William D. Morrow III, 44, and Linda Bates Vaughan, 40, were arrested Tuesday afternoon and charged by the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office with manufacturing and trafficking marijuana, a violation of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act.
The couple was arrested after investigators discovered an indoor "grow house" in their basement at 5220 Ridge Farms Drive in northern Forsyth County.
Lt. Gus Sesan, commander of the sheriff’s office narcotics unit, said about 700 marijuana plants were found inside the basement and valued conservatively at about $1,500 per plant. That’s a little more than $1 million total.
Lt. Col. Gene Moss said narcotics investigators went to the house after receiving an anonymous complaint about possible drug activity there.
Moss said authorities "encountered a strong odor in the garage," which they later discovered was coming from the basement.
Moss said the basement was divided into four areas where the plants were found in various stages of growth.
"It was like an assembly line," he said.
Moss said some of the plants were up to four feet tall. They have been sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab in Atlanta for processing.
Sesan said the suspects tacked reflective material on the basement walls to keep in heat and light and used a track-lighting system with moving lights that operated on timers to ensure the plants received adequate exposure.
He said fertilizer was pumped directly onto the plants from plastic vats and that the suspects were also using an indoor irrigation system.
Sesan said the plants were grown without soil. "This was as hydroponic as it gets," he said.
Thermometers, heaters and humidity readers were also used, he said.
Capt. Paul Taylor of the sheriff’s office criminal investigations division said Wednesday that growers use indoor operations to avoid getting caught.
"They moved them indoors because of eradication efforts in the past several years," he said. "It allows them to do it relatively undetected."
Morrow and Vaughan are being held in the Forsyth County Detention center without bond.