CHRISTIANSBURG — A former employee of the TruHarvest hemp farm who is accused of stealing plants valued at $330,000 can stay in jail while awaiting trial, a Montgomery County judge said Monday.
Justin Scott Murphy, 30, of Radford, was to begin a two-day jury trial Monday on 10 charges connected to break-ins at and around TruHarvest, located in the 1700 block of Flanagan Drive just west of Christiansburg. But prosecutors last week asked the judge to delay the trial to allow more time for investigation, and Monday’s hearing in the county’s Circuit Court became a chance for Murphy’s attorney to try again to get his client out of jail.
Attorney Brandon Ratliff of Blacksburg noted that Murphy was denied bail after his February arrest and has so far been locked up for 208 days. With his trial postponed, Murphy “should not have to sit waiting” in jail, Ratliff said.
Murphy testified that he has lifelong ties to the New River Valley, that his wife is expecting a baby soon, and that he had been employed at a friend’s car garage at the time of his arrest.
Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Patrick Jensen countered that Murphy has a significant criminal record that included convictions for larceny, drug dealing and possessing guns after being convicted of a felony. Also, when Murphy was arrested, he was on probation for a case in Pulaski County and cellphone records indicated that he had traveled outside Virginia, which was a violation of probation rules, Jensen said.
Judge Robert Turk said that he would continue holding Murphy without bond but wanted to get a new trial date set quickly. Turk scheduled another hearing for Sept. 27 and said attorneys should be ready then to schedule a trial.
According to a prosecution summary presented Monday, Murphy had worked at TruHarvest Farms, which grows hemp that is used to make cannabidiol, or CBD. While employed at the farm, Murphy asked other workers if they wanted to buy marijuana and if hemp could be mixed with marijuana, Jensen said.
The prosecutor did not say when or why Murphy left the job at the farm. But he is accused of returning on four dates in December, January and February, and of taking hemp worth $330,000, Jensen said.
On Feb. 24, Murphy is accused of coming back to the farm. But this time a burglar alarm alerted sheriff’s deputies. The burglar fled on an all-terrain vehicle stolen from a neighboring property, then abandoned the vehicle in a driveway and ran — leaving the ATV to roll down the driveway into a deputy’s car, Jensen said.
Murphy is charged with five counts of various sorts of grand larceny, two of statutory burglary, and three of entering a structure to commit a crime.