth of drugs off the streets.
Cherokee County Sheriff James Campbell said a total of 18,288 plants were pulled and destroyed from a large field just off the bank of the Angeline River. He said DPS estimates the street value of each plant to be around $1,000 after harvesting, bringing the street value to around $18.2 million.
On Thursday, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s department teamed up with Texas Department of Public Safety narcotics officers, DEA agents and the Army national guard to fly airplanes over the county to look for drugs.
The program, called Domestic Marijuana Eradication (DME), coordinates law enforcement agencies to look for and destroy domestically grown marijuana.
“Every year DPS comes and flies for us we put our people on the ground, and we put them in the helicopter because we are very familiar with the county and have them look at different locations,” Campbell said. DPS flew out of Longview and the national Guard came from Austin to scour the Cherokee County countryside for illegal drugs. Around 3 p.m. DPS spotted a large crop of marijuana approximately 1.5 miles south of F.M. 343, on the eastern boarder of the county. Ground crews discovered fields of drugs, with plants ranging in size from 12 inches to 8 feet in height. Campbell said several of the plant had buds on them and were close to being harvested. Between 15 and 20 officers pulled plants out of the ground on Thursday, two continued the work overnight and the rest was finished up on Friday morning, Campbell said. “These marijuana fields they covered total about four or five acres,” Campbell said. “They were in different locations. They were very well hidden, and they had just enough sunlight to grow. The only way you could see them was from straight up looking down.” He said the site was planned and well maintained with water pumps, shelters and camping sites complete with food. “They had been there for a long time,” Campbell said. “They had three little camps there, they had food and they even had their own garden growing tomatoes and squash.” Investigators found a rifle, shotgun, and ammunition for a pistol at the site, but there was no one at the camp at the time of the bust. “We feel like there was at least three, four or more people taking care of this just by the amount of different kinds of clothes we found out there,” Campbell said. “I believe probably three to six people were out there taking care of it but there is no way to really know.” A few plants were saved for evidence, but the majority of them were destroyed by fire on county land late Friday morning. “We do not have any suspects,” Campbell said. “They fled the scene, so we went ahead and got a court order, a destruction order, to go ahead and burn it and get it over with because we don't have anywhere to store it.” Two 16-foot trailers and the back of a truck were filed with green, seven-leafed plants. A burn pit was dug by Precinct 1 workers and investigators fed the fire for over an hour and half. “I'm just so glad that that this will never hit the streets,” Campbell said.