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Drug sentences in court

Gary Mark Henthorn

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County Common Pleas Judge John Vavra imposed some heavy sentences Monday on cases related to drugs, and heard a guilty plea in a sex-related case.

Gary Mark Henthorn, 50, of 613 Chestnut St., Barnesville, was sentenced to the maximum of three years in prison for possessing weapons under a disability, a felony of the third degree occurring April 13.

Charges stem from a search on a Somerton residence referred to as “Meth Mountain” by the Belmont County Sheriff’s Criminal Interdiction Unit. Deputies seized methamphetamine and around a dozen firearms from the residence, which was reportedly the subject of an earlier raid this year.

Henthorn was arrested on charges including an active arrest warrant for drug possession in Belmont County.

Belmont County Public Defender Frank Pierce asked Vavra to consider Henthorn’s struggle with addiction and presented a written statement from Henthorn to the court.

“I’m very sorry to be here,” Henthorn said.

Vavra reviewed Henthorn’s prior record, including two felony convictions for possession of drugs and violations of community controls.

“We did try the counseling route,” Vavra said. He said other misdemeanor convictions include theft and operating a vehicle while under the influence.

“You were found to be in possession of drugs of abuse, all while having access to numerous firearms, some of which were loaded, creating a risk of harm for all, including especially the officers executing the search warrant. The people that were in the residence lied to the officers,” Vavra said. “I am just happy no one was harmed during that entire encounter.”

Vavra added Henthorn did not participate in his pre-sentence investigation.

“You did admit to the officers at the time of your arrest that some of the drugs were in fact yours, so this wasn’t a case of mistaken identity or mistaken ownership,” Vavra said.

Two other people were also arrested at the residence and charged with obstructing justice.

In an unrelated case, Eric M. Bennington, 40, of 3811 Harrison St., Bellaire pleaded guilty to three counts of drug offenses, including trafficking in methamphetamines, a felony of the second degree, occurring Sept. 10, 2018. Vavra sentenced him to five years, three years, and one and a half years, to be served consecutively for a total of five years.

“I want to apologize,” Bennington said.

“The judge did a real nice job with the sentencing today, and clearly the officers that are investigating these drug cases are doing a really good job securing arrests and convictions,” Belmont County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Flanagan said afterward.

Also, Creighton Willon Charles Hines, 28, of 102 E. Market St., Woodsfield, pleaded guilty to attempted gross sexual imposition, a felony of the fourth degree occurring in 2016. His sentence was set for Oct. 13. A pre-sentence investigation and victim impact statement were ordered. Hines faces a maximum sentence of one-and-a-half years and designation as a Tier 2 sex offender and required to register his residence for 25 years after his release from prison. Flanagan said Barnesville police investigated the matter, and the victim was a girl younger than 13 at the time.

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