Investigation nets drug arrest

ELKINS – A Beverly man was arrested Tuesday after police reported finding marijuana plants growing on his property.

Christopher Gerold Howell, 43, was charged with one felony count of manufacture/cultivation of marijuana. He is being held in Tygart Valley Regional Jail on a $25,000 cash or surety bond.

According to the criminal complaint, on Monday members of the West Virginia State Police were conducting aerial surveillance to “eradicate marijuana in Randolph County” Cpl. K.A. Corley saw, from the helicopter, plants that were growing in white buckets and were consistent with marijuana.

Sr. Tpr. J.J. Cornelius and Sgt. J.M. Menendez went to the area and “26 plants were discovered, 20 in one bucket and six in the other bucket,” according to the complaint.

The plants were located about 200 feet from a residence that belonged to Howell. Cornelius then “followed a trail from the driveway of the residence to the area where the plants were discovered by helicopter,” the complaint states.

Howell signed a form giving Cornelius consent to search the residence. Once inside, Cornelius asked Howell if there were any drugs or weapons inside the residence. Howell then “opened a drawer containing a digital scale, seven small plastic bags, a device used for grinding marijuana and three devices commonly used for smoking marijuana,” according to the complaint.

In a handwritten statement, Howell told police “he did not know marijuana was growing near his residence,” and further stated “four-wheelers often ride through the area.”

Cornelius asked Howell if he used marijuana, and he replied he “did smoke marijuana and purchased it occasionally. Cornelius asked Howell what the digital scale was used for and he said a relative “sold it to him because he needed money.” Howell also said he “never sold marijuana from his house, and he only purchases it,” the complaint states.