Overfull mailbox leads to charges

WESTFIELD – A former Chester resident was arraigned on a charge of cultivating marijuana largely because he failed to pick up his mail.
In January, 2013, Chester police officers Todd Allman and James Grzelack were on patrol on Lower Bromley Road and, when they pulled into Higgins Road to turn around, Allman noticed that one of the mailboxes there was overflowing. When he looked more closely he found the mailbox was completely full with mail addressed to Christopher Haskell of 19 Higgins Road and included a newspaper which was ten days old.
Concerned for the resident’s well-being, the two officers went to the house where they knocked and looked in the windows attempting to see if anybody there needed assistance.
Finding a door unlocked, the officers entered while announcing themselves and asking if anybody was at home.
Seeing light in one of the rooms, Allman opened a door to find a “large marijuana grow room with approximately 50 three-foot mature marijuana plants.”
After ascertaining that nobody was at home, the officer contacted their chief, Daniel Ilnicky, who ordered that they secure the scene from the outside and went to the Higgins Road address.
Ilnicky also contacted a state trooper, Marc. J. Reidy, with the detective unit at the Springfield Barracks, who applied for and was granted a warrant to search the house.
While waiting at the house, a resident arrived and told Ilnicky that the marijuana growing operation was on the property of the homeowner who he identified as Haskell. He also indicated which bedroom he occupied and which was Haskell’s.
When the warrant was executed that evening, the officers found plants “consistent with the odor and appearance of marijuana” growing in two rooms and “green vegetable matter consistent with the odor and appearance of marijuana” drying on a counter.
The searchers seized 85 plants, as well as a bag of seeds, six sealed plastic bags full of marijuana, growing lights and timers.
Haskell, 28, listed an address at 248 Northampton Road, Westhampton, when he appeared in Westfield District Court yesterday for arraignment before Judge Philip A. Contant.
He was released on his personal recognizance pending a Sept. 12 hearing.

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