ST. CLAIRSVILLE - James Edward Church, 36, 8207 Beacon Place, Cleveland, was arraigned before Common Pleas Court Judge Jennifer Sargus Thursday and pleaded not guilty on three counts of possession of drugs, first, second and fifth degree felonies respectively, occurring Dec. 18, 2012.
Church is accused of holding more than 100 grams of cocaine. Prosecutor Chris Berhalter noted that Church was in possession of a firearm at the time of arrest.
A pre-trial was set for March 18, with plea agreement April 1 and trial April 23. His $250,000 bond was continued. He faces a maximum of 20 years.
The arrest was the result of a Drug Task Force investigation and a raid on a St. Clairsville hotel Dec. 18. The seizure of 100-500 grams of drugs included close to 200 grams of cocaine, along with heroin, percocet, $15,000 and a handgun with a 30-round magazine.
"That was probably one of the largest drug busts in Belmont County," said Drug Task Force Commander John MacFarland, adding that the task force had suspected there was a group from Cleveland making trips to town, and staying in different hotels for several days to sell drugs.
MacFarland noted that Church was the only arrest, although law enforcement suspect there were others involved. Church had been on parole at the time of his arrest, having recently been released from a federal prison.
MacFarland commended the Task Force officers for their work in combating the county's drug problem, adding that all police officers have been dealing with drug crime and drug related crime.
In other matters, Terry Lynn Watts, 54, 632 Columbus Ave., Martins Ferry, pleaded not guilty of three counts theft and three counts forgery, felonies of the fifth degree. His pre-trial was set for March 18, with plea deadline May 28 and trial June 11. Recognizance bond was continued.
Richard Thomas Kyle, 27, 201 Pear St., Bethesda, pleaded not guilty to having weapons while under disability, a felony of the third degree occurring Jan. 26, burglary, a felony of the second degree and theft, a felony of the third degree, both occurring Jan. 1, burglary, a felony of the second degree and theft, a felony of the third degree, both occurring Jan. 26. A bond of $10,000 was set.
Carla Spears, 56, 140 Woodrow Ave., St. Clairsville, pleaded not guilty to one count theft, a felony of the third degree occurring March 18, 2008. A status conference was set for March 15, with plea agreement April 12 and trial April 23. A recognizance bond was set.
Christina Klinect, 37, 42516 Butternut Ridge Road, Elyria, pleaded not guilty to illegal conveyance of drugs onto the grounds of a detention center, a felony of the third degree occurring Jan. 22, 2012. A status conference was set for March 15, with plea agreement April 12 and trial April 25. She is to have no contact with the defendant.
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