Police investigate 1.5 acres of poisoned tobacco plants


Reporter - Mychaela Bruner
Photographer - Barry Stevenson

CALLOWAY COUNTY, Ky. - Investigators work to solve an unusual mystery.

A case of poisoned plants and not just a few, but nearly an acre-and-a-half of poisoned tobacco plants.

Calloway County, Kentucky Sheriff Bill Marcum said he has seen a lot in his years of enforcement, but nothing quite like this.

Smith Farms near Kirksey, Kentucky owns the plants. The company has a 250-year family history and ten generations of Smiths live or are buried near the farm.

They say they have never had a problem like this before. The family said they had just finished the second day of planting in late May when they noticed the crops dying. When they found out the crops had been poisoned, they decided to call the sheriff's department.

Now the family is left with one big question, "Why would someone poison an acre-and-a-half of tobacco plants?"

It all started on this tobacco field in late May. Marcum said, "We received a call from the landowner that he had thought his property had been damaged." Poisoned to be exact.

Marcum said, "The land owner of the farm believes it was intentionally done because of the way they were doing their planting. He also said poisoning tobacco plants like this, is not very common. "We put our time line together, along with him. We think that's when it happened, late afternoon, that night, that somebody dumped something in that tank," said Marcum.

Billy Dale Smith is out about $3,000 and forced to plant soy beans in the place where another acre-and-a-half of tobacco plants were once planted.

As far as the Smith family is concerned, time is money. Marcum said, "What it cost him to buy this seed, the man hours they put in it, and upgraded their equipment."

The Smith family did not want to speak on camera, but they did give a statement that says, "It is very disheartening to know that someone decided to sabotage a part of our crop. Farming isn't easy to begin with and these type of actions make it more challenging and costly. There are many comments that we could make; however, as this is an ongoing investigation, we feel it would be best to reserve our comments and allow the sheriff's office to do their job in bringing the person or persons to justice!"

For now, the question of - why someone would poison a tobacco field - is left unanswered. Marcum said, "They're a fine, upstanding family. Somebody got something against the Smith family, I don't know what that would be."

Most of the tobacco produced at the Smith farms is dark fired and is used for chewing tobacco. The Smith family is offering a $5,000 reward. Marcum said, "The crime will be charged as criminal mischief resulting in one to five years in prison."

The Smith Farms consist of about 1,200 acres and the family also farms wheat, corn and soybeans. The investigation is ongoing and we will keep you updated with the latest information.