Authorities: Investigation into meth ring in Clay County leads to 18 arrests

Mar. 12—A multi-agency investigation into a large-scale distribution of methamphetamine in Clay County has led to 18 arrests and confiscation of drugs valued at more than $226,000, Clay County officials said in a news conference Wednesday.

"In one night, we had a huge disruption into the distribution of methamphetamine into Clay County," said Emily Clarke, Clay County prosecutor.

The investigation, which began in late 2023 and was initiated by the Clay County Sheriff's Department, also involved the Terre Haute Police Department, Indiana State Police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Investigators, who infiltrated a meth distribution ring, learned that more than 10 pounds of meth were being delivered from Indianapolis into Clay County per week, Clarke said.

The meth was being distributed in Clay, Sullivan and Vigo counties.

On Feb. 26, the agencies seized more than 12.5 pounds of meth in Clay County, Clarke said.

She estimated the value of the meth seized at more than $226,000.

The overall investigation has resulted in seizure of more than 14 pounds of methamphetamine, more than five pounds of marijuana, seven firearms and more than $6,000 in cash.

In general, "Drugs are very prevalent in Clay County," she said. "It's not a secret that methamphetamine is a problem here as well as every community in Indiana and across the country."

Over the years the drug landscape has changed, she said. Meth used to be produced locally through drug labs. That's no longer the case.

"We haven't had a drug lab in this community in a very long time," she said. Meth is now being produced at labs in Mexico and brought into the U.S.

Also present during the news conference were Clay County Sheriff Brison Swearingen and Sgt. Matt Ames, Indiana State Police Putnamville Post.

Ames encouraged citizens to contact law enforcement with their tips if they become aware of illegal drug activities.

Those arrested included:

—David L. Smith Jr., 40, Brazil — dealing in meth; possession of meth; possession of marijuana.

—Destiny N. Michael, 25, Brazil —dealing in meth, possession of meth; possession of marijuana.

—Brent E. Morlan, 56, Brazil — Dealing and possession of meth; maintaining a common nuisance.

—Margaret P. Shorter, 70, Brazil — dealing in meth, possession of meth, maintaining a common nuisance.

—Tony C. Kuhn II, 41, Terre Haute — dealing in meth; possession of meth.

—Vonda Rae Meadows, 53, Bowling Green — conspiracy to commit dealing in meth; conspiracy to commit possession of meth.

—Rex Sowers, 56, Bowling Green — conspiracy to commit dealing in meth; conspiracy to commit possession of meth; possession of meth; possession of marijuana.

—Shannon D. Manley, 54, Brazil — dealing in meth; possession of meth.

—Lori A. Robbins, 34, Reelsville — possession of meth; visiting a common nuisance.

—Kevin C. Smith, 56, Brazil — possession of meth; visiting a common nuisance.

—Karen Gilley, 57, Terre Haute — dealing in meth; possession of meth.

—Owen Bates, 57, Farmersburg — Possession of meth; possession of marijuana; operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

—Bradley Milam, 52, West Terre Haute — dealing in meth; possession of meth.

—Landon J. Patterson, 32, Greencastle — possession of meth; operating a vehicle while intoxicated endangering a person.

—Angela L. Pursell, 53, Brazil — possession of meth; visiting a common nuisance.

—James J. Zentko, 52, Brazil — possession of meth; visiting a common nuisance.

Vigo County charges:

—Lindsay West — possession of meth; operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

—Melissa Grayless — unlawful possession of syringe.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at sue.loughlin@tribstar.com. Follow Sue on X at @TribStarSue.