Deputies uncover Morgan Hill marijuana garden by accident

Sheriff's deputies seized about 2,800 marijuana plants in

By coincidence, deputies uncovered a marijuana growing operation
worth more than $8 million Tuesday, while investigating an
attempted murder that happened earlier this year, police said.
By coincidence, deputies uncovered a marijuana growing operation worth more than $8 million Tuesday, while investigating an attempted murder that happened earlier this year, police said.

Deputies from the Santa Clara County Special Operations and investigations units visited a resident of the 100 block Kalana Avenue Tuesday morning who was thought to have been involved in a home invasion that involved torture and theft in Gilroy, according to sheriff’s Sgt. Rick Sung.

The deputies noticed a neighbor, an Asian male in his 50s who was not a target of an investigation or warrant at the time, sneak out of his home and flee on foot, Sung said. The man’s flight raised a “red flag” to the deputies, who began to investigate that home.

Authorities determined that the residence in northwest Morgan Hill was being used to grow marijuana and obtained a warrant to search the property, Sung said. Found and seized from a greenhouse on the property, as well as the residence, were about 2,800 marijuana plants in differing stages of maturity, plus about 80 pounds of dried pot that was ready to be sold.

“Also, inside the residence there were multiple sections that were equipped with lighting equipment, as well as a water irrigation system,” Sung said.

The home also contained a walk-in refrigeration system that the suspect apparently used to dry cultivated marijuana, police said.

The marijuana was confiscated and destroyed, Sung said.

The street value of the seized material was about $8.2 million, which Sung described as being in the “upper range” for a bust in a residential area in Morgan Hill.

Authorities have not arrested the man who ran from the home, and are still investigating the incident, Sung said.

Deputies also announced Thursday that they arrested six people involved in the earlier violent incident in Gilroy, which took place on Rucker Avenue in February.

Although a suspect in that incident lived next door to the marijuana growing suspect, there is “no connection” between the two incidents and authorities did not know the drug-related activity was happening, Sung said.

In February, a 59-year old resident of Rucker Avenue arrived home about 9 p.m. when three male suspects ambushed him, Sung said. The suspects then tied the victim up, tortured him by repeatedly striking him with pool queues and wooden sticks, and pouring chemical substances over his face and body in an attempt to gain the combination to the victim’s safe.

The victim temporarily lost consciousness during the attack, Sung added. When the suspects left the residence, the victim was able to untie himself and get to his neighbor’s house to report the incident to the sheriff’s office. The victim was transported to a local hospital and underwent surgery for life-threatening injuries.

The suspects took the victim’s personal collections, including various guns, stamps, coins and playing cards. They also stole the victim’s pickup, which was located a short time later, on fire, in the area of Highways 9 and 35, outside of the city of Saratoga.

“These arrests are based on the tireless efforts of the detectives, who had worked around the clock to catch these criminals as they posed a serious threat to our community,” Sung said.

Police declined to say which of the six suspects lived next to the marijuana growing operation on Kalana Avenue, or even if that resident was arrested.

Arrested on suspicion of conspiracy, attempted murder and torture were Juvenal Reyes, 62 of Gilroy; Ernesto Gonzalez, 25 of San Jose; Juan Fonseca, 21 of unknown residence; and Norberto Serna, 41, of unknown residence. Danny Rivera, 22 of San Jose was also arrested on suspicion of possession of stolen property. A juvenile was also arrested in connection with the crime, Sung said.

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