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Would-be sheriff faces drug charge

Richard Eary, who tried unsuccessfully to unseat Citrus County Sheriff Charles Dean in the 1988 election, has been arrested and charged with cultivating marijuana plants in Ocala, authorities report. Eary, 44, and Sharon Cranker are accused of keeping 132 marijuana plants _ whose street value is $118,000 _ in a shed behind Cranker's home in Ocala, authorities reported.

Investigators from the Ocala-Marion County Narcotics and Vice Drug Task Force searched Cranker's house and found a time-controlled heating and lighting system, several books that describe how to grow marijuana, a balancing scale and a bag that contains some marijuana.

"It was a relatively small operation, but very efficient," said Frank Worley, captain of the drug task force.

Eary could not be reached for comment late Wednesday. Cranker, reached at her home, refused to comment.

The pair were arrested Oct. 5 and released after posting $6,000 bail.

Eary, charged with cultivating marijuana, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia, is scheduled to stand trial in December.

Though he had no background in law enforcement, Eary, a Republican, said in 1988 that the sheriff's budget was too fat and the entire department needed restructuring.

He is the former owner of Richard Eary Construction in Orlando and Wedo Construction Corp., news accounts show.

In a May 1989 interview with the Times, Eary said he was gearing up to challenge Dean once again.