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Evidence against former Carter County sheriff revealed in preliminary hearing

Southeast Missourian,
BYLINE: Michelle Friedrich ~ Daily American Republic
Link to Article

Carter County, MO

GREENVILLE, Mo. -- A Wayne County judge ordered former Carter County Sheriff Tommy Adams to stand trial Friday morning on three drug-related felonies, including distribution of methamphetamine and cocaine.

Adams, 31, of Ellsinore, Mo., appeared before Associate Circuit Judge Randy Schuller for a preliminary hearing on two felonies of distribution of a controlled substance (methamphetamine and cocaine) and the felony of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute (methamphetamine).

After hearing testimony from four Missouri State Highway Patrol investigators, Schuller found probable cause to believe the felonies had been committed by Adams and ordered him stand trial on the charges.

Schuller ordered Adams to appear at 9 a.m. Sept. 26 before Presiding Circuit Judge David Evans for arraignment on the charges.

Sgt. Warren Wiedemann, a criminal investigator with Troop G's Division of Drug and Crime Control (DDCC), said he was among the officers who went to Adams' home on April 2 as part of what Assistant Attorney General Kevin Zoellner described as an "investigation into the illegal activities" involving Adams.

Adams, Wiedemann said, had given officers a "consent search" for his home and vehicles, including his Carter County Sheriff's Department pickup.

Wiedemann said he contacted patrol Sgt. Scott Stoelting and Adams, who provided him with a key to his department-issued truck.

Wiedemann said Adams told him there was a "small bag containing cocaine" under the center console/seat in the truck.

An evidence bag, containing a white powder substance inside a plastic bag, was found and seized, said Wiedemann, who noticed the bag had markings, which led him to believe it had been "in evidence" at some point in a previous, unrelated case.

On cross-examination, Wiedemann told Adams' attorney, David Mann, he had searched a 2009 "Carter County fully-marked patrol vehicle."

"Did he tell you it was OK to search his vehicle?" Mann asked.

Wiedemann answered negatively, but indicated Adams had given written consent to other officers.

When he found the bag in the truck, Wiedemann said, he initialed the seal and secured it in his truck until he turned it over at 1:45 p.m. April 4 to Sgt. Casey Jadwin, who subsequently took it to Troop E Headquarters in Poplar Bluff, Mo.

Later that day, Wiedemann said, he contacted Jadwin at Troop E, where he sealed and initialed the bag before it was put in the evidence locker there.

When Mann asked whether Wiedemann knew if the contents of the bag had ever been used as evidence before, he responded he had "no dealings with that bag before that day."

Sgt. Don Windham, a criminal investigator with Troop E's DDCC, said he was asked to conduct an inventory search of the evidence locker at the Carter County Sheriff's Department. Prior to doing the search, he said, he asked Adams, as well as the "local prosecutor," for consent.

"I was asked to look for one item … an open, unsealed evidence bag" from the previous case, Windham said. The bag, he said, was supposed to contain Vicodin and cocaine.

"The container of Vicodin was in there, but the cocaine was not," said Windham, who seized the evidence bag, packaged it as evidence and subsequently put it in the patrol's evidence locker.

Zoellner asked Windham whether the bag he seized from the evidence locker had been sent to the crime lab for analysis.

Windham confirmed it had. He said it had a bar code from the SEMO Crime Lab, as well as blue tape attached, which is consistent with lab procedures.

"Did you contact the crime lab to determine if, in fact, cocaine was in the bag?" Zoellner said.

After answering affirmatively, Windham read from a copy of a lab report dated May 9, 2009, involving the previous case.

When asked if the report indicated whether the bag contained cocaine, and if so, how much, Windham said, the "analysis result of the white substance" is 1.85 grams containing cocaine, a scheduled II controlled substance.

After checking the crime lab bar codes on the bag he seized from the evidence locker, as well as the bag Wiedemann seized from Adams' patrol truck, Windham said, he found the codes matched.

The substance Wiedemann seized also was sent to the crime lab for analysis, and the analysis report indicated the bag contained .05 grams of cocaine, said Windham, who also searched Adams' personal truck.

Adams, who already was under arrest at the time, initially denied officers consent to search his truck, Windham said.

"Then Sgt. (Jeff) Heath walked away and made some phone calls … (Adams) said 'Look, I don't want to make this hard on anybody. You can search,'" Windham said.

Heath, Windham said, told Adams he didn't want him to feel "coerced" into giving permission.

"He said he had nothing to hide, you can search," Windham said.

When asked whether he found any illegal substances in the truck, Windham said, not the first time he searched.

" … I didn't find any amphetamines," he said.

