COLDSPRING, Texas — San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office deputies raided a suspected marijuana grow house Saturday morning and seized nearly 200 plants. Deputies first found the grow operation while searching for the alleged murderer of five Honduran migrants last week.
Sheriff Capers told Breitbart Texas his deputies found the suspected grow house while doing a house-to-house search last weekend for fugitive murder suspect Francisco Oropesa. The four-time deported Mexican national is currently in custody in the San Jacinto County Jail charged with murdering five Honduran migrants who lived next door to his home located about one street away from the suspected grow house.
Breitbart Texas rode to the scene with San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers following an operations briefing in Coldspring, Texas. As the team of 11 deputies arrived, the entry team made their way through the woods to the house as the perimeter team made entry onto the two-to-three-acre lot.
Deputies announced their presence and made entry into the home. A short time later, a deputy emerged with an older man and woman from inside the suspected grow house. Deputies took the couple into custody and Sheriff Capers escorted them to a vehicle while the deputies began their search of the property.
Once deputies cleared the home and made it safe, Breitbart Texas entered and observed the grow operation. While walking up the driveway, a strong marijuana odor was impossible to miss.
Inside the home, one room had two dead plants in what looked to be the former site of the grow operation, a deputy explained. The deputy then escorted Breitbart to an exterior room attached to the house. Inside that room were dozens of young and baby marijuana plants being cultivated.
In a large outbuilding behind the house, deputies found two expansive rooms filled to the brim with about 60 to 70 mature marijuana plants. The plants stood about six to seven feet tall, Sheriff Capers said.
The third room in the building contained a production area that included a grinding machine used to strip the marijuana from the stalk of the plants. The room also contained two large tables filled with marijuana buds being dried.
Deputies estimated they found nearly 200 plants — many were about ready for harvesting. It was clear the sophisticated operation included a massive electrical system with grow lights and air conditioning.
Deputies continued their investigation and documentation of the crime scene. During the investigation, the deputies observed a well-worn vehicle path with tracks leading to the house next door. Deputies approached that house to carry out a “knock-and-talk” with the resident.
Surprisingly to the deputies, a Hispanic male emerged from the home and reportedly told the deputies he was responsible for the grow operation next door. He explained the elderly couple was his aunt and uncle and that they had nothing to do with the operation. The man told deputies the couple were just living inside the home and asked that they not be arrested.
Sheriff Capers later identified the man as 39-year-old Alejo Markell Lopez. Deputies later placed Lopez under arrest for felony manufacturing and delivery.
The suspected grow operator reportedly gave permission for deputies to search the property. During the search, Breitbart observed much of the same lighting, electrical, and air conditioning equipment used in the grow operation next door. Capers explained that it looked like the operation was being expended to this property as well.
The search of the property also uncovered what appears to be an illegal trash dump operation. Operators used an excavator to dig a deep hole in the ground that covered about a quarter acre. The hole was partially filled with trash, rubbish, tree stumps and logs, other garbage, and unknown chemicals. An oil sheen was apparent on the standing water in the hole.
The sheriff notified the Texas Council on Environmental Quality and San Jacinto County Judge Fritz Faulkner regarding the suspected dumping of hazardous waste.
Sheriff Capers later contacted San Jacinto County District Attorney Todd Dillon and began the process of seizing the property, vehicles, and other personal property located in the alleged grow house operation area. Wreckers later arrived to begin removing the multiple vehicles found on the property.
The deputies piled the unpotted marijuana plants onto a trailer. The plants and all other evidence will be taken to a storage facility in Coldspring where the plants will be weighed after they are dried.
Sixty-year-old Aledo Osvaldo (the older man detained earlier) and Alejo Markell Lopez are now in the San Jacinto County Jail facing First Degree Felony Charges for Manufacturing and Delivery of Marijuana between 50 and 2,000 pounds. Deputies identified Osvaldo with a Cuban Consulate Card. Lopez possessed a Texas Driver’s License. Breitbart Texas reached out to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officials for the immigration status of Osvaldo.
The sheriff’s office estimates the value of the seized marijuana plants to be in excess of $600,000.
While deputies found the suspected marijuana grow house during the manhunt for Oropesa, Sheriff Capers said there is no apparent connection other than location.
Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior news contributor for the Breitbart Texas-Border team. He is an original member of the Breitbart Texas team. Price is a regular panelist on Fox 26 Houston’s What’s Your Point? Sunday-morning talk show. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.
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