After hearing evidence gathered during a six-month drug investigation involving several agencies, Wetzel County grand jurors Wednesday handed out 29 sealed indictments, containing 64 felony counts. So far authorities have arrested 25 individuals allegedly involved in prescription pill trafficking.
The Wetzel County Prosecutor's Office, the U.S. Marshall Service, and West Virginia State Police held a press conference Thursday afternoon to release limited information to the public regarding the indictments and subsequent arrests. Standing alongside Wetzel County Prosecutor Timothy Haught at Thursday's press conference were U.S. Marshall for the Northern District of West Virginia, Gary Gaskins; Captain James Merrill of the West Virginia State Police, and First Sergeant T.C. Bledsoe of the West Virginia State Police.
Haught stated that Wednesday's grand jury session lasted until around 4 p.m. After necessary warrants were executed, the arrests of those indicted began in the early morning hours Thursday. The arrest of the 25 individuals occurred over a 12-14 hour period.
Pictured are Captain James Merrill of the West Virginia State, Wetzel County Prosecuting Attorney Timothy Haught, First Sergeant T.C. Bledsoe of the West Virginia State Police, and U.S. Marshall for the Northern District of West Virginia, Gary Gaskins. At Thursday afternoon’s press conference in the Wetzel County Courthouse, Haught announced that 29 unsealed indictments were handed down by the grand jury Wednesday afternoon in connection with illegal prescription pill activity. These indictments have lead to 25 arrests, thus far. (Photo by Lauren Riggs)
Haught had nothing but words of praise for those who have helped with the investigation, saying he was "very appreciative of the cooperation." Haught stated he could safely say that 700-1,000 man hours went into the investigation, with every person at every level working diligently, from the "secretaries to law enforcement." He further explained that the estimation of hours did not include the hours that his office spent working on the investigation or the time grand jurors spent on the indictments. He thanked the U.S. Marshall's office, the federal prosecutor's office, and the West Virginia State Police. Haught also thanked all of those at the Wetzel County Prosecutor's office for "going through this process." He also stated the under cover operation involved confidential informants and expressed gratefulness for these individuals as well.
First Sergeant T.C. Bledsoe specifically thanked his troopers for all of their hard work with the investigation, expressing his pride in them, saying "I appreciate you guys," while U.S. Marshall Gaskins stated he was honored to work with both the prosecutor's office and state troopers.
One individual is currently being held in Georgia under other charges and will be extradited, said Haught, while another individual with connections to Georgia is being held in Ohio County. Two individuals still remain at large: Melinda Rice and an African-American male who goes by the name of "D-Wall".
Haught urges anyone with more information about the individuals at large or the investigation in general to contact the state police.
No names of those arrested are being released just yet. Haught stated the indictments will be unsealed in Wetzel County Circuit Court Sept. 25, 10 a.m., where individuals will be formally handed their indictments.
"The law enforcement has done their job, now it's time to do mine," said Haught.
Captain James Merrill stated that prescription drug abuse is an epidemic, explaining that four northern West Virginia counties are actually currently listed as high activity counties. Merill said the citizens of Wetzel County deserve better and "deserve more." Haught stated the source for pills involved in illegal pill abuse usually come from a prescription or from an out of state pill mill.