Drug sweep collects 16 arrests on drug-dealing charges

Detectives from Bartholomew County’s Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team with help from four other police agencies arrested 16 people in a warrant sweep of accused heroin and methamphetamine dealers.

The sweep was described as one of the largest the team has put together since it was formed in January 2015 to combat increasing heroin and methamphetamine use in Bartholomew County.

The number of accused dealers arrested in this sweep is significant for Bartholomew County, said Sgt. Matt Harris, Columbus Police Department spokesman, who released the information to the media on Thursday.

“With the overdoses that we have experienced here and throughout Indiana, we wanted to make this a priority in Bartholomew County,” Harris said of the warrant sweep. “The officers did a great job building these cases, and these cases take quite a bit of time to build.”

Eleven heroin-related overdose deaths in the county have occurred since the beginning of this year, Bartholomew County Coroner Larry Fisher said.

Bartholomew County Prosecutor Bill Nash said that if Monday’s warrant sweep isn’t the largest the county has ever had, it has to be close.

Nash recalled large warrant sweeps in the mid-2000s when cocaine was the drug of choice. Today, methamphetamine and heroin show up most frequently in arrest records and in overdose cases at hospital emergency rooms.

The prosecutor noted that the arrest list includes six defendants accused of dealing heroin, which he believes could be the largest number picked up at one time in the county.

Harris said the warrant sweep should serve as a signal to other dealers who might be thinking about stepping in to fill the void of 16 already taken off the streets.

“We’re arresting those selling that poison in our community. This isn’t a place to begin selling narcotics,” Harris said.

The 16 were arrested and booked into the Bartholomew County Jail from Monday afternoon through early Tuesday morning, jail records show. Some of the individuals were already in jail and had warrants served on them there.

The arrest warrants were the result of narcotics investigations that occurred over a period of several months earlier this year, Harris said.

Multiple teams of of police officers, including uniform patrol officers and K-9 units, were sent out to serve the warrants on Monday, and as each arrest was made, the arrested individual was handed off to the patrol officer to make a report and take the individual for booking, Harris said.

Bartholomew County Sheriff’s deputies, Columbus police, Indiana State Police and the Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force assisted in the warrant sweep, Harris said.

The Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team is made up of officers from the Columbus Police and the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s departments working as one unit to pursue drug dealers. Also, Greg Long, a Bartholomew County deputy prosecutor, is a member of the unit and handles all drug cases filed in the county.

Officers making the arrests made a few smaller side arrests after finding drug paraphernalia or other items when serving the warrants, Harris said.

Arrested in the warrant sweep were:

Christopher M. Bennett, 33, 222 N. Gladstone Ave., two counts of dealing methamphetamine, $70,000 bond.

Richard D. Bunch, 53, 8148 W. County Road 550S, Columbus, two counts of dealing methamphetamine, $150,000 bond.

Elizabeth A. Burton, 29, 7385 W. County Road 900S, Edinburgh, two counts of dealing methamphetamine, $28,500 bond.

Nicole L. Childers, 29, 745 California St., Columbus, two counts of dealing heroin, $60,000 bond.

Phillip M. Cochran, 38, 4500 Sunset Blvd., North Vernon, two counts of dealing heroin, $150,000 bond.

Ian M. Colson, 34, 747 McClure Road, Columbus, dealing in heroin, no bond listed.

Steven C. Garvin, 26, 1091 Hospital Road, Franklin, dealing in methamphetamine, $30,000 bond.

Joanna M. Gearhart, 31, 724 Wilson St., Columbus, dealing in methamphetamine, $73,500 bond.

Carrie Jo Meek, 26, 2946 Bayberry Drive, Columbus, two counts of dealing heroin, $60,000 bond.

James W. Sidebottom IV, 32, 12850 U.S. 31 North, Edinburgh, two counts of dealing methamphetamine, $70,000 bond.

Charles A. Sims, 40, 1837 Washington St., Columbus, two counts of dealing heroin, $150,000 bond.

Kelsey E. Smith, 20, 1917 Maple St.,Columbus, dealing in methamphetamine, $40,000 bond.

Brian S. Suns, 30, 216 N. Brooks St., Columbus, two counts of dealing heroin, $150,700 bond.

David A. Ward, 45, 1805 Central Ave., Columbus, two counts of dealing in methamphetamine, $195,000 bond.

Jesse S. Woolsey, 23, 7200 N. Spring Hill Lane, Columbus, dealing in methamphetamine, $175,000 bond.

Haley M. Zapfe, 25, 2206 Newton St., Columbus, two counts of dealing in methamphetamine, $85,000 bond.

In addition to the 16 who were arrested, the Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team is seeking the public’s help in locating two individuals still wanted in the warrant sweep. They are:

Robert E. Leturgez Jr., 27, Columbus, wanted on two counts of dealing methamphetamine.

Joshua M. “Chirp” Parker, 24, Columbus, dealing in methamphetamine.

Anyone with information about the location of Leturgez and Parker is asked to call the Columbus Police Department at 812-376-2600. Tips and information may be left anonymously.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.