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Stupid Case File for February 17, 2007

Farming pot has its costs ... part two ...

Courtesy of Pantagraph

MERNA - A man who called police about a burglary at his home last month apparently didn’t realize sheriff’s police would smell the marijuana-growing operation in his basement.

“The second I walked in the residence, I could smell the marijuana plants,” said Sheriff Mike Emery, who went to the home the night the plants were found.

Terry L. Koval, 56, of the 19400 block of North McLean County 2300 East Road, was arrested Wednesday and jailed in lieu of posting $4,000 on two warrants charging him with unlawful possession of marijuana and unlawful possession of marijuana plants.

Police called to his home in 2000 found marijuana plants then, too, according to court records and Pantagraph archives.

Emery said Koval called police the evening of Jan. 20 and told an investigator someone broke a window of his rented home north of Merna and stole about $3,000 from his safe.

A detective smelled an odor of marijuana, asked for and received written consent to search the house and found four rooms in the basement with about 24 plants ranging in age from seedlings to those ready for harvest, Emery said.

Some plants were hanging upside-down from the ceiling as they dried, he said.

More often, people try to hide their own criminal activity before calling police to report a crime against them, the sheriff said. And Emery said Koval should have known officers would smell the marijuana, even if they did not look through the home whil investigating a burglary.

Emery said that even if someone tried to hide the plants, detectives still would have torn the house apart in a search because of the smell.

Another clue was the heat lamps that were on timers, making the basement look like a tanning salon, Emery said.

Koval told police he thought his partner in the growing operation was involved in the break-in, Emery said, but the man Koval accused denied involvement in growing the plants and the burglary.

Police are still investigating all leads, he said.

Koval was the only person living in the home at the time the plants were found, Emery said.

Police confiscated the plants, Emery said, but they didn’t immediately arrest Koval because they continued investigating his operation.

“This is one guy in a network,” Emery said. “For law enforcement to be effective, we work through the network. We wanted to see what other information would be available for further arrests.”

Koval also was arrested in August 2000 and eventually convicted on charges he grew marijuana in his home in rural Towanda, according to county records. In that case, sheriff’s deputies found six marijuana plants when they were called to his home about a domestic disturbance, according to reports in Pantagraph archives.

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