Metro-East News

35 busted in heroin sweep a year ago. 2 dead, 7 in prison. But the rest?

Jason C. Wolf, left, and Nathan R. Funkhouser died after they were charged in a metro-east heroin sweep. Wolf died of an opioid overdose in October 2015 at age 35, according to the Madison County coroner’s office. Funkhouser, 34, was killed earlier this year in a Belleville apartment. A suspect has been charged with murder in Funkhouser’s death, and the case is pending.
Jason C. Wolf, left, and Nathan R. Funkhouser died after they were charged in a metro-east heroin sweep. Wolf died of an opioid overdose in October 2015 at age 35, according to the Madison County coroner’s office. Funkhouser, 34, was killed earlier this year in a Belleville apartment. A suspect has been charged with murder in Funkhouser’s death, and the case is pending.

It was a little more than a year ago that Southern Illinois authorities announced a major multi-agency heroin sweep that resulted in charges against 35 people.

Where are they now?

▪ 7 were sentenced to prison

▪ 9 were given probation

▪ 2 received jail time

▪ 3 have not yet been arrested

▪ 12 still have cases pending in court

But two will never see their day in court: They’re dead.

The two who died include Nathan R. Funkhouser, 34, who was killed in March in Belleville. Authorities believe his killer beat him on the head with a baseball bat and stabbed him in the chest with a knife. Funkhouser’s body was found nearly a week later inside an apartment, and one person has been charged in connection with his death. The murder case has been making its way through circuit court since March.

Before Funkhouser’s death, he had been scheduled to appear in court on multiple drug-related charges. He was free on bond.

Between August and September of 2015, Funkhouser was charged in St. Clair County with at least five counts of unlawful possession of a controlled substance. All charges were dismissed because of his death. Investigators didn’t say at the time whether the killing could have had anything to do with the drug charges.

Jason C. Wolf also died before his case was resolved in Madison County. Wolf, who lived in East Alton with his wife, died on Oct. 22. The Madison County Coroner’s Office said the 35-year-old Wolf died of an opioid overdose. Death records say the man was found at home by his wife and later pronounced dead at Alton Memorial Hospital.

About two months before he died, Wolf had been charged and arrested on for four felony counts of delivery of heroin within 1,000 feet of a church. Court records show Wolf’s bail was set at $150,000, but it was changed to $75,000 a few days after he was arrested. He posted bond soon after. But Wolf’s case was also dropped soon after he died.

It’s deaths, like Wolf’s, that motivated police to launch the investigation.

The other cases

The Metropolitan Enforcement Group of Southwestern Illinois led the investigation in St. Clair, Madison and Monroe counties in 2015. MEGSI is a regional drug task force.

“Our objective for this particular case, and the reason we did something, was based on the amount of overdoses that were occurring in our area at that time,” said MEGSI director Joe Beliveau. “We decided to put something large together and target every heroin dealer we were aware of.”

He added, “We deal with a range of different levels of dealers. We do expect some to go to prison, we expect some to be charged federally. We also expect some to get probation.”

We deal with a range of different levels of dealers. We do expect some to go to prison, we expect some to be charged federally. We also expect some to get probation.

Joe Beliveau, director, Metropolitan Enforcement Groups of Southwestern Illinois

Beliveau said the region is “still having way too many opiate overdoses. We continue to fight every day.”

Altogether, MEGSI’s heroin sweep turned up 21 defendants in St. Clair County, more than Madison and Monroe counties combined. Of the 21 St. Clair County suspects who were charged in the investigation, seven received probation.

St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly noted that those suspects were eligible for probation in Illinois based on their charges. The prosecutor said probation also includes treatment. All seven defendants were sentenced to probation on drug-possession charges.

“Whether we seek a sentence of treatment on probation or seek prison generally depends on whether the defendant is an addict or a dealer. We have to attack both the supply and demand for heroin,” Kelly said. “For addicts we seek treatment because that gets at the demand for heroin far better than prison does. For dealers we seek prison because they are profiting off the misery of others. Prosecutors across the country are at the forefront tackling this tremendous challenge in a long-term, thoughtful way.”

Kelly also pointed out that prosecutors usually seek cooperation agreements in some cases “to strengthen their case against more culpable defendants higher up in the delivery chain.”

Whether we seek a sentence of treatment on probation or seek prison generally depends on whether the defendant is an addict or a dealer. We have to attack both the supply and demand for heroin.

Brendan Kelly, St. Clair County state’s attorney

Based on court records, defendants who were accused of more serious offenses are either fighting the charges in court or end up in prison. Kelly said prosecutors are seeking prison time for those facing drug-delivery charges in St. Clair County. These cases often take a longer time to get through court, he said.

In the past week, a 30-year-old Cahokia man, who had been facing multiple charges related to drug possession, delivery and unlawful possession of a weapon, received a prison sentence of six years and six months. Between July 2015 and May 2016, Kenneth Bownes was facing 15 felonies. Ten charges were dismissed, but five resulted in convictions.

Of the seven who have been sentenced to prison in connection with the sweep, Bownes has received the longest sentence. He was also ordered to pay more than $3,500 in fines and court costs. St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office had assisted MEGSI in the case.

“It was yet another strong effort by Mr. Beliveau and MEGSI that is helping to slow the heroin epidemic and bend the upward curve of overdoses,” Kelly said. “But these hard-working and valiant officers can’t single-handedly destroy the cartels manufacturing this poison and they can’t stop the flood of prescription opiates that feeds the cycle of addiction that sustains the demand for heroin.”

