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Ambulance call leads to pot bust in Orange

ORANGE — As police were investigating an unattended death on West River Street, officers came across a marijuana growing operation that filled the house.

The original call came in as a possible heart attack at 7:49 a.m. Wednesday, but when EMTs arrived, they found a 42-year-old man had died overnight, according to Police Chief Robert Haigh Jr. Because the death was unattended, state police were called in to assist with the investigation.

Haigh said an autopsy is pending, but the preliminary investigation has raised no suspicions of foul play.

That investigation did, however, turn up about 30 marijuana plants in different stages of development, said Haigh. When officers checked the residence for other people, they found pot plants growing in several areas of the home, according to Haigh.

“Some were full-grown, about 3 feet tall,” while others were half-grown or just starting out, said Haigh.

The owner of the home, only being identified as a male in his 60s at this point, will be summoned to court on a charge of manufacturing, distributing, or cultivating a class D substance.

The chief said there was a small scale found in the residence, but no materials to package the pot for sale.

Haigh said the plants were found in the basement, first, and second floors of the home. In addition to potted plants, five indoor grow lights were seized as evidence, as well as a stockpile of soil and several empty planters.

“If I had to venture a guess, I’d say we found the beginning stages of the operation,” said Haigh. “There was equipment to make much more (marijuana); it certainly had the potential to get larger.”

Neither the homeowner nor the dead man had a history with Orange police, said Haigh. The homeowner told police he does not know the deceased well enough to know if he had any medical conditions that may have contributed to his death at 42.

Haigh said a stash of dried marijuana weighing less than an ounce was also confiscated, but that it appeared to be a personal smoking supply.

The names of both men were not released by press time Thursday. Haigh said he is waiting until charges are officially filed in court.

If convicted, the accused faces a maximum sentence of two years in county jail, a fine of $500 to $5,000, or both.

David Rainville can be reached at
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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