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Marijuana-growing operation found in burning home

By Robin Y. Richardson
Oct. 9, 2012 at 10 p.m.

Criminal charges are being pursued against the owner of a Harleton residence after units, responding to a fire there, stumbled upon a marijuana growing operation inside.

"The owner of the residence, Benjamin Averitt, arrived at the residence shortly after the fire call came in to dispatch and was subsequently arrested after being interviewed regarding the presence of the plants at the residence," a press release from the sheriff's office indicated.

The fire occurred this past Saturday at 145 Deerfield West Road. The 41-year-old owner, of Longview, was arrested the same day and charged with possession of marijuana more than four ounces and less than five pounds. His bond was set by Justice of the Peace Judge Nancy George at $7,500; he was released on Sunday, according to jail records.

Officials said an apparatus the owner used to grow the marijuana plants attributed to the house fire, causing an electrical fire. Harrison County Fire Marshal Thomas Mock described the operation as "pretty elaborate."

"He had a pretty significant set-up in two rooms - the living room and bedroom," said Mock, noting the fire was contained to the living room.

Upon discovering the marijuana Mock alerted deputies about the operation. A search warrant was then issued for the residence, and to remove the marijuana plants from inside the home.

"As fire marshal, the structure legally becomes my property until I deem it safe. Once I saw what we had, I maintain custody until the sheriff gets a proper search warrant to search the rest of the house," Mock said.

Mock said dispatchers were notified of the fire by a passerby around 11:30 a.m. on Saturday. Fire units that responded to the scene were West Harrison Volunteer Fire Department and Hallsville fire units.

"The fire was just contained to the living room area and structure damage," said Mock.

Mock said no one lives at the home.



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