Testimony focuses on pot plants in Abbey case

rahumada@modbee.comMay 9, 2013 

DB Abbey 02 .jpg

(DARRYL BUSH/dbush@modbee.com) - Stanislaus County Sheriff's deputy, Kari Abbey, enters her car after being released on bail, in the parking lot of Stanislaus County Public Safety Center, in Modesto, Calif., on Monday, May 2, 2011. Abbey was charged with second degree murder in the death of Rita Elias.

DARRYL BUSH — Modesto Bee

    Rosalio Ahumada
    Title: Courts reporter
    Coverage areas: Criminal cases, breaking news
    Bio: Rosalio Ahumada has been a reporter at The Bee for more than seven years, previously covering crime and public safety issues. He also has worked at the Merced Sun-Star, covering education.
    Recent stories written by Rosalio
    On Twitter: @ModBeeCourts
    E-mail: rahumada@modbee.com

— A narcotics investigator on Thursday testified that a person would have to smoke 2.6 grams per hour over six months to consume all the marijuana discovered growing inside the home of a woman who was then a Stanislaus County sheriff's detective.

Investigators found 106 marijuana plants in what they called a sophisticated indoor garden at the home of Kari Abbey, who has since left the Sheriff's Department.

Kirk Bunch, an investigator with the district attorney's office, discussed in court what he and other investigators encountered while searching a property that Abbey and her husband shared with her parents.

The investigator's testimony is part of a preliminary hearing for Abbey's husband, Bennie Taylor, and her father, James Abbey, who are accused of cultivating marijuana, along with conspiring to forcibly enter rental homes their family owned.

The former detective faces similar charges, along with embezzlement for allegedly using her work time to conduct business for her rental properties. Kari Abbey is being prosecuted separately and awaiting trial.

The marijuana was found at Abbey's home on West Service Road during a March 30, 2011, search.

Bunch testified the average height of the plants was 3 to 6 feet tall, and he conservatively estimated each plant could produce about a quarter-pound of marijuana. He's seen other marijuana plants produce up to a pound.

During cross-examination, the investigator said there were only a few plants that were close to 6 feet tall, and one of them didn't appear healthy. He also said 85 of the plants found were 16 to 19 inches tall.

He said in court the marijuana would have to be smoked within six months, after which the quality and effect typically would degrade and make it virtually useless.

James Abbey told investigators he grew the marijuana for himself, his brother, one of Taylor's relatives and several homeless veterans. He said he didn't sell the marijuana. James Abbey said he gave it away to the veterans as a public service, but he wouldn't reveal their names, according to testimony.

Investigators also found grow-lights, a watering system and an air-filtering system that would blow out the plants' pungent smell and bring in fresh air for optimal growing conditions.

Bunch testified that nearly all the marijuana plants were ready to be harvested. He said they found digital weight scales, three freezer storage bags filled with already harvested marijuana and other evidence that the marijuana was being grown for sale.

After reviewing a video of the marijuana garden discovery, the investigator changed his estimate and said about 40 percent to 50 percent of the plants appeared to be ready for harvesting.

Because of scheduling conflicts, it's unclear when testimony will resume. Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Ricardo Córdova scheduled a pretrial hearing May 24 to determine when testimony in the preliminary hearing will continue.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or (209) 578-2394.

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