Two arrested after welfare check turns into an investigation into a marijuana grow operation

Jesse Ray Bunnell

Jesse Ray Bunnell

After a concerned caller to the Greene County Sheriff’s Department requested a welfare check on a woman thought to have been battered, a deputy was dispatched to a rural residence in northeastern Greene County. The deputy reported nobody seemed to be at home, but he could smell the odor of raw marijuana coming from inside the house. He requested a search warrant, more officers arrived to assist, and the welfare check turned into an investigation into what officers said was a marijuana grow operation. Two individuals, one a Bloomington business owner, are now facing felonies involving dealing in marijuana.

Jesse Ray Bunnell, 34, has been charged with:

  • Dealing in marijuana in an amount over 30 grams, and defendant has a prior drug conviction, a Level 6 felony,
  • Possession of marijuana, and defendant has a prior drug conviction, a Level 6 felony,
  • Maintaining a common nuisance – controlled substances, a Level 6 felony, and
  • Possession of paraphernalia, a Class C misdemeanor.
Amber Nicole Stetter

Amber Nicole Stetter

 Amber Nicole Stetter, 29, has been charged with:

  • Dealing in marijuana in an amount over 30 grams, and defendant has a prior drug conviction, a Level 6 felony,
  • Maintaining a common nuisance – controlled substances, a Level 6 felony,
  • Possession of marijuana, a Class B misdemeanor, and
  • Possession of paraphernalia, a Class C misdemeanor.

The call for a welfare check came in and the investigation started on Wednesday, April 11. Criminal cases were filed in Greene Superior Court and arrest warrants were issued on Thursday, April 26.

On Saturday, April 28, Bunnell was arrested by Greene County Sheriff’s Deputy David Elmore and Stetter was arrested by Greene County Sheriff’s Deputy Davis Aerne. Bunnell’s bond was set at $12,500 surety with ten percent allowed and Stetter’s bond was set at $9,000 surety with ten percent allowed. Both were booked in to the Greene County Jail and  bonded out the same day, Bunnell after posting $1,250 cash and Stetter after posting $900 cash.

The initial call was reportedly made by a woman who said her fiancé, who was deployed overseas, was receiving text messages from the mother of his child stating that she, Stetter, had been battered by Bunnell. The woman then called in and requested the welfare check on the mother and two children.

Greene County Sheriff’s Deputy David Elmore was dispatched to the home on North State Road 43 in the Solsberry area. Deputy Elmore said he knocked multiple times on the front door then a back door on ground level then an elevated door at the top of exterior stairs, and did not get a response. He said he observed an exterior security camera with wires going into the home through the door jam and he smelled marijuana. Deputy Christopher Anderson then arrived at the home and also said he smelled raw marijuana coming from inside the house.  

Deputy Elmore made contact with the original caller, got a number for Stetter, and was able to contact her by phone. According to a probable cause document, Stetter said she was in Bloomington and that both children were with her and were safe. She said there had been an altercation but she did not provide any information and according to the deputy, she said she had not been at the house for a week and didn’t want anything to do with the house.

Later the same night, the landlord and owner of the property reportedly told a deputy that Stetter had been at the residence earlier in the day and had been living there for three years, Bunnell for seven years.

Deputy Elmore asked Stetter to meet him at the Greene County Sheriff’s Department and she said she would meet him the next day, but he said she never arrived for the interview.

The two deputies remained outside the home while Elmore applied for a search warrant and requested assistance from the Indiana State Police. ISP Trooper Richard Klun with his K9 and Trooper Matthew Hatchette arrived on the scene and after a judge approved the search warrant, the four officers entered the house.

In the affidavits prepared by Deputy Elmore, he describes multiple sheets of black plastic hanging from the ceiling down to the floor to form a separate interior room in the basement that contained lights, hoses, amps and seven plants believed to be marijuana; and a table in the basement with plant growing material and multiple chemicals used to grow plants.

He also described finding multiple vacuum-sealed bags and other plastic bags containing marijuana – a total of 22 large bags; Mason glass jars of the green plant material, various bags of plant seeds labeled with names that matched the labels on the bags and jars; and smoking devices. Elmore wrote they found marijuana throughout the house, in the refrigerator, in closets and on a set of scales.

In addition to marijuana and equipment, in the affidavit filed in Bunnell’s case, Elmore said they found a current Registered Retail Merchant Certificate for a Bloomington business, B-Town Botanicals Corporation located at 339 E. Winslow Road in Bloomington.  

Deputy Elmore also applied for a separate search warrant for a Georgie Boy Cruise Master recreational vehicle on the property and after it was granted, he reported they found more marijuana in the RV.

After photos were taken and videos were recorded, Greene County Sheriff’s Det. Shawn Cullison was called in to assist in packing and transporting evidence.

Deputy Elmore wrote the amount of marijuana seized was far in excess of 30 grams and the amount plus the items located in the residence indicated that marijuana was being grown to sell.

Both defendants waived their initial hearings. Bunnell is represented by Defense Attorney John A. Kassis of Indianapolis. Stetter is represented by Defense Attorney Samuel Shapiro of Bloomington. In both cases, the State is represented by Greene County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Kevin McIntosh. Trial dates in the two cases have not been set.