School psychologist arrested on pot-growing allegations
South Lake Tahoe police on Thursday apprehended Cynthia Anne Norris, a Lake Tahoe Unified School District psychologist who was being sought in connection with an alleged marijuana grow at her Christmas Valley home.
Authorities were looking for Norris, 33, after South Lake El Dorado Narcotics Enforcement Team (SLEDNET) agents on Tuesday allegedly discovered 93 marijuana plants in her home on Beaver Brae.
“I guess the police received some information she was in town early this morning,” Jeff Catchings, SLEDNET task force commander, said Thursday.
Catchings did not know where Norris was arrested, although he said the arrest was made “without incident.”
Norris was booked on suspicion of marijuana cultivation and child endangerment. She has since posted bail, Catchings said.
A man authorities described as Norris’ common-law husband, Alexander Balestrero, was arraigned Thursday in El Dorado County Superior Court. He has been charged with marijuana possession, cultivation and child endangerment stemming from the discovery of the alleged growing operation.
The allegation of child endangerment arose from the unsafe living conditions in the home resulting from the marijuana grow, Catchings said.
Catchings estimated the value of the grow at $35,000 to $40,000.
Not-guilty pleas to the charges were entered for Balestrero, pending a bail review. The review could be completed by Monday, said Judge Suzanne Kingsbury. Balestrero’s bail Thursday was $75,000.
The couple’s 12-year-old son was placed in the care of Child Protective Services on Thursday, Catchings said.
Norris was hired last year as a child psychologist for the Lake Tahoe Unified School District, said Beth Delacour, the district’s human resources director. Norris has been placed on paid administrative leave pending investigation, Delacour said.
Norris’ arrest marks the second school district employee to be taken into custody in the past two months on suspicion of growing marijuana.
Tamara Allen, a fourth-grade teacher at Bijou Community School, was arrested in December and has been charged with two federal felonies after police officers allegedly found $1,400 in cash, 100 marijuana plants and two to three pounds of processed marijuana in her Glen Road home.
She has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
– Tribune staff writer Sara Thompson contributed to this report.
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