On Oct. 3, when Chief Deputy Eric King visited the crop site, 10-12 marijuana plants already had been harvested, although two "trees" remained, Sheriff George Underwood said of the tall, bushy plants.
King set up surveillance equipment to learn who was tending the crop. Pruning shears, irrigation hose, a pump, three 12-volt batteries, electrical water timers, a fertilizer container, gardening wire and a shovel also were on the site.
When King returned to the site 10 days later, most of the growing equipment and tools were gone.
Surveillance tape showed activity in the patch the night of Oct. 3 from about 9-10 p.m.
Four day later, the camera was vandalized.
Although the camera was ruined, King's persistence paid off in trying to locate the grower, Underwood said.
King tracked down neighbor Robert Gildemeister, 48, who had a key to a locked gate near the marijuana patch.
A criminal history check revealed Gildemeister has a previous conviction in another area for manufacturing a controlled substance, according to a probable cause statement filed in the case.
A search of Gildemeister's property uncovered the gardening supplies missing from the grow site.
Authorities also found several pots that had only the base of marijuana stakes remaining.
A dead marijuana plant was found behind a barn. Two sandwich bags of processed marijuana and three plastic bottles of seeds were also found, according to court records.
King said marijuana production in the county is not "as big an occupation as it used to be," although local authorities spend time every fall looking for it.
This time of year, the plants are easier to find, King said.
"There is a reason it's called 'weed,'" he said. "It can grow into considerable sizes."
The two plants Oregon County deputies removed from the site filled the back of a pickup truck and could have yielded about $3,000 worth of processed marijuana.
Gildemeister was charged Oct. 18 in Oregon County Circuit Court with felony possession of a controlled substance and felony manufacture and distribution of marijuana.
The following day, Gildemeister posted $5,000 bond. His first court appearance will be Nov. 23.