Detective’s nose points out 2 pot operations

One of the two Whidbey Island men who last October for growing pot plants will likely be going to jail soon.

Robert Bell, a 54-year-old Oak Harbor resident, pleaded guilty in Island County Superior Court May 19 to the manufacturing of marijuana.

As part of a plea bargain, both the prosecution and defense will recommend at a June 2 sentencing hearing that Bell serve seven months in jail and pay $4,200 in fines and fees.

In a related case, prosecutors charged 51-year-old Donald Phelps of Coupeville March 17 with manufacturing marijuana and possession with intent to manufacture or deliver marijuana.

The investigation into the two pot growing operations began with a tip and some strategic sniffing by a detective.

Detective Daniel Todd with the Island County Sheriff’s Office investigated Phelps’ house on Smart Court, which is in the Admirals Cove area, by standing nearby and smelling the air. On two occasions he detected the distinct smell of marijuana coming from the home, as well as the sound of a high-powered fan.

On Oct. 10, Todd applied for and was granted a search warrant for Phelps’ abode. He and other detectives discovered a marijuana growing operations in an underground crawl space and an attached garage, the report states. In all, Todd wrote, there were 91 plants.

Also, the detectives found a bedroom where pot was being dried, weighed and packaged, the report indicates.

When the detectives served the search warrant, Bell was present at Phelps’ home. Bell told them he was a plumber and was just there to fix the plumbing.

However, Todd checked out Bell’s Riepma Avenue home two days later by standing at the property line. He smelled the odor of pot and heard the humming of a fan. Based on that and other information, he obtained a search warrant and served it later that day.

Todd wrote that he found a growing operation with 47 pot plants.

If Phelps is convicted of the charges against him, he could face up to 18 months in prison under the standard sentencing range.

You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at or call 675-6611.

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