Three Columbia residents arrested in Mississippi

Friday, June 5, 2009 | 12:13 p.m. CDT; updated 5:41 p.m. CDT, Friday, June 5, 2009

COLUMBIA — Three Columbia residents were arrested in Mississippi on Tuesday on suspicion of possessing and manufacturing methamphetamine.

Nathan James Obannon, 25, of 6770 N. Wagon Trail Road, Christopher William Pritchard, 28, of 107 Fourth Ave., and Sara Helena Richey, 25, of 251 Apple Tree Court, were arrested in Columbus, Miss., about 500 miles from Columbia, according to the Columbus Police Department.

Authorities in the area received a tip that the three were visiting several drug stores in the area and buying pseudoephedrine, an active ingredient in methamphetamine that can be found in cold medicine.

Lt. John Peavy of the Columbus Police Department said all three were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine. The crime carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in Mississippi.

Obannon was also arrested on suspicion of possession of methamphetamine and psychedelic mushrooms. Pritchard was also arrested on suspicion of possession of psychedelic mushrooms, and Richey was also arrested on suspicion of possession of methamphetamine.

Peavy said Pritchard and Richey were also arrested on suspicion of child abuse, as there was a 3-year-old child with them. He said the Mississippi Department of Human Services took the child into custody. The maximum penalty for the charge is 10 years.

Peavy, who works with a joint law enforcement task force called the Columbus-Lowndes Narcotics Unit, said state law requires those who buy pseudoephedrine to show identification. As a result, authorities were able to track the pseudoephedrine to six stores the three suspects visited in the area.

Peavy said the three did not have connections with anyone in Columbus and told authorities they had been in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and were passing through on the way home to Missouri.

“It appeared they wanted to camp out and see how much pseudoephedrine they could find,” Peavy said.

Peavy said authorities began to search hotels in the area and found a Chevrolet Camaro with Missouri license plates on Tuesday. He said officers spotted Obannon sitting in the driver’s seat of the car.

Officers then searched their room and found drugs, paraphernalia and  pseudoephedrine. Peavy said methamphetamine was not manufactured in the hotel room.

Peavy said the narcotics group contacted the U.S. Marshals Service to provide information about drug kingpins in Missouri with whom the three might have ties.

As of Friday, the three were still being held at the Lowndes County Adult Detention Center. Obannon’s bond was $27,500, Pritchard’s was $10,000 and Richey’s was $20,000.

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