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Busy day in district court for drug suspects and officials

Thursday was a busy day in district court at Magisterial Judge Fred Miller’s office.
The reason for the caseload was preliminary hearings that were scheduled for suspects rounded up in last week’s major drug bust. The drug sweep was carried out in Blair County by several law enforcement agencies and netted about 20 people from Tyrone or with connections to the area.
Last Friday, law enforcement, including Blair County Drug task force officers conducted a sweep of suspected drug violators who allegedly have been involved in the delivery and/or possession of controlled substances in Blair County. The bust ended up netted about 50 individuals who either have already been arrested or have warrants out on them. Almost all of the suspects not from the Tyrone area had Altoona addresses, according to information released by task force officials.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett appeared in Altoona with Blair County District Attorney Dave Gorman and several other law enforcement officials including Tyrone Police Chief Joseph Beachem to announce the drug bust.
At the time, Corbett offered a message to drug dealers in Blair County. He said, “We are not going away, and to the law abiding citizens of Blair County, we want you to know that state and local law enforcement agencies are committed to ensuring that you have a safe place to live, work and raise your families.”
Corbett said the investigation targeted alleged street-level drug dealing in Blair County, specifically in the Altoona and Tyrone areas.
Undercover agents and task force officers made more than 100 drug buys from street-level dealers. Corbett noted they were also assisted by information they received from the Blair County “Push Out the Pushers” telephone hotline.
Corbett said 30 of the suspects are facing charges of selling heroin to undercover officers, 10 are charged with selling crack cocaine, four are charged with selling marijuana and two with prescription drugs, including OxyContin and Percocet.
“These individuals that we caught are distributing their poison on these streets,” said Corbett.
Corbett said the large city drug dealers are coming to smaller communities and targeting those areas. He said the dealers think the smaller communities won’t have the enforcement effort to deal with the problem as compared to larger cities. He added authorities had “demonstrated that (assumption) would be absolutely wrong.”
The drug sweep was the culmination of a five-month investigation. The Blair County Drug Task Force is made up of police officials from 14 Blair County municipalities.
The following is a list of Tyrone area suspects. Some of those involved are formerly from the Tyrone area or have Tyrone connections. All addresses listed are Tyrone unless otherwise noted. Magisterial District Judge Miller provided the latest on the cases to The Daily Herald yesterday afternoon.
• Amanda Mills, 8 E. 15th St., was charged with four counts each, delivery, possession and criminal conspiracy, heroin. Her case was continued until next Tuesday. She was accepted by the Public Defender’s office. However, a decision needs to made on appointment of an attorney to avoid conflicts with lawyers who may be handling cases involving another suspect;
• Samuel Kirk, No. 4 Vail Apartments, was charged with four counts each, delivery and possession of marijuana. He waived his right to a preliminary hearing and his case will now move to Blair County Court;
• James Kirk, No. 4 Vail Apartments, was charged with one count each, delivery and possession of marijuana. He also waived his preliminary hearing;
• Aaron Rutherford, Blair County Prison. Rutherford is from the rural Tyrone area. He was charged with three counts each, delivery and possession of heroin and crack cocaine. Rutherford waived his right to the preliminary hearing;
• Shawn Farabaugh, 115 W. 11th St., was charged with one count each, delivery, possession and criminal conspiracy, heroin. He waived his hearing;
• Michael McClellan, 106 E. 14th St., was charged with one count each, delivery, possession and criminal conspiracy, heroin. His case will go to county court after McClellan waived his preliminary hearing;
• Sherri Soellner, 303 W. 21st St., was charged with one count each, delivery and possession, Klonopin. Soellner waived her hearing;
• Jessica Bellows, 1415 Pennsylvania Ave., was charged with one count, possession and delivery of heroin. Bellows was arraigned earlier this week and has a preliminary hearing scheduled for next Tuesday;
• Jessica Burkett, 14 E. 15th St., was charged with one count, criminal conspiracy, heroin. Her case was continued until next Tuesday because of conflict counsel issues;
• Heather Wills, 8 E. 15th St., four counts each, delivery, possession and criminal conspiracy, heroin. Wills waived her hearing;
• Brian Walk, 104 E. 14th St., had an an arrest warrant issued on charges of one count each, delivery, possession and criminal conspiracy, heroin. No new information was available;
• Alesia Bell, 1052 Logan Ave. Apt. No. 1, was charged with one count each, delivery and possession, marijuana. Bell was arraigned earlier this week and has a preliminary hearing scheduled for next week;
• Hillary Shutt, 8 E. 15th St., was charged with one count each, delivery and possession, heroin. Shutt’s case will move to county court after she waived her right to a preliminary hearing;
• Cristy Mengel, 308 W. 11th St., was charged with one count, theft. Mengel pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. She pleaded to a summary offense of disorderly conduct, according to Judge Miller;
• Laura Walk, no street address listed, was charged with one count each, delivery and possession, Fentanyl. She waived her hearing;
• Roy Walk, no street address listed, was charged one count each, delivery and possession, Vicodin. Walk waived his preliminary hearing and
• Danielle Garland, no street address listed, had a warrant issued for her arrest on charges of one count each, delivery and possession, Suboxone. No new