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Case stalls for former Missouri sheriff accused of meth distribution

Wednesday, April 4, 2012 | 11:59 a.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — A year after a Missouri sheriff was arrested in a methamphetamine sting, his court case remains on hold.

Carter County Sheriff Tommy Adams was arrested on April 2, 2011, accused of distributing meth to a confidential informant working with the Missouri State Highway Patrol. A probable cause statement said Adams, now 32, snorted meth in front of the informant. Adams was also accused of distributing cocaine.

He resigned as sheriff two days after his arrest.

The state case was only the start of Adams' troubles. He was also charged in federal court with possessing and selling stolen guns and being a drug user in possession of a gun. Adams pleaded guilty to those charges on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Cape Girardeau, admitting that in 2009 he kept guns seized from the home of a convicted felon. He faces up to 10 years in prison at sentencing on July 2.

Meanwhile, the state case has developed slowly. The Missouri attorney general's office took over prosecution. Hearings were scheduled and postponed. Then in October, the case was moved from Carter County to Jefferson County, near St. Louis.

Since then, virtually nothing has happened, according to entries in Casenet, Missouri's online court reporting system. The only significant docket entry was on Nov. 1, a clerk's note to not set the case on a calendar until the attorney general's office clarifies whether the circuit judge originally assigned to it, Michael Pritchett, is to remain.

The case is moving much slower than other drug cases in the state, with not even a court case scheduled. Several messages seeking comment from Adams' attorney, David Mann, and from the Attorney General's office were not returned.

Meanwhile, Adams' chief deputy, Steffanie Kearbey, 24, is also facing federal charges — three counts of possession of stolen firearms and one count of being an unlawful user of a controlled substance in possession of firearms. She has pleaded not guilty, but a change of plea hearing is scheduled for Monday in Cape Girardeau. Previously, her jury trial was scheduled to begin that same day.

Kearbey was also arrested in April 2011, accused of selling a gun taken from the sheriff's department evidence room and stealing a duffel bag of coins from a house. Her attorney claimed Adams was behind those crimes.

Carter County prosecutor Rocky Kingree dropped the state charges in July, saying the attorney general's office refused to provide him with evidence needed to pursue the case.

Kearbey also resigned soon after her arrest.

The drug case against Adams was particularly troubling considering Missouri's recent history as a state with a significant methamphetamine problem. Missouri led the nation in meth lab seizures in 2011 and has had more lab busts over the past decade than any other state.

Carter County, in a scenic but sparsely populated area of the Ozark Mountain foothills in southeast Missouri, had been oddly immune to the meth epidemic with just five meth lab busts in the two years that Adams served as sheriff.


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