When investigators went into James Hightower's South Jersey home Friday morning to serve a search warrant and take him into custody on a child-pornography charge, they stumbled upon something else.

Hightower, 48, wouldn't allow investigators into his home, on the 6200 block of Riverfront Drive in Palmyra. So authorities used force to get in. Inside, they discovered marijuana plants growing in his living room and garage, the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office said. 

James Hightower


Authorities seized a total of 26 marijuana plants, as well as computers, cellphones and digital media.

Hightower, who is retired from the Navy, was arrested and charged with one count each of operating a controlled dangerous substance production facility; manufacturing, distributing or dispensing a controlled dangerous substance; and endangering the welfare of children.

The investigation, which began in January when the Prosecutor's Office's High-Tech Crimes Unit received intelligence from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, revealed that Hightower had uploaded images of pre-pubescent girls engaging in sexual acts with adult men, prosecutors said.

Hightower was held in the Burlington County Jail pending a first appearance in Superior Court.