Aside from St. Clair County authorities, the operation also involved Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons, Monroe County State’s Attorney Chris Stites, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Southern Illinois, sheriff’s departments of all three counties and Illinois State Police.

The following defendants were charged in these counties:

St. Clair County

▪  Kenneth Bownes, 30, of Cahokia. Sentenced to six years and six months in prison for drug conspiracy with intent to deliver, drug conspiracy with possession of a weapon, unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon, unlawful delivery of a controlled substance and unlawful possession with intent to deliver in St. Clair County.

▪  Gregory D. Jones, 42, of Alorton. Charged with multiple counts of unlawful possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon. Apprehended. Bail set at $125,000, reduced to $15,000. Released on $1,500 bond. Case pending.

▪  Clinton E. Owens Jr., 43, of St. Louis. Charged with controlled substance trafficking and armed violence. Apprehended. Bail set at $125,000, reduced to $62,000. Released on $6,200 bond. Case pending.

▪  Jovon Dolly, 37, of East St. Louis. Charged with multiple counts of delivery of a controlled substance and two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Apprehended, in custody on a federal detainer. Case pending.

▪  Brandon A. Williams, 27, of East St. Louis. Charged with multiple counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance. Apprehended, in custody. Case pending.

▪  Benjamin E. Pigg, 42, of Mt. Vernon. Sentenced to two years in prison for delivery of a controlled substance in St. Clair and Hamilton counties. Served 10 months in prison. On parole.

▪  Ryan S. Pigg, 34, of Mt. Vernon. Previous possession charge dismissed in St. Clair County. Sentenced to three years in prison for delivery of a controlled substance in Jefferson County.

▪  Arthur J. Carter, 39, of East St. Louis. Charged with unlawful delivery of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school. Apprehended. Bail set at $100,000. Released on $10,000 bond. Case pending.

▪  Roger K. Shockley Jr., 35, of Belleville. Sentenced to probation for drug possession.

▪  Jesus Mendoza II, 42, of Caseyville. Charged with multiple counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a church and permitted unlawful use of a building. Apprehended. Bail set at $250,000, reduced to $40,000. Released on $4,000 bond with electronic monitoring as a condition. Case pending.

▪  Kristen G. Miller, 23, of Caseyville. Sentenced to three years in prison for delivery of a controlled substance.

▪  Rosemary E. Miller, 41, of Granite City. Sentenced to four years in prison for delivery of a controlled substance.

▪  Joseph M. Metzger, 42, of Trenton. Sentenced to probation for drug possession.

▪  Lauren C. Schroeder, 28, of Belleville. Sentenced to probation for drug possession.

▪  Devion D. Henderson, 27, of Alorton. Sentenced to five years in prison for drug possession and residential burglary.

▪  Colt J. Howard, 24, of Collinsville. Sentenced to probation for drug possession.

▪  William H. Rozier, 60, of East St. Louis. Charged with illegal use of a building and possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance. Not yet arrested.

▪  Kimberly A. Shaw, 37, of East Carondolet. Charged with drug possession. Apprehended. Bail set at $20,000, reduced to $5,000. Released on $500 bond. Case pending.

▪  Matthew Raby, 23, of Belleville. Sentenced to probation for drug possession.

▪  April D. Pickard, 41, of Caseyville. Sentenced to probation for drug possession.

▪  Steven Tiller, 49, of Belleville. Sentenced to probation for unlawful distribution of look-alike substance.

Madison County

▪  Alexandra N. Hinson, of Collinsville. Sentenced to probation for drug possession.

▪  Lisa M. Wolf, address unknown. Charged with multiple counts of delivery of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a church. Apprehended. Bail set at $150,000, reduced to $75,000. Released on $7,500 bond. Case pending.

▪  Caleb T. Foster, of Collinsville. Charged with multiple counts of drug possession. Warrant quashed and recalled. Defendant was in inpatient rehabilitation. Case pending.

▪  Ralph T. Walker, of Wood River. Charged with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and maintaining a drug premises. Apprehended. Bail set at $80,000, reduced to $40,000. Released on $4,000 bond. Case pending.

▪  Cassandra L. Medling, of Wood River. Charged with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and maintaining a drug premises. Apprehended. Bail set at $80,000, reduced to $50,000. Released on $5,000 bond. Case pending.

▪  David C. Bodkin, 26, of Granite City. Sentenced to one year and six months in prison for drug possession. Served nine months in prison. On parole.

▪  Erik W. O’Guinn, of Granite City. Sentenced to probation for drug possession.

▪  Leandre L. Blankenship, of St. Louis. Charged with drug possession. Bail set at $20,000. Case pending. No arrest made.

▪  Ginger E. Hubbard, of Pontoon Beach. Sentenced to periodic imprisonment for drug possession.

▪  James P. Smith, of Edwardsville. Charge reduced to disorderly conduct. Originally charged with obstruction of justice by destroying evidence. Sentenced to three days in jail and supervision.

▪  Mitchell S. Wyatt, of Edwardsville. Said to have been charged with possession of a controlled substance in Madison County by MEGSI. No arrest made. No court record available.

Monroe County

▪  Dylan J. Hegeman, 21, of Millstadt. Charged with drug possession. Apprehended. Bail set at $10,000. Released on own recognizance. Case pending.

Kaitlyn Schwers: 618-239-2526, @kaitlynschwers

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