A man was arrested in the service of a search warrant for marijuana on land once owned by Tom Nutting and now part of a Nutting family trust.
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Arrested on suspicion of marijuana cultivation was Justen David Schultz, 44.
El Dorado County Sheriff’s Detective Robert St. Pierre, in a signed affidavit, wrote that on Aug. 9, 2013, he was conducting marijuana overflight operations in the county when, around noon, he observed two greenhouse structures near the end of a dirt road north of Rock Creek Road in Placerville. One was 10 feet wide by 30 feet long and the other about 20 feet wide by 40 feet long.
While flying, “I could see numerous emerald green plants being grown inside the greenhouse with numerous fans attached to the inside of the exterior walls.” He had the pilot circle the structures. The greenhouses were next to a drop-off on a hill, with no walls on the western greenhouse. “Based on my training and experience, I recognized the plants being grown in the greenhouse as marijuana. Marijuana presents a distinct emerald color and symmetrical shape when viewed from above.” A pickup truck and van were nearby, parked at a house.
The address, St. Pierre learned, was 3073 Gravel Ct., owned by Thomas and Tami Nutting. On April 9, 2013, Tami Eden — now Nutting — made a quit claim deed of the land to the Nutting Family Trust. On the quit claim deed, only Tom and Tami are listed as trustees. Neither had prior marijuana-related investigations.
In the next several weeks, St. Pierre and Narcotics Unit Detective Lance Bryant flew over the property five times. The vehicles did not move, and it appeared the marijuana was left to grow. The address is a dead-end, turning into tall weeds, and it did not appear vehicles frequently passed the address.
As the marijuana needed tending to, St. Pierre decided to investigate whether anyone lived at the house to tend the greenhouses. He and Bryant walked to the property via an ATV trail off Rock Creek Road to the south side of the property. There were no fences or trespassing signs. About 15 yards away, they both detected the strong smell of marijuana. Music was playing from the greenhouse, but no voices were heard nor was anyone seen. St. Pierre believed someone may have been trimming or harvesting the plants.
St. Pierre returned at least two more times with narcotics detectives. He left a small camera in the brush near the house, recording one man walking to and from the property multiple times over multiple days, though sometimes taking a different path to the property and only filming his exit. “Also, there are a few pictures where the male is seen carrying hand tools and an orange bucket; which would be odd for a neighbor going on a leisurely walk,” St. Pierre concluded.
Vehicles were also seen, though different vehicles each time. None were registered to the Nuttings.
Trails were seen on aerial photographs leading from the greenhouses to 3065 Gravel Ct., with entries being found for Kyle Richmond, 48. He was identified as the man seen in the photographs through his driver’s license photo.
St. Pierre concluded that the site was indeed a marijuana grow. Earlier this year, with the help of Judge James Wagoner, St. Pierre obtained PG&E records for 3073 Gravel Ct. The account was in the name of Justen D. Schultz, 44, address listed as 1484 Barrett Dr., Placerville. From his DMV photo, St. Pierre recognized Schultz from a previous investigation in 2013.
In the previous investigation, he noted, a package from North Carolina addressed to J. Schultz was inadvertently delivered to a private mailbox with the same last name. Inside was $3,000 in cash and the strong smell of marijuana.
Schultz proved hard to find. His wife, Michelle Ward, was unaware of his activities, though knew he smoked marijuana. St. Pierre attempted to schedule an appointment with Schultz and his attorney, to no avail.
A stakeout on March 10 proved successful when St. Pierre was able to follow Schultz’ Jeep Cherokee into Placerville. He was able to positively identify the driver as Schultz.
Later that day, St. Pierre and another detective drove to 3073 Gravel Ct. Schultz’ Jeep was there. He believed Schultz was “cultivating marijuana in a remote location of El Dorado County in an attempt to avoid detection from law enforcement. Based on my previous investigation of Schultz, I believe he is still involved in the shipping and sales of marijuana.”
St. Pierre planted a GPS device on the Jeep on April 3. While doing so, he saw a Toyota Tundra Pickup, later found to be registered to David Justin Schultz — a switch of first and middle names and an intentional misspelling, St. Pierre believed, to conceal his true identity. It was registered to the same address.
The Jeep traveled between Barret Drive and Gravel Court “no less than seven times,” staying at the grow site between 40 minutes and 14 hours. It would sometimes be there for days.
More visits and overflights were conducted. What St. Pierre believed to be marijuana plants in black pots were observed outside the residence. Cages consistent with marijuana growing, to help the plants stay straight when the buds develop, were observed to the north of the greenhouses.
The ultimate conclusion, St. Pierre wrote, was that he believed Schultz to be cultivating marijuana, for commercial rather than medical use.
A search warrant was issued for 3073 Gravel Ct. and 1484 Barrett Dr.
Schultz was arrested on July 3 at 3:07 p.m. on charges of alleged transportation, distribution or importation of a controlled substance; cultivation of marijuana; and possession of marijuana for sale. An enhancement was also added. His bail was listed as $57,500. He made bail through a bond later that evening.
El Dorado County Sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Felton stated that, per their Narcotics unit, “Schultz was the only arrest and acted alone. This is all the information we have at this time.”