Stolen vehicles lead police to pot farm

A Gorst man and woman who reportedly drove stolen cars through a fence at a local dealership were arrested Monday on theft and drug charges after officers found the cars and several dozen 70 marijuana plants at their home, according to the Port Orchard Police Department.

Quinn T. Hinkle, 34, and Paula T. Lelli, 26, were both arraigned in Kitsap County Superior Court Tuesday on charges of manufacturing marijuana and possession of stolen property. A third suspect was also arrested.

POPD Commander Mark Duncan said the incident began March 15, when two cars were reported stolen from Bay Ford on Bay Street near downtown Port Orchard.

According to the incident reports, a man driving by the dealership around 11:30 p.m. noticed the front gate had been knocked down, although a half hour earlier he said it had been intact.

When an officer arrived on scene, he discovered several car parts and pieces strewn across the lot, along with a van that had been smashed into a dumpster. An employee who also responded said while no “sales” cars were missing, two service vehicles were.

Soon after the cars were reported stolen, a Bremerton Police officer located one of them at a residence along State-Route 3, across the street from the Rodeo Drive-in. When POPD officers retrieved the vehicle — a 2005 Ford — they noted that Jeep wheels, along with bald tires, were now replacing the new tires previously on the vehicle.

As POPD officers investigated the incident, they learned from a Bay Ford employee that before the incident, two subjects — a man and a woman — in an older model, run-down Jeep Grand Cherokee had tried to trade in their vehicle at the dealership.

The employee said he did not accept the trade, but he does remember seeing the car behind the business with the suspects inside, and that he may have dropped some vehicle keys near it as he walked by them.

Although the employee said his dealership did not have information on the two suspects, officers learned where they lived from an employee of the other dealership they had approached for a trade, Peninsula Subaru in Gorst.

After being shown where the suspects’ lived, POPD officers arrived at the home to question them, quickly noticing a strong odor and other evidence of marijuana plants inside.

“There was the smell, several bags of potting soil outside, and the windows were covered with black tape — all consistent with a grow operation,” said Duncan, explaining that officers then notified officers with the West Sound Narcotics Enforcement Team(WestNET), who obtained a search warrant for the home.

Inside, Duncan said, officers found about 70 marijuana plants and six handguns, later booking all three suspects at the residence into Kitsap County Jail.

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