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Drug charges leveled at 26

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Nine south-central Indiana residents, including a North Vernon man already charged with killing his wife, are among 26 people indicted Monday in a drug trafficking investigation.

As a result of the indictments, Jeremy Ray Jackson, 33, North Vernon, could face a longer prison sentence and heftier fines if convicted of crimes leading up to the April 6 death of his wife, Jessie Jo Louden-Jackson, Jennings County Prosecutor Alan Marshall said.

“The unfortunate death of a 23-year-old woman who consumed some of this (drug) underscores the human cost of methamphetamine trafficking,” U.S. Attorney Joseph H. Hogsett said.

Jackson, who was arrested April 11 and charged with supplying the drugs that led to his wife’s overdose death, has been indicted on a new federal charge of conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine.

Also indicted on the conspiracy charge are:

Donald P. Maggard, 40, North Vernon

Ashley N. Wright, 27, North Vernon

Jason L. “Jay” Howard, 33, North Vernon

Jessica R. Parsons, 32, North Vernon

George R. “Rick” Nichols, 59, Butlerville

David L. Bell, 48, Seymour

In addition, Christy N. Walker, 31, of Columbus was charged with unlawful use of a communications device, while Marsha D. Fields, 56, of North Vernon was indicted for maintaining drug-involved premises, federal investigators said.

Of the people listed in the indictment, 14 are from the Indianapolis area, investigators said.

“This was a huge methamphetamine ring, and they were dealing in very pure crystal meth,” Marshall said.

Marshall dismissed a murder and two drug-related charges against Jackson on Monday before the defendant was moved to a federal holding facility.

The prosecutor said he has several good reasons to turn Jackson over to federal authorities.

Although Jackson no longer is accused of murder, a federal drug-dealing conviction tied to his wife’s death could result in a sentence of 20 years to life imprisonment, Marshall said.

In contrast, a state murder conviction might mean Jackson potentially could be free in 15 to 30 years, Marshall said.

Another factor that could extend Jackson’s potential sentence is his March 2002 conviction in Johnson County for dealing in cocaine, according to the grand jury indictment.

In addition, state felons often serve 50 percent of their sentence when good behavior and other factors are considered. Those convicted of federal crimes usually serve 85 percent of their sentence, Marshall said.

Indiana law also sets a limit of a $10,000 fine for each felony conviction. Under federal law, those charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine — including Jackson — could be ordered to pay fines of up to $1 million, according to federal prosecutor Bradley Blackington.

After receiving toxicology and autopsy results from Jackson wife’s death, Marshall said he agreed to turn Jackson over to federal authorities only after explaining all the factors to Jessie Jo Louden-Jackson’s family.

The investigation into the drug operation initially focused on a methamphetamine tracking cell operating out of a mobile home in Country Squire Lakes near North Vernon, federal investigators said.

But upon questioning, Maggard and Wright identified a larger drug network with supply sources in the Mars Hill section of Indianapolis, Department of Justice spokesman Timothy Horty said.

During the investigation, FBI agents said they seized 15 pounds of methamphetamine with a wholesale value of about $250,000, 22 firearms and $20,000 in cash — mostly in the Indianapolis area.

No court dates for the 26 defendants have been scheduled, Horty said.

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