Ashland police seized more than 500 opium poppy plants from a home on Oak Street Wednesday and arrested a couple for endangering and neglecting a six-year-old girl who lived at the home, police said Thursday.
Editor's note: All charges against Emeth Brandov-Ysrael were dismissed in 2011 and 2012, according to Jackson County Circuit Court records. Every charge except manufacture of marijuana against Jonah Shore were dismissed in 2010, court records show.
Neighbors who peeked over the backyard fence of a bungalow in the 700 block of Oak Street this summer might have thought the residents had grown a nice flower garden. But Ashland Police Department officers say they discovered the more than 500 flowers were opium poppies and the opium that could have been extracted from them was worth thousands of dollars. Police discovered the plants Wednesday, after conducting a routine probation check at the residence. Elsewhere on the property, marijuana plants and psilocybin mushroom spores were growing, amid pot and opium pipes, drug packaging materials and a book titled "The Drug Library: Hallucinogens," detectives reported Thursday. Police had walked into one of the largest drug operations in Ashland in several years, Ashland Police Chief Terry Holderness said. "It's really unusual to have what looks like a professional opium grow in Oregon," he said. "It's certainly the first one we've ever seen. I've never seen one before in my 33 years in law enforcement." Five adults and two children — a 1-week-old boy and a 6-year-old girl — lived in the approximately 900-square-foot home, along with three or four dogs and several cats, said Det. Rick Spence of the Ashland Police Department. On Wednesday, police arrested two of the adults who lived in the home and the Department of Human Services took the 6-year-old girl, who appeared to be healthy, into protective custody, Alderman said. Jonah Shore, 29, was arrested for violating his probation, second-degree child neglect and endangering the welfare of a minor. Emeth Brandov-Ysrael, 24, was arrested for the latter two crimes. As of Thursday evening, both remained in Jackson County Jail where their bail was set at $8,000 each. More charges against the couple, likely including the manufacture and distribution of controlled substances, are pending, Holderness said. The Jackson County District Attorney's office also may seek additional charges against some or all of the adults in a grand jury hearing on the case on Tuesday, said Lt. Corey Falls. On Thursday, Sgt. Jim Alderman showed reporters gathered at the Ashland Police Department evidence that detectives believed shows the couple had extracted opium from some of the plants, had used the substance and had perhaps distributed it.
"They weren't selling these to a florist," Alderman said. "We seized a laptop and cell phones and we're going to see if we can find out whether this was for their personal use, or for their use and their friends' use, or if they were selling it." Police said they also found evidence indicating the couple was manufacturing and selling marijuana. It appears the drug operation had been under way at the home since at least the spring, because the opium poppies were likely planted then, Alderman said. The small one-bedroom, one-bathroom home the couple rented was full of drugs and drug paraphernalia and was extremely dirty, Spence said. "We were concerned about the health and welfare of the children," he said. Ashland police officers discovered evidence of the drug operation at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, when they assisted the Jackson County Parole and Probation Department in checking on whether Shore was in compliance with the terms of his probation, police said in a release. Shore was on probation for a felony drug crime for his involvement in delivering marijuana, police said. Police detectives served a search warrant at the residence later that day and said they located numerous items related to controlled substance manufacture, delivery and use. They reported seizing more than 500 opium poppy plants, dozens of jars filled with psilocybin mushroom spores and several mature marijuana plants. Detectives are continuing their investigation into the case. Anyone with information on the case is asked to contact the Ashland Police Department at 541-482-5211. Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-482-3456 ext. 226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.