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Burglary probe ends in drug bust, firearms recovery

Burglary probe ends in drug bust, firearms recovery

January 20th, 2012 in News

Heroin, firearms, jewelry, computers and other electronic devices were recovered during a joint effort by Cole and Callaway County sheriffs to investigate a burglary ring.

Three men were being held in the Cole County Jail Friday night on burglary and drug possession charges, with bonds set at $100,000 each.

Cole County Sheriff Greg White told reporters Friday afternoon his deputies had asked prosecutors to charge three other people in the case, and an ongoing investigation might produce more charges in Callaway County, as well.

"I think this (burglary) ring is done," White said, even as his deputies and Callaway County Sheriff Dennis Crane's staff continued to sort through items recovered during several searches Thursday night and early Friday morning.

As of Friday evening, no charges had been filed, yet, at the courthouse in Fulton.

"We know for sure that we have at least six (burglaries) from Cole County - and it's spread around the county," White said. "We also know of at least a couple in Callaway."

So far, he said, there's no evidence that the suspects committed burglaries outside the two Mid-Missouri counties.

Friday's charges identified only two break-ins: in the 3800 block of North Teal Bottom Road, near Osage Bend, and in the 100 block of Hidden Valley Road, near Henley. The two homes are about 13 miles apart, over two-lane roads.

A probable cause statement said a woman - who was not charged Friday - "admitted to driving (the three men) around in her white minivan on (Thursday) while they broke into two different homes."

Prosecutors charged:

• Douglas Orlando Wright, 37, 404-A Hiview Dr.

• Ardaris Cheatham, 27, 404 Hiview Dr.

• Cheswick Cheatham, 30, 10949 Evergreen Apt. 41, Holts Summit.

Each man faces two counts of first-degree burglary, a Class B felony with a possible prison sentence of between five and 15 years.

Wright and Ardaris Cheatham - who are identified as brothers in one of the probable cause statements - also are charged with one count of possession of a controlled substance.

But Wright is charged with intending to distribute, deliver and sell the drug - a Class B felony - while Ardaris Cheatham only was charged with possession, a Class C felony which, state law says, is punishable by a prison term "not to exceed seven years."

Officials have not said how Ardaris and Cheswick Cheatham are related.

White said his office had been investigating one of the suspects "for a little over a month."

The statement in Cheswick Cheatham's case began with a Jan. 10 burglary in the 8300 block of Tanner Bridge Road, where some checks had been stolen.

When they were reported Thursday as being cashed "at various businesses" in both counties, a Cole County deputy identified a Holts Summit woman seen cashing the checks in store surveillance video.

So, he joined Callaway County deputies at the Evergreen Condo Apartments on Route AA, just northeast of Holts Summit, where the property manager said she had seen Cheswick Cheatham and another man carry two televisions from a van into their neighboring apartments.

Detective Chris Suchanek wrote that Cheswick agreed to let a deputy "check the residence," leading to the discovery of a 32-inch flat screen TV in a closet that "matched the description" from one of Thursday's burglaries.

Cheatham gave conflicting stories about finding the television, and said it "didn't even work."

But, Suchanek wrote, when asked to plug it in, "Cheatham requested a lawyer and said he had nothing else to say."

With a warrant, the apartment was searched more thoroughly, turning up three guns and "numerous piece of property with the serial numbers removed."

The statement also said "a subject identified Cheswick as one of the suspects who broke into the two homes (Thursday) in Cole County."

Although Cheswick was not named in a drug possession charge, Suchanek's statement said he "is a convicted felon and cannot legally possess a firearm" - which, White said, could lead to more prison time.

White said interviews also led deputies to Ardaris Cheatham, and a deputy "conducted a traffic stop" in Cole County "on a vehicle Ardaris Cheatham and Douglas Wright were in," a statement said.

They consented to a search of the vehicle, and "guns matching the description of the ones reported stolen" from Thursday's Teal Bottom Road and Hidden Valley Road burglaries were found.

Cheatham was arrested on an active warrant and Wright was arrested for being "a felon in possession of guns."

White said it's likely that, "ultimately, these firearms would have been sold for cash, to purchase more heroin."

A woman in the car gave officers permission to search her home on Hiview, where other stolen items were found, along with "a significant amount of heroin" worth about $2,500, White said - "enough heroin to get 200 people high."

The probable cause statement in Wright's case said he admitted buying one gram of "pure" heroin and "cutting" it into two grams, "to make more of a profit."

Noting the drugs were found during a burglary investigation, the Cole County sheriff called the find "icing on the cake," and he hopes the seizure will make a dent in the region's heroin problems.

"This is a lot of heroin to take off the street, and that's wonderful," White said. "We know it came from outside of Central Missouri. ...

"Right now, of the Central Missouri area, we seem to have the most problem with" heroin.

White praised the Jefferson City police department's "tremendous job on following up on the local busts within the city, recently."

Katherine Cummins of the Fulton Sun contributed information used in this story.

Earlier coverage, posted at 3:49 p.m.

What began as a simple burglary investigation ballooned into a two-county cooperative venture, with charges being sought for several burglaries, stolen weapons and drugs.

"I think this (burglary) ring is done," Cole County Sheriff Greg White told reporters Friday afternoon, even as his deputies and Callaway County Sheriff Dennis Crane's staff continued to sort through items recovered during several searches Thursday night and early Friday morning.

White said his staff asked prosecutors to file charges against six people.

Some of those might face charges in Callaway County, as well, he said.

Buildings were searched at the Evergreen Apartments near Holts Summit and in the 400 block of Hiview, just south of Jefferson City.

White said televisions, firearms, computers and about $2,500 worth of heroin were recovered during the searches.