Charges of growing and distributing marijuana against several members of a Castleton family – the result of flyovers by law enforcement on an unrelated manhunt last summer – were downgraded in Rappahannock County District Court last week to possession charges, misdemeanors to which the defendants pleaded guilty and paid fines.
Martin Heck Henze, 55, pleaded guilty before District Court Judge Dean S. Worcester Jan. 10 to a misdemeanor charge of marijuana possession, the offense to which the original felony charge of growing or manufacturing marijuana was reduced in an agreement with Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff, who also dropped a related charge of possession with intent to distribute. Judge Worcester accepted the plea and fined Henze $1,000, suspending $750 of the fine, and placed Henze in supervised probation for a year. His driver’s license was restricted to work usage for six months.
Goff also offered to downgrade possession of marijuana charges against Ellanora Marie Dodd-Henze, 23, Osin Sean Garland, 26, and Emma Grace Dodd-Henze, in exchange for guilty pleas to lesser possession of drug paraphernalia charges. All agreed and were fined $200 to $250 apiece by Worcester.
Just five days before the raid on the Henze property – and only about a mile away on Whorton Hollow Road – officers discovered multiple marijuana plants on the property of Chad O’Neill Hargrove, 21, and Douglas Twyman, 54. The search was triggered by an alleged hostage situation on Aug. 15, when Hargrove was reportedly holding his girlfriend at gunpoint inside the house.
“There were a number of plants seized in these raids,” Goff said later, speaking of the arrests made in October that followed a Virginia Airborne Search and Rescue helicopter spotting the plants while searching for suspects in a morning arson on nearby Grand View Road Aug. 20, and seen by officers while subduing Hargove on Aug. 15.
And speaking of the amended charges for Henze, the Dodd-Henze sisters and Garland, Goff said “there was just a lack of evidence of the intent to distribute – no cash, packaging, surveillance, no books – and we could not prove that the drug was not being grown for their own personal use.”
Goff said the unavailability of a state drug lab expert, who is on maternity leave through March, also contributed to the decision to offer plea agreements.
Animal-abuse and officer-assault charges
Anthony Ahrens, the 26-year-old former local chef and Washington resident accused of throwing a pet cat into a pen of two dogs on Christmas Eve, was arraigned in District Court this Tuesday morning (Jan. 17) on a charge of torturing a companion animal resulting in its death, a felony. Judge J. Gregory Ashwell set a preliminary hearing for March 6 on the charge, amended by the commonwealth’s attorney from the original misdemeanor animal abuse complaint issued after sheriff’s deputies were summoned to Ahrens’ home Dec. 26 by Leo Shipp, Ahrens’ father.
Sheriff Connie C. Smith, meanwhile, said last week that her office was investigating recent charges of fraud and animal abuse against a Front Royal woman who allegedly – according to a web page and multiple emailed messages sent to local authorities, residents and email list members – ran a fraudulent animal adoption and rescue service known as Country Side Rescue and Rehabilitation. Country Side Rescue and the woman allegedly looked for free or unwanted animals on CraigsList and sold them for an “adoption fee,” and abandoned those they could not sell.
“The problem I have,” Sheriff Smith had said last week, “is that I don’t yet have an actual complainant. If anyone in the county has had any dealings with Country Side Rescue and Rehabilitation, please contact the Sheriff’s Office.”
Ashwell also certified a felony charge of assault on a law enforcement officer against 59-year-old Michael Nelson of Boston to the grand jury (which next convenes March 12). According to testimony from former Rappahannock deputy Shawn Walters Tuesday, he and deputy Robbie Fincham responded to an emergency call from Nelson’s mother on Nov. 23 about her son acting threatening, wielding a chair, at their shared home in Boston. While apprehending Nelson, Walters said that the man, who “appeared to have been drinking,” tried to attack the deputies, and used his estimated one-inch-long fingernails to scratch Fincham’s hand. Once Nelson was in handcuffs, Walters said, before being led out of the house, the handcuffed man kicked Walters in the groin. Nelson remains in Rappahannock’s jail.
Douglas Michael Twyman, 54, of Castleton, appeared Tuesday for hearing on three drug charges, including possession of marijuana and two felony counts of possession of a schedule I/II drug, but when attorney Ed Gentry did not show, Ashwell was forced to continue the case until Feb. 14, at which time Ashwell said the attorney will also face a misdemeanor failure-to-appear charge.
The drugs in Twyman’s case were allegedly found during an Aug. 15 search initiated by a hostage situation. Six deputies responded to a report that Twyman’s housemate – 21-year-old Chad O’Neill Hargrove – was holding his girlfriend at gunpoint in their Whorton Hollow Home. According to the sheriff, a search warrant had been issued by the time officers charged into the house to rescue the woman, and an undisclosed number of marijuana plants were found on the property, as well as processed marijuana inside the house. Investigators said the opiate methadone was found on Twyman’s person and elsewhere.