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21 arrested in drug raid

Friday, April 21, 2006

(Photo)
Ivy Herron photos

Top: Indiana State police Detective Sgt. Troy Stanton, Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton, Clay County Prosecutor Lee Reberger, Detective Sgt. Rob Gambill and ISP Detective J.D. Goldner prepare to answer questions at a news conference in the Clay County Justice Center Thursday. Reberger said that most of the arrest and search warrants from the early morning drug sweep in Clay and Parke counties had been completed, but several were still outstanding and would remain as open investigations.

Middle: Indiana State Police Trooper Chris Carter and Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton examine arrest documents early Thursday morning after serving an arrest warrant at a trailer park on S.R. 340 E.

Bottom: Submitted photo

This classic 1956 Jaguar was one of the stolen items recovered during the early morning raids Thursday.

"We know who they are and we will find them."

Clay County Prosecutor Lee Reberger about the ongoing investigation

By IVY HERRON

missivy1964@yahoo.com

A six-month investigation led by the Clay County Sheriff's Department, Clay City Police Department and the Indiana State Police culminated in the arrests of 21 suspects from Clay, Putnam and Parke counties for various drug related charges during Thursday morning's major drug sweep.

"This is just the first part of an ongoing investigation," Clay County Prosecutor Lee Reberger said during a morning press conference at the Clay County Justice Center. "There are still other warrants out there and the investigation will continue."

Officers, and reserve officers, from the Clay County Sheriff's Department, Clay City Police Department, Center Point Town Marshal, Brazil Police Department, Parke County Sheriff's Department, ISP Putnamville Post, ISP Terre Haute Post and ISP Emergency Response Team joined forces with federal authorities from the U.S. Marshal's Office, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and members of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

The federal authorities assisted with at least two high-risk cases involving drug and weapon transactions during the drug sweep.

Sheriff Mike Heaton was pleased with the efficiency of the 75-member operation. Officers in 10 teams covered a major portion of the city of Brazil, reached into rural Clay County and then moved on to portions of rural Parke County.

"We're very pleased that we were able to hit everything on time, without anyone getting hurt," Heaton told The Brazil Times after the raids. "It takes a huge level of cooperation to organize something like this, and the success just shows how well all these departments work together, and always have."

Clay County Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Rob Gambill and ISP Trooper/Detective J.D. Goldner have worked closely with officers from the Clay City Police Department since the investigation began in October 2005.

Clay City Police Chief Terry Skaggs appreciated his small department being invited by the two lead detectives to be involved in such a major investigation.

"This will remove drugs not only from the streets of Clay City, but from all of Clay County," he said.

Sgt. Rob Gambill, the department's first full-time drug investigator in several years, said countless man-hours were devoted to this investigation.

"We haven't really stopped working on drug cases since October 2005," he said after the press conference.

Tips from concerned citizens and confidential informants fueled the county's largest drug investigation and drug sweep since the mid-1990s.

"We deal with the problems caused by methamphetamine every day. We see how it affects families, how it affects lives," ISP Detective J.D. Goldner said.

According to officials, children who were at home during the arrest of a caretaker were turned over to family members.

"(People) really need to focus in on the meth epidemic," Goldner said. "This is a problem for the entire community. We need their help."

Invaluable for collecting evidence, Gambill and Goldner agreed the use of undercover officers was another large part of the investigation.

With the help of undercover officers, the arrest teams were aware of special items of interest at various sites. Items confiscated during the sweep included two marijuana growing operations with a total of 36 marijuana plants, a large amount of crystal meth, numerous types of drug paraphernalia, several scales, vehicles used in drug sales and at least one surveillance/security system.

Undercover officers were also able to gather information regarding stolen property used for the purchase of drugs. The most prominent item recovered was a classic 1956 Jaguar valued in excess of $60,000. The car was stolen in January from a Clay County resident, and will be returned as soon as the owner is contacted.

Prosecutor Lee Reberger told The Brazil Times late Thursday afternoon the large amount of suspects awaiting arraignment congested the courts. Also, having to walk the suspects across the street to appear for arraignment created some security problems. The dilemma was solved by opening only one court at a time. Superior Court Judge Blaine Akers was able to set court dates for a few cases Thursday afternoon, while Circuit Court Judge Robert Pell is scheduled to arraign more suspects Friday.

Reberger wanted to make clear to the public that the investigation is far from over.

"There will be more arrests," he said. "The public needs to know that we are looking for those people involved in illegal drug activity. We know who they are, and we will find them."



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