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Court proceedings hampered until BCA results are in

SLAYTON -- Chase Sanderson, one of several people charged in conjunction with a marijuana grow operation in Murray County this fall, made a brief court appearance Monday morning.

During the hearing, defense attorney Stephen Ferrazzano asked Judge David Christensen to keep the omnibus open until results from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) were received regarding the weight of evidence seized at the scene of the marijuana grow.

Ferrazzano wanted it put on the record he would be filing a motion regarding probable cause, but was waiting on BCA weight results.

The judge said he found there was probable cause, but informed Ferrazzano he could renew the motion once the report from the BCA was received.

"We have co-defendants set up for March," said Murray County Attorney Paul Malone. "We had better be getting (the BCA results) soon."

A tentative date for Sanderson's trial was set for April 17 and 18.

According to the criminal complaint, two men -- Travis Schwarz and Austin Witte -- were arrested in September while allegedly watering marijuana plants authorities had been monitoring. The vehicle they were using to water the plants was registered to Sanderson.

"The individuals in the truck ... were interviewed and they stated they were friends of Chase Sanderson, that the marijuana belonged to Sanderson and that they were helping (him) out because (he) was currently in jail," the complaint states.

Approximately 30 tended marijuana plants had been located in two cornfields in Cameron Township at the time of the arrest. By the time complaints were filed on Schwarz and Witte, 89 plants weighing close to 300 pounds total had been discovered.

After the two men were arrested, phone calls for Witte, Schwarz and Sanderson were monitored.

In one call, Witte spoke to his girlfriend, Samantha Cote, who said she and Robin Easterday had cleaned out Cote and Witte's residence because she thought law enforcement would be coming.

After a tip was received, the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force executed a search warrant at a residence in the trailer park in Fulda. Easterday and Jeremy Aguirre were arrested and charged when several marijuana plants were found in Easterday's trailer.

During an interview with authorities, Cote allegedly admitted she was contacted by Sanderson and asked to move marijuana plants from his home, so she and Easterday brought them to Fulda.

Sanderson, 25, of Slayton, is charged with controlled substance in the first, second, third and fifth degree. He has previous convictions fifth-degree controlled substance, theft, third-degree assault, a firearms violation and driving while impaired.

Schwarz, 22, of Slayton, and Witte, 22, of Ruthton, are also charged with controlled substance in the first, second, third and fifth degree. Witte is scheduled for a jury trial March 13 and 14. Schwarz, who has a previous fifth-degree controlled substance conviction, is scheduled for a two-day jury trial beginning May 1.

Aguirre, 33, of Marshall, and Easterday, 24, of Fulda, are each charged with two counts of fifth-degree controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. Aguirre, who has previous convictions of criminal damage to property, giving a false name to a peace officer and possession of a controlled substance, is scheduled for a plea hearing March 24. Easterday is scheduled for a trial March 20.

Cote, 22, of Ruthton, was charged with fifth-degree controlled substance. She is scheduled for an omnibus hearing March 24.