MILLERSBURG -- The last of three people arrested and charged in connection with a traffic stop that culminated in the exposure of a police officer to methamphetamine has denied criminal charges related to the incident.
On Wednesday, March 1, in Holmes County Common Pleas Court, Robert A. Searls, 25, of 675 Bobwhite Lane, Millersburg, pleaded not guilty to aggravated trafficking in drugs, aggravated possession of drugs and obstructing official business.
At his arraignment, Searls' bond was reduced to his own recognizance; however, with outstanding warrants from Ashland, Stark and Richland counties, it is believed he will remain in custody, albeit not in Holmes County.
Previously, Samantha Foster, 30, of 2222 Melrose Drive, Apt. 123, Wooster, pleaded not guilty to similar charges. And, Andrew A. Tennent, 39, of 2106 State Route 39, Jeromesville, pleaded not guilty to illegal conveyance of drugs of abuse onto the grounds of a specified governmental facility.
If convicted, Searls and Foster face up to 11 years in prison. Tennent faces up to three years in prison.
Tennent and Foster are next scheduled to appear in court on April 13 for pretrial conferences. Searls' pretrial is scheduled for March 16.
The charges stem from a Jan. 31 incident.
That's when the Holmes County Sheriff's Office, acting on a tip Searls was not only driving under suspension, but was in possession of drugs, with the intent to sell, said Sgt. Joe Mullet.
The vehicle was stopped in the parking lot of West Holmes High School, where officers found Searls and Foster, as well as Tennent, who was in the back of the car.
Tennent later reported to investigators that Foster was measuring out crystal meth, but dumped it and smashed it into the floor of the car when she saw the officers approaching, said Mullet.
All three were arrested -- Foster and Searls for trafficking in drugs and Tennent, who allegedly had crystal meth in his socks when he was booked into the jail, for possession of drug paraphernalia.
After the three were removed and transported to the jail, officers searched the vehicle. A total of 2.1 grams of meth was recovered from the car on that date, according to Chief Deputy Richard Haun.
During the search process, according to Mullet, one officer, although protected with gloves, was exposed to meth, which is believed to have become airborne and inhaled.
His exposure was suspected after he began showing symptoms, including acting fidgety, excessively talkative and having hot flashes, said Mullet. He was taken by emergency squad to Pomerene Hospital, where he was observed before eventually being released.
Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.