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3 indicted in tractor, water thefts at Gold Hill pot grow

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The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office recovered a 1942 Cletrac reported stolen during a water theft turned illicit marijuana investigation at 2905 Birdseye Creek Road, Gold Hill. A grand jury charged three suspects for their alleged roles in the crime. [JCSO Photo]
A grand jury charged suspects for their alleged roles filling this 800-gallon tank twice with water stolen from a vacant property near Gold Hill. [JCSO Photo]
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office searches a property at 2905 Birdseye Creek Road in Gold Hill as part of a water theft and marijuana investigation near Gold Hill. Three suspects were indicted by a grand jury in the case. [JCSO Photo]

A grand jury has charged two Gold Hill residents and a White City resident with crimes accusing them of stealing farm equipment and well water from a 79-year-old widow’s vacant property in order to grow unlicensed marijuana.

Joseph Allen Hope, 46, and Cheryl Ann Hope, 50, both of the 2900 block of Birdseye Creek Road, Gold Hill, and Christopher Gene Lindsay, 38, of White City, were indicted Tuesday by a grand jury for their alleged roles in the thefts of at least 1,600 gallons of well water and a tractor from a neighbor’s property on Birdseye Creek outside Gold Hill, according to documents filed in Jackson County Circuit Court and a news advisory from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

The investigation culminated with the Jackson County Illegal Marijuana Enforcement Team finding 14 illicit plants.

A real estate agent was first to discover signs that a neighbor was stealing water from the vacant 80-acre property at 2900 Birdseye Creek Road. The agent spotted a hose “attached to the outdoor faucet” and “the many hoses together ran up the mountain,” according to an affidavit filed by the sheriff’s office Monday in Jackson County Circuit Court.

A tractor — supposed to be included in the real estate deal — was also missing from the property.

Investigators followed the hose to a neighboring property, obtained a search warrant and served it at Joseph and Cheryl Hope’s property at 7:10 a.m. Friday.

Police say they found the 1942 Oliver Cletrac Track HG tractor and a trailer on Hope’s property, other items belonging to the victim and her late husband, such as two horse saddles and a fly-fishing reel, along with 14 unlicensed pot plants. Joseph Hope and Christopher Lindsay were present during the search.

Police allege the suspects had filled an 800-gallon tank twice with the stolen water since the property became vacant this summer.

Jackson County IMET seized and destroyed all but four plants — the maximum number allowed under Oregon’s recreational marijuana laws.

Jackson County Code Enforcement issued citations totaling $4,000 for using camping trailers as dwellings, solid waste violations and for failing to obtain approval to produce marijuana, according to the sheriff’s office.

The victim’s family told police they’d hired Cheryl Hope to clean the residence earlier this summer because she ran a cleaning business.

The grand jury charged Joseph Hope with first- and second-degree burglary, first-degree theft, unauthorized use of a vehicle, unlawfully manufacturing a marijuana item and a misdemeanor count of theft of services.

Lindsay faces charges of second-degree burglary, vehicle theft and second-degree theft accusing him of entering the property and stealing the tractor and trailer.

Cheryl Hope was charged with a single misdemeanor count of theft of services accusing her in the water theft. No court appearances have been scheduled in her case.

Joseph Hope and Lindsay were arrested Friday and booked in the Jackson County Jail. Hope was released Monday after posting $5,000 bond, and Lindsay was released after posting $1,500 bond, court records show. The two suspects are scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment Oct. 13.

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.