Investigators found more than 100 marijuana plants Wednesday at a remote mid-Sierra ranch where a pot robbery prompted a wild car chase over the weekend that resulted in the death of one of the suspected thieves.Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal said his deputies also found 30 to 50 pounds of processed weed at the Tobacco Road ranch just outside North San Juan. Royal said investigators since have discovered 55 pounds of pot packed in a suitcase in the truck that served as the robbery suspects' ill-fated getaway vehicle.
"Chances are that charges will be filed, but a decision will be made on whether to go federal or state," Royal said.
The sheriff announced the discovery the same day Nevada County prosecutors filed manslaughter charges against the Tobacco Road man who authorities say chased after the robbery suspects, rammed them with his truck and sent them crashing into a tree on Highway 49 at Sauer Lane – after they reportedly shot at him while trying to escape.
Christopher A. Teachout is one of four people who were held up at gunpoint at the ranch by two men who authorities say wore ski masks and fake police uniforms and bound the victims with metal handcuffs and plastic zip ties. Authorities said the suspects ran out with cameras, computer equipment and cell phones, as well as the marijuana and $4,000 in cash.
Teachout, 32, initially was booked on a murder charge, but Nevada County District Attorney Clifford Newell said prosecutors filed the voluntary and vehicular manslaughter case against Teachout because they did not think he intended to kill anybody.
Saturday's crash killed the driver of the getaway Ford F-250 pickup, Timothy Daniel Fitzpatrick, 43, a concrete contractor from Elk Grove.
"I think it's a shame that there has to be violence and criminal activity around something that otherwise could be a peaceful experience," said Belle Star, who owns the Ridge Stop Cafe in North San Juan, in a telephone interview Wednesday. "It makes me sad. I love my community, and I'd like to see it be a peaceful, harmonious place."
Star characterized the case as "tricky."
"You're not supposed to chase someone down," she said. "You're supposed to let the cops handle it. Maybe he feared the cops wouldn't do a good job of handling it, and he didn't want to lose his hard work for his medicine."
Royal said all four people at the Tobacco Road ranch house had doctor's recommendations for marijuana. But the sheriff called the ranch operation a commercial grow and said residents appeared to be in violation of local protocols that allow medical pot users to legally raise only six plants each.
Prosecutors in Nevada County, meanwhile, have filed murder, robbery and false imprisonment charges against Terry A. McLeod, 51, of Sacramento, whom authorities identified as Fitzpatrick's accomplice in the Saturday pot robbery on Tobacco Road.
McLeod is being held in lieu of $1 million bail. He is due back in court today.
Read the full story at the Sacramento Bee.