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Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Heroin turns up in local drug raid

By Margie Wuebker
Heroin, a popular injectable drug during the 1960s and 1970s, has made a big comeback in capsule form here in the Grand Lake area.
It was one of the drugs found during a Tuesday drug raid in Mercer County that resulted in indictments against 11 people on 46 charges. Six suspects are now in custody. Other drugs found were marijuana and chemicals used in the production of methamphetamine.
"We noticed heroin showing up almost 21/2 years ago in Auglaize County and it didn't take long to travel across the county line," says Lt. Barry Niekamp, a detective with the Mercer County Sheriff's Office and a member of the Grand Lake Task Force. "It migrated here from bigger cities like Dayton."
Authorities in northern Auglaize County have dubbed a stretch of Interstate 75 between Toledo and Dayton "Heroin Highway."
The Dayton distribution zone encompasses the counties of Greene, Preble, Darke, Mercer, Auglaize, Miami, Butler and Hamilton, according to Dennis MeHall, unit supervisor for the National Drug Intelligence Center.
Small shipments likely arrive here via private vehicles with some law enforcement officials suspecting a frequency of once or even twice a week.
They know of at least one case involving a Grand Lake area man who reportedly traveled to Dayton with $1,000 in hand intending to purchase heroin in volume. Instead of getting the heroin, he was shot in the neck and robbed.
Joshua Adams, 23, who reportedly has addresses of St. Marys and rural Celina, remains in critical condition this morning after being shot during the drug-related robbery on Feb. 16 on Dayton's northeast side. He has not regained consciousness, according to latest updates.
And in neighboring Darke County, the Greenville Police Department, the Darke County Special Response Team and the Darke County Drug Task Force recovered numerous doses of heroin and marijuana at a Chippewa Drive home in Greenville on Feb. 20. The search warrant stemmed from a five-month investigation into the sale of heroin and marijuana at that location as well as weapons violations. Three adults were arrested with the possibility of additional charges being filed against other suspects.
A capsule of heroin - 0.10 to 0.15 grams - sells for $10 to $15 in the Gem City, according to Dayton Police. However, the same capsule brings anywhere from $25 to $50 in outlying areas.
The drug is especially popular with teenagers and young adults who open the capsules and then snort the contents. Many are unaware of the health repercussions that could lead to death.
"Heroin is cheaper than other drugs," Niekamp says. "It's a matter of high versus cost."
Heroin is a synthetic opiate that is highly addictive, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It is made from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of the Asian opium poppy plant.
The drug can be injected, snorted/sniffed or smoked. Short-term effects include a "rush," depressed respiration, clouded mental functioning, nausea and vomiting, suppression of pain and spontaneous abortion. Long-term effects include addiction, infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C, collapsed veins, bacterial infections, abscesses, infection of the heart lining and/or valves and arthritis and other rheumatologic problems.
Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey says authorities receive helpful information from counselors throughout the area. While no patient names are given, the professionals provide insight on what drugs are being used. Heroin ranks high on the list.
"Marijuana is a huge problem and always has been," Grey says. "There's also cocaine and crack cocaine out there, but we're seeing and hearing a lot more about heroin and methamphetamine these days."
Law enforcement officers want to take drug traffickers out of commission and a current case in Mercer County Common Pleas clearly shows that the sale of drugs led to the deaths of four Marion Local High School graduates in March of last year.
St. Henry resident Staush Homan is awaiting sentencing on four counts of reckless homicide and two counts of trafficking in drugs stemming from a quadruple traffic fatality. He reportedly sold cocaine to former Chickasaw resident Nick Schwieterman, who later ran a stop sign at a rural intersection and struck the car carrying the four men who were killed at the scene. Homan faces up to 10 years in prison.
A recent increase in daytime burglaries as well as other breakings and enterings leads many officials to suspect the culprits need money to feed their addiction.
"If the economy worsens, then we may see the crimes occurring as people try to feed their families," Grey says. "Right now, it's more a matter of feeding habits."

Task force arrest seven:
Seven area residents remain incarcerated today after Mercer County Sheriff's deputies and Grand Lake Task Force personnel began knocking on doors in search of 11 people indicted on various charges during a drug raid Tuesday.
The roundup began in the morning with four suspects still at large.
Currently in custody are:
• Leslie L. Frederick, 39, 315 N. Walnut St., Celina, one count of illegal assembly or possession of chemicals for the manufacture of drugs and four counts of unlawful purchase or receipt of a pseudoephedrine product.
• Michael L. Gehm Jr., 36, 7360 Wabash Road, Celina, one count of illegal assembly or possession of chemicals for the manufacture of drugs, and 14 counts of unlawful purchase or receipt of pseudoephedrine products.
• Dawn R. Gehle Johnson, 47, 3601 state Route 703, Lot 67, Celina, three counts of trafficking in drugs. Additional citations were issued after authorities found marijuana and drug paraphernalia in her possession.
• Christopher L. Leonard, 21, 518 N. Brandon Ave., Celina, trafficking in drugs in the vicinity of a school and trafficking in a counterfeit controlled substance.
• Anthony M. Myers, 42, 505 Cron St., Celina, illegal assembly or possession of chemicals for the manufacture of drugs and five counts of unlawful purchase or receipt of a pseudoephedrine product.
• Steven Noggler, 18, of Celina, who is charged as delinquent for trafficking in drugs while still a minor. The alleged incident occurred before he turned age 18.
• Richard H. Rammel, 47, 6701/2 N. Mill St., Celina, one count of trafficking in drugs.
The offenses, which involve heroin, marijuana and chemical agents used in the manufacture of methamphetamine, range from third-degree felonies to first-degree misdemeanors. The alleged incidents occurred within the past year.
All the cases, with the exception of Noggler's, will be handled in Mercer County Common Pleas Court. Noggler's case will go to juvenile court.
Deputies began transporting jail inmates early Tuesday morning to the Van Wert County Jail in order to make room for the suspects being targeted during the raid.
"The inmates knew what was happening when we started moving them after midnight," Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey told The Daily Standard as the roundup unfolded. "It will be a lot easier for us when the new jail opens. Right now it takes a lot of coordination to have available beds ready."
The small communications room at Mercer County Central Dispatch was a busy place as dispatcher April Gerlach, 911 Coordinator Monte Diegel and Chief Deputy Gery Thobe handled phone calls and listened for radio transmissions.
The coordinated effort led to six homes being "hit" at once to reduce the chances of telephone calls being made to other suspects. Additionally, two officers with K9 units remained on standby throughout the day and two road deputies were available in the event more assistance was needed.
The task force is comprised of law enforcement officers from Mercer and Auglaize counties.
- Margie Wuebker
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