Oak Bluffs police received a call on New Year’s Day from a women who reported the unlikely combination of a fire and domestic violence at a residence on Beacon avenue.
But when police responded, they came across something entirely different. They eventually confiscated 70 pot plants while arresting a local man on charges of cultivating marijuana.
The Oak Bluffs police and fire departments were dispatched to 9 Beacon avenue just after 5 p.m. Tuesday after a woman called police to report that “her house was on fire, a baby was trapped inside and her husband was beating her on the front lawn,” according to a police report.
Oak Bluffs Sgt. Mike Marchand, detective Nick Curelli and officer David Berube, along with Sgt. Jeff Stone of the state police, responded to the location along with the fire department. They were met on the front lawn by a woman who was holding a small child and crying. From her appearance she appeared to be a victim of an assault, the report said.
She then told police there was no fire, but reported one in an effort to get police to respond to the scene more swiftly.
The officers then entered the house and searched for the man accused of the assault, Robert Seaton, 29.
Oak Bluffs police were familiar with Mr. Seaton after arresting him this summer on charges of negligent operation of a motor vehicle. During that incident, Mr. Seaton rode a dirt bike into the basement of the Beacon avenue home to try to avoid detection by police. Based on his past behavior, police knew the basement was a place where Mr. Seaton might hide.
When police entered the basement, they heard an air blower and smelled the strong odor of fresh marijuana. Officers then spotted what appeared to be a makeshift wall to the left of the stairs. Looking behind the wall, they found a hidden room with a large number of marijuana plant under lights, as well as a propane carbon dioxide generator and a ventilation system.
Police then obtained a warrant to search the residence and a motor vehicle parked outside. They said they subsequently discovered planter boxes, fertilizer, grow lamps, scales, ledgers, record books, and plastic bags. Police also confiscated a .22 caliber rifle, ammunition and $868 in cash.
Mr. Seaton was not home at the time of the search, but was later charged with domestic assault and battery, possession of a firearm without proper identification, improper storage of an unlocked firearm and cultivation of marijuana.
Police may press additional charges, including charges against the woman who reported the domestic violence and fire, who owns the car searched by police. Police believe the vehicle may have been used to transport the marijuana for sale and distribution.
Mr. Seaton was held in the Edgartown House of Correction on $5,000 bail and arraigned in Edgartown district court on Wednesday morning where he pleaded not guilty.
State police Sergeant Stone called the arrest and seizure of plants a substantial drug bust.
“It wasn’t one of the biggest for the Island, but [70 pot plants] is a pretty big operation,” he said.