Deputies find marijuana farm

Published 5:55 pm Friday, July 6, 2012

On Tuesday evening, sheriff's deputies uncovered more than 160 mariijuana plants, growing in a hidden bunker under a shed in Decatur County. (Photo courtesy of Decatur County Sheriff's Office)

Four people were arrested Tuesday evening, after sheriff’s deputies discovered a hidden marijuana farming operation underneath a shed in southern Decatur County.

Johnny Davis, 62, and his 36-year-old daughter Audrey Stanley were charged with possession of marijuana, manufacturing marijuana, possession of drug-related items, conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, and possession of firearms during the commission of a crime. Stanley was also charged with possession of meth, manufacturing meth and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Two friends of Davis, Margie Slater and Zola Slater, were also later arrested and charged. Margie Slater was charged with manufacturing marijuana, conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, possession of marijuana, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Zola Slater was charged with manufacturing marijuana, possesion of meth, conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, possession of marijuana, and possession of drug-related objects.

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Decatur County Sheriff Wiley Griffin said his department has been investigating the case for approximately two years, but only recently was able to collect enough information to get a search warrant. When deputies and the county’s SWAT team arrived at the operation Tuesday evening at approximately 6 p.m., they found Davis and Stanley on scene, “tending to their plants.” The operation was located on Davis Lane, off State Route 97 South and Recovery Road, approximately two miles north of the Georgia-Florida border.

Griffin explained that the farming operation was located at the bottom of a secret staircase. A large oak table covered the entrance to the staircase, but a person could flip a light switch, and hydraulic cylinders would then cause the table to move out of the way. When deputies went down the staircase and entered the 12-by-12 foot underground bunker, they found what Griffin called a “sophisticated” operation.

“There was controlled temperature, controlled fertilizer, controlled water,” he said. “Every plant was tagged and recorded. It was a very sophisticated operation.”

Griffin said there were between 160 and 180 plants in the bunker, which was located approximately 15 feet below the ground. He said the Sheriff’s Office intends to seize the two houses located near the shed, the shed, two automobiles, and a boat, as a part of the continued investigation.

Nine firearms were confiscated from the crime scene, and additional evidence was also collected that could lead to later arrests.

“It was a very organized operation,” he said. “[Davis] had things very organized in ledger books. We seized those ledger books, which recorded drug transactions and cash receipts.”

Griffin noted that Davis had previously worked as a general contractor and home builder, which likely helped him gain the knowledge to construct the elaborate bunker.

Griffin said deputies also confiscated meth-lab-related objects from the crime scene, which led to Stanley’s additional charges. Griffin believes that the marijuana farm has been operating for at least 10 years.

“This is probably the most elaborate operation I’ve seen since I’ve been sheriff,” he said. “We take the fight against drugs seriously. I would say that 80 percent of our problems today can be tied back to drugs or alcohol.”