Madison County drug fugitive arrested

A man wanted by Madison County authorities since August has been arrested by U.S. Marshals.

Ralph T. Walker, 39, was finally tracked down Tuesday after investigators received a tip about where he was hiding. He is in jail on $80,000 bail.

Walker was one of 36 people charged in a major undercover operation, in which operatives purchased heroin from local dealers in three counties. Some defendants faced enhanced charges for dealing drugs within 1,000 feet of a protected space such as a church or school, and very few were simple possession cases; the focus of the operation was on distributors selling low-cost heroin tablets, according to police. Most were independent operators, not tied to any particular network of illicit drugs, police said.

Walker was charged with one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver alleging possession of less than 15 grams of heroin, a Class 1 felony; one count of possession of a controlled substance alleging possession of clonazepam, a Class 4 felony; and one count of permitting the unlawful use of a building — specifically, that he allowed 125B West Penning in Wood River to be used for dealing heroin.

Charges were filed Aug. 5, and police have been searching for him since. Also charged was Cassandra Medling, 30, who faces charges of possession with intent to deliver and possession of a controlled substance — heroin and clonazepam — and with permitting the unlawful use of the building. Medling is currently free on bail and has her next court appearance on Jan. 4.

The arrests of the 36 suspects also netted more than 75 grams of heroin and 11 firearms. Charges were filed in Madison, St. Clair and Monroe counties as well as federal court. The investigation was a joint effort by the Metropolitan Enforcement Group of Southwestern Illinois, St. Clair County Drug Tactical Unit, state’s attorneys’ offices and sheriffs’ departments for all three counties, U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton and the Illinois State Police.

Walker is in custody but has not yet been transferred to the Madison County Jail, according to Stephanee Smith, spokesman for the Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office.