By Louis Short / Sun-Times Staff Updated: Monday, October 10, 2005 11:45 AM CDT
A marijuana eradication attempt Wednesday was a real barnburner for members of the Cleburne County Sheriff’s Department, Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and Greers Ferry Police Department.
After several hours of searching, officers found several marijuana plants in a barn and the home at 4110 Libby Road (Hwy 337). A helicopter search crew of two officers located the plants in the open barn during a flyover of the property.
The crew landed the chopper next to the barn in an attempt to find a resident of the home. During the attempted contact of a resident, someone lit the barn on fire, burning most everything inside. The chopper, a $100,000 machine, was sitting next to the barn and was nearly burned before the pilot could retreat.
More officers arrived on the scene to find the barn completely destroyed. Greers Ferry Canine Officer Matt Wilborn was one of the officers aboard the chopper and was able to run inside the burning structure and pull one six-foot tall plant from the ground before everything was engulfed. “I saw 25 to 30 plants inside the barn before it was burned,” he said. “I was only able to grab one plant. It was getting too hot.”
Once the fire was extinguished, officers looked to where the plants were spotted to find that about a half dozen plants had survived the blaze. Tin from the roof had fallen over the plants, protecting them from the flames.
Officers searched another open barn on the property to find two trash bags that contained marijuana plants. A woman was found at the home and denied knowing anything about the drugs.
After receiving permission to search the home, additional plants were found, along with six long guns. Officers reported retrieving approximately 33 plants from the property. The male subject authorities were searching for, Lucien Holland, 52, was not located.
The Cleburne County Sheriff’s Department is filing charges against Holland for manufacturing a controlled substance, marijuana, a class “C” felony. Since Holland is a convicted felon, he is also being charged with felon in possession of a firearm, a class “B” felony.
Officers are not 100 percent sure who set the blaze. Narcotics Officer Johnny Sowell said, “This is the first time in my career that someone has set a structure on fire trying to hide the evidence.”
The Cleburne County Sheriff’s Department received information Wednesday evening that Holland would turn himself in once the warrants were issued.