‘The gentleman basically had his own garden of marijuana plants. He commented about how good they were.’
— Dearborn police Lt. Mark Tobias
By J. PATRICK PEPPER
DEARBORN — The fence separating 631 N. Franklin from the south end of Levagood Park is unremarkable.
Like the miles of fence that demarcate property lines throughout the neighborhood, it’s 3 feet tall, chain-link and offers little in the way of privacy.
But police say even this obvious lack of cover didn’t prevent the homeowner, Darrell Behling, from allegedly growing 8-foot tall marijuana plants in his back yard – just a few hundred feet from Haigh Elementary School and in plain view of a Levagood playscape.
Dearborn narcotics officers executed a search warrant Sept. 15 on Behling’s house after receiving a tip from a jogger who spotted the plants while running through the park. For police, it wasn’t a tough bust to make.
“(The tipster) could see it from the park. Our officers went out there, confirmed what it was, and got the warrant,” said Lt. Mark Tobias.
Along with eight nearly mature plants, a small amount of cocaine and multiple guns were removed from the house. The guns were properly registered, Tobias said, but because they were in the proximity of the drugs they were subject to seizure.
Behling wasn’t expected to be arraigned until this week and was released because of medical issues, although police said he is not a medical marijuana patient.
Police haven’t yet determined how much the marijuana would have sold for or if it was intended for distribution, but it was apparent the plants were well-kept.
“The gentleman basically had his own garden of marijuana plants. It was very well tended to,” Tobias said. “He took very much pride in it. He commented about how good they were.”
But if pride does come before the fall, Behling could be headed for a dizzying descent. Police said they have requested that prosecutors charge him under drug-free school zone laws, which impose stiffer fines and penalties for drug-related offenses within 1,000 feet of a school.
Behling did not answer the door at his house Thursday and did not return a telephone message seeking comment for this story. But one neighbor offered some support for the man he described as “friendly and nice.”
“I hope they don’t take him to prison or take his house,” said the neighbor who did not want to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the situation. “He never hurt anybody and he was always helpful to other neighbors.
“I just feel bad.”