(11/17/2002)
Drug equipment auctioned off by Braxton County authorities is back in custody of the State Police, a second-time-around. Braxton State Police raided a Frametown residence and confiscated "a very elaborate grow system," according to Trooper K. W. Huddleston.

Police confiscated a system of motorized lights which moved on rails inside a 100-foot square room, and other equipment used for cultivating marijuana. The growing operation belonged to Rondle C. Bender. Bender told officers he purchased the equipment from a sale conducted by officers in front of the Braxton County courthouse in 1997. He said he brought the elaborate equipment off the back of a pick-up truck.

Rondle was not arrested, but the equipment and contents of his operation, including marijuana, was seized. Police were reportedly "amazed" to discover the origin of the grow system.

The Braxton Democrat-Central reported the sale was held by the Sheriff's Department at the order of the Braxton Prosecutor. "At the time of the auction some residents had questioned whether guns and items such as scales and "grow" lights, fertilizer and even alcohol should be sold," but the sale continued, according to the paper.

Braxton detachment commander, Sgt. John Bonazzo, was reportedly one of several registered bidders at the courthouse auction, including several local officials. Sgt. Bonazzo's troopers and other law enforcement officers have confiscated about nine pounds of marijuana in the past month in Braxton, according to Huddleston. Much of it was buried in Mason jars, sniffed out by drug-seeking dogs.

Current Braxton Sheriff Howard Carpenter said he has never been required to have such a sale during his tenure.


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