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Family accused in alleged pot operation.

Byline: Jack Moran The Register-Guard

Felony drug and child-endangering charges have been filed against several members of a family that allegedly operated a large-scale commercial marijuana operation south of Cottage Grove.

Jerry David Fruichantie, 77, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to felony charges arising from a raid that authorities carried out last summer at the Blok Lane property he co-owns with his daughter, Samantha Nealey.

Nealey, 37, also appeared Thursday in Lane County Circuit Court. She and her husband, 41-year-old Russell James Nealey, both entered not guilty pleas to charges of possessing, manufacturing and delivering marijuana, as well as multiple counts of first-degree child neglect and endangering the welfare of a minor.

Last Aug. 31, dozens of law enforcement officers raided the family's 40-acre property near Cottage Grove Lake and seized about 400 marijuana plants and more than $20,000 in cash.

Authorities seized more pot plants that same day at the London Road home of Jerry Fruichantie's son, Terry - who was fatally shot in January in a crime that Lane County sheriff's officials suspect was drug-related.

Following the raids, investigators said they suspected Jerry Fruichantie was in charge of the Blok Lane operation. He has previously been convicted of growing marijuana, court records show.

But Fruichantie said earlier this year during an interview with The Register-Guard that his daughter's husband and brother-in-law were in charge of his property, which he said he had previously used to grow pot for state-registered medical marijuana patients.

A search warrant affidavit filed in court by a sheriff's detective states that the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program listed the Blok Lane property as a registered grow site for 10 patients. State law allows each patient to have six mature plants and 18 immature plants, along with up to 1.5 pounds of useable marijuana, the affidavit states.

Russell Nealey's brother, 39-year-old Brian James Nealey, pleaded not guilty on March 19 to marijuana and child-endangerment charges in the case.

Russell and Brian Nealey also face methamphetamine possession charges, while Russell Nealey faces a separate count alleging that he possessed psychedelic mushrooms on the day of the raid.

Prosecutors are not requiring Jerry Fruichantie and the Nealeys to be held in Lane County Jail while their cases are pending. They are scheduled to return to court in late April and early May.

Meanwhile, sheriff's detectives continue to investigate Terry Fruichantie's homicide.

"We're not ready to make an arrest yet, but we are getting closer," sheriff's Lt. Spence Slater said Thursday.

Jerry Fruichantie was one of several witnesses to his 48-year-old son's death. He said during an interview earlier this year that two men burst into Terry Fruichantie's home and shot him after demanding cash.

Court records show that detectives found more than 150 marijuana plants growing on Terry Fruichantie's property near Cottage Grove on the night of his death.

In the Aug. 31 search of that same London Road property, authorities seized 335 marijuana plants and more than $3,500 in cash. The property was a state-registered grow site for eight medical marijuana patients, court records show.

Terry Fruichantie was killed four days before he had planned to plead guilty to a drug charge in connection with the case, according to prosecutors.
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Title Annotation:Local News; Charges include manufacturing marijuana and child endangerment
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Mar 30, 2012
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