2002-08-21 / Front Page

Strong man charged with drug trafficking

Bobbie Hanstein
STRONG -- After a 10-month investigation, police arrested a 49-year-old man in Salem and seized a pound of processed marijuana, drug paraphernalia and growing equipment and $1,050 during an early evening raid on a house in Strong two weeks ago.Officers with the Franklin County Sheriff's Department arrested and charged Nowell Hinkley of Strong with unlawful trafficking and cultivation of marijuana last Wednesday evening. He was released from jail after posting $500 cash bail that evening.The Sheriff's Department began its investigation nearly a year ago when a tip was received from "a concerned citizen," Detective Tom White said. Officer Stephen Charles led the investigation that included driving by the suspect's home, interviewing several people, who police say were customers, coming and going at his residence."We know he made numerous numbers of sells," White said. The detective work also included reportedly buying marijuana from Hinkley, who usually sold amounts between a quarter to a half-pound. When police believed they had gathered enough evidence to make an arrest, they obtained a warrant to search both Hinkley's home and property on Lambert Hill Road in Strong and a trailer at a camp in Salem. Officers involved met and planned the execution of the search warrant by giving each officer their position around Hinkley's house and property and a specific role in the operation, White said."We want it to be a safe search for both sides," he said. Ben, the department's tracking dog, was included in the operation, in case a suspect should take off into the woods.Eight officers with Franklin County Sheriff's Department and an agent with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency arrived at 6 p.m. Aug. 7 and surrounded the Lambert Hill home."We knocked on the door and yelled, "police! police! police! A friend staying at Hinkley's answered the door and told the officers that Hinkley wasn't home, so officers went up to the camp in Salem and arrested him there. Police found scales and about a pound of processed -- mostly dried leaves -- at both places. Samples were tested at the site using a kit to detect the presence of THC, the identifying active substance believed responsible for the euphoric effects found in marijuana.White said several old plants were found inside and on a porch outside at the Strong residence. Small marijuana plants that had died were found in starter flats in the living room window. They also reportedly found grow lights and window screens used for drying plants and a total of $1,050 in cash.Last Friday, the seized marijuana was weighed and then will be sent off to the Department of Human Services lab to get a certified weight and analysis to enter as evidence in court.Hinkley's next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 19.(Officer) "Steve Charles built a pretty good case," White said. "He did an excellent job."

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