When Windham told Heath he hadn't found anything in the vehicle, he said, Heath told him to "come with him."

Heath, according to Windham, reached behind the accelerator, pulled the mat back and retrieved a plastic film canister. Inside were five bags of a white powder substance, which field tested positive as methamphetamine, he said.

The substances were sent to the crime lab for analysis, and each "contained something different as far as weight," but all were found to contain meth, Windham said.

On cross-examination, Windham said, he stayed back while Heath and patrol Sgt. Craig Ponder initially made contact with Adams at his cabin and arrested him.

Windham said officers received written consents from Adams for his cabin, the 80 acres he was leasing to buy, the area around the cabin and a 2005 Chevrolet Silverado pickup.

When Mann asked whether any audio or video recordings were made, Windham said, he asked Ponder to turn on the onboard camera in his patrol car to "view the whole thing."

Windham said he did not tell Adams, who remained at the scene for a couple of hours, of his rights.

According to Windham, Heath completed the "presumptive" test on the substance, and then he seized Heath's gloves, the canister and it's five white-powder filled bags, as well as the field test.

All were "immediately put into an evidence bag, labeled and put in my truck," said Windham, who subsequently logged the bag into the patrol evidence locker.

Windham said he, along with Wiedemann, searched the Adamses' home after both Adams and his wife gave consent.

"What was his condition when you saw him?" Mann asked.

Windham described Adams, who he had "never met before in my life," as being nervous.

As part of a drug investigation involving Adams, Heath said, earlier he was going to send an informant in to make contact with Adams "as he did most every weekend, Sheriff Adams would distribute meth."

Contact, Heath said, was made the night before during a recorded telephone conversation. "The sheriff and (CI) agreed to meet at Sheriff Adams' cabin," he said.

Before the CI going to Adams' cabin, Heath said, he searched the CI's person, as well as his vehicle. He said he also equipped the CI with two audio/video recording devices.

Heath said he told the CI to text him "here" when he arrived at the cabin, as well as "good" if Adams distributed meth. The CI he said also was supposed to call or text him when he left.

"I provided him with a plastic bag; if (Adams) distributed … he was not to ingest it, but put it in the bag and bring it to me when he left the cabin," said Heath, who watched as the CI drove down County Road 211A to Adams' cabin.

"He texted 'here' like I told him to," Heath said. "(About) 45 minutes later he texted 'we are good.'"

About an hour to 75 minutes later, the CI called to report he was leaving the cabin, said Heath, who watched the CI drive back out.

"He brought the clear, plastic bag I provided with a white substance" inside, which field tested positive for meth, as well as a plastic ink tube the sheriff used, Heath said.

The items were placed into evidence, and subsequent lab analysis determined the substance to be meth, Heath said.

On cross examination, Heath said, the CI arrived at Adams' cabin at about 7:40 a.m.

The CI, according to Heath, is one who had never been used before, wasn't being paid or under arrest; however, he was under investigation for selling pills.

Heath said there were two separate recording devices used by the CI, one of which had its video malfunction.

The pat-down search of the CI and his vehicle, Heath said, occurred about 30 minutes before his contacting Adams.

After retrieving the plastic bag from the CI and field testing the substance, Heath said, he kept it in his custody until he put it in the SEMO Drug Task Force evidence locker on April 6.

Stoelting said he interviewed Adams on April 2 after telling the sheriff of his rights. "He did indicate he was willing to speak to us," he said.

When Adams was asked whether he had used meth that day, Stoelting said, Adams provided two different answers.

Adams, he said, initially denied using meth, but later "he did indicate he used meth earlier that day."

A urine sample, Stoelting said, was obtained from Adams, and sent to the crime lab for analysis.

The report, he said, "indicated methamphetamine/amphetamines were found in his urine," Stoelting said.

During the interview, Stoelting said, he also asked Adams about whether "he had taken any evidence" from the department's evidence locker.

Although Adams initially denied taking any evidence, Stoelting said, he admitted taking the cocaine evidence involved in the previous case, which he had seized from a building in 2009.

When Zoellner asked "what became" of the cocaine, Stoelting said, Adams reported he had "taken the cocaine out of the evidence locker and the Friday before he was arrested, he had it with him at (a Poplar Bluff restaurant where) he joked with workers about using it.

"He and (the CI) used the cocaine on the way back to Carter County. He said he had thrown it out the window."

On cross-examination, Stoelting told Mann he began his interview with Adams at 1:09 p.m. at Troop E after having gone to Ellsinore and picking up the sheriff.

The day of Adams' arrest and interview was the same day he resigned as sheriff.

Pertinent address:

Greenville, MO

Ellsinore, MO

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