March 31, 2015

Rural Nebraskans can spot evidence of meth labs, but be wary

Meth BottleAs the weather gets warmer, Nebraska farmers and road crews can play a key role in helping law officers fight the problem of methamphetamine production.

Sergeant Jason Sharp, with the Gage County Sheriff’s Department, explains what to look for in rural areas, which may indicate the presence of a makeshift meth lab.

“When you’re out on the roads, working on the roads, and you see trash on the side of the road, things to look for, a lot of it’s just trash but sometimes it might be a shake-and-bake lab or just waste from a mobile meth lab,” Sharp says. “If it is waste, you don’t want to touch it, you want to stay away from it.”

Such trash might include empty blister packs of pseudoephedrine, Coleman fuel cans, plastic bottles with tubes extending from them, chemical containers, lithium batteries, acetone and anhydrous ammonia containers.

Sharp says meth addicts frequently resort to other crimes to feed their addiction.

“A lot of people who are addicted to methamphetamine are desperate,” he says. “Everybody knows about stealing scrap metal, damaging pivots, stealing the copper and metal from there, burglaries, breaking into abandoned buildings, breaking into sheds, garages, houses.”

Sharp says methamphetamine use and distribution is not just a big city problem. Local law officers have made arrests in recent months where larger amounts of the drug and significant stashes of cash have been recovered.

By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice


Lincoln businessman sentence on drug charges

A 48-year-old Lincoln man has been sentenced to 15 years in federal prison on drug charges, money laundering, and being a felon in possession of ammunition.

Federal prosecutors say John Ways, Jr. sold drugs and drug paraphernalia through his Exotica stores in Omaha and South Sioux City as well as Council Bluffs, Iowa. Ways has also been ordered to forfeit more than one million dollars in cash as drug proceeds seized from multiple bank accounts, two vehicles purchased with drug proceeds, various computers and equipment, ammunition, and four gun safes. Ways will have to serve three years of supervised release.

“It does not matter whether drug dealers sell illegal drugs on the street, through the Internet or, like this defendant, under the guise of a legitimate business. It is still drug dealing,” United States Attorney Deborah R. Gilg said in a written statement released by her office. “With the help of our law enforcement partners such as the ATF, we will investigate and prosecute drug dealers no matter how they ply their trade. We will also seize and forfeit their illegitimate gains.”

Omaha officer involved in fatal shooting resigns

Police CarAn Omaha police officer who shot and killed a robbery suspect has resigned.

Police Chief Todd Schmaderer accepted the resignation of Officer Alvin Lugod.

Lugod fatally shot robbery suspect Danny Elrod February 23rd. Omaha police responded to a robbery call at a Dollar General and found Elrod, who was 39, at a nearby parking lot. Elrod refused to comply with the officers’ commands to show his hands and get down on the ground.

Lugod shot Elrod after he turned away and toward the other officers. Lugod claimed he fear Elrod would harm the other officers. He fired three shots, hitting Elrod twice in the back.

A grand jury cleared Lugod of any criminal charges.

Kansas man arrested in Nebraska after high-speed chase

A high-speed pursuit that began in north-central Kansas ended with the arrest of a Kansas man in southeast Nebraska.

Jefferson County Sheriff Nels Sorensen reports that 37-year-old Justin Sutterlin of Marysville, Kansas was arrested in Fairbury after fleeing several agencies in Kansas at speeds topping 100 miles-per-hour.

Sorensen says the county communications center received an emergency call in the early morning hours from neighboring Thayer County about the pursuit of a car.

Kansas authorities sought Sutterlin on suspicion that he robbed a convenience store.

The chase started in Mitchell County, Kansas. Spike strips stopped the car at the south edge of Fairbury.

Sutterlin fled on foot, but was captured. A deputy used a Taser gun in the arrest.

Sutterlin is charged with flight to avoid arrest, willful reckless driving, resisting arrest, and being a fugitive from justice. The investigation continues.

Teen charged with motor vehicle homicide

A Plattsmouth, Nebraska teenager is facing charges of motor vehicle homicide in an accident last January that claimed the life of a passenger. Taylor Hughes was 17 years old when prosecutors say she failed to yield to a vehicle and her SUV was hit by a minivan in Sarpy County. The passenger was Hughes’ 7 year old sister, Maddie.

Sarpy County Prosecutor Lee Polikov says Hughes is charged in juvenile court which is a civil, not criminal process. He says no kids are sent to jail or fined and it is more about rehabilitation.

Polikov says he has received a lot of criticism about pressing charges in cases like this. He says, “When I apply the law I have to apply it fairly to everybody. Rich – poor, black – white, 17 or 70. I don’t deal in suffering. Some people think I do but I have to put the case before the court that is neutral and objective. Actually it is the court that considers punishment.”

Polikov says this process is not about punishment but rehabilitation. He says if the court takes jurisdiction, they proceed through a program they feel appropriate and when that is finished in a year that record is sealed. The court could require counseling to community service.

Taylor Hughes’ pre-trial hearing is scheduled for Monday, March 30th.