Two Baxter County men in their seventies appeared in court Thursday where they received probation after pleading guilty to possession of marijuana. The men were arrested in separate incidents during a multi-agency marijuana eradication operation had originally been charged with the more serious crime of manufacturing marijuana.

David Michael Lekin, 70, and 74-year-old William David Bowen each received three years of probation. Both men had faced up to six years in prison for the manufacturing a controlled substance charge.

On Sept. 5 of this year, law enforcement officers from federal, state and local agencies used a helicopter to locate marijuana plants.

According to reports and affidavits, the Arkansas National Drug Eradication Team, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, the Arkansas Drug Task Force and the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office were all involved in the operation.

The first grow operation was spotted from the air by National Guard pilots and DEA officers in the 100 block of Baxter County Road 289. They directed ground officers Lekin’s home.

On the southwest side of Lekin’s home, ground officers followed what was described as a “well-used” trail to find 17 marijuana plants. The plants had burlap covering the roots and a green hose with watering tips going to each plant. According to a report from the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office, the hose was attached to Lekin’s home.

Investigators with the BCSO and the State Drug Task Force photographed and then removed the plants. Lekin, who was not home at the time of the raid, was contacted and appeared at the criminal investigation division of the Sheriff’s Office. He was read his rights and interviewed, according to a BCSO report.

During that interview, Lekin is reported to have admitted to growing the plants. He told officers the marijuana was for personal use.

The second raid was triggered shortly before 3 p.m. the same day when once again federal authorities in the helicopter spotted an alleged marijuana growing operation. This time, in the 1200 block of Arkansas State Highway 178 in Midway.

This time, the federal law enforcement officers in the helicopter reported spotting approximately six marijuana plants.

Ground officers arrived at the home of 74-year-old William David Bowen and made contact with him at a side door of his home. The officers explained that plants had been spotted in his yard by those officers in the helicopter.

Bowen then, at the request of the officers, led them approximately 15 yards from the rear of his home where a concrete slab stood, fenced in with black plastic attached to the fence.

Inside, officers found seven marijuana plants ranging from 4 to 6 feet tall, according to a BCSO report. Again, the plants were photographed and confiscated.

Bowen advised the officers he grew them and used the drug to help alleviate the symptoms of glaucoma. The officers advised Bowen that growing marijuana is illegal. Bowen advised the officers he was aware of that, according to the BCSO report.

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