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Four plead guilty in marijuana case
WOODBINE -- A week before they were scheduled to go to trial, four of five suspects involved in a sophisticated marijuana grow house operation in St. Marys have entered guilty pleas.

All charges against one of the defendants, Mary O. Smith, were dropped after the other four defendants said she was not involved with the marijuana grow house that St. Marys Police investigators said was the largest ever discovered in city's history.

Brunswick Judicial Circuit Judge Roger Lane fined Phillip "Stan" Smith $75,000 on Monday and sentenced him to five years in prison followed by five years' probation after he entered a guilty plea for possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. He was given 14 days to get his personal affairs in order before turning himself in to authorities.

The other defendants - Cleveland Monroe Miller, Thomas E. McKinley and Troy Meridith, each of whom have also entered guilty pleas - will be sentenced at a later date, said Rocky Bridges, assistant district attorney for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit.

The defendants were each charged with two counts of conspiracy to violate the Georgia Controlled Substances Act, two counts of trafficking in marijuana, two counts of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and two counts of possession of more than an ounce of marijuana.

The dual counts against each suspect were for evidence gathered at two residences where marijuana manufacturing operations were conducted.

Police discovered the first grow house when St. Marys firefighters responded to a generator fire in the garage of the rental house in the 200 block of Fourth Street.

After police entered the unoccupied structure, they said they discovered more than 750 marijuana plants. Some of the plants were cuttings from adult marijuana plants that were being used to grow more adult plants, according to the indictment.

The investigation led authorities to another house at 8 Oyster St., where they said they discovered 90 marijuana plants, as well as equipment to support the grow house operation, including portable air conditioners, hydroponics pump, reflecting hoods and grow lights.

Bridges said he believes prosecutors had a strong case, which led to the plea agreements.

"It was a good case," he said.

* Reporter Gordon Jackson writes about Camden County and other local topics. Contact him at, on Facebook or at 464-7655.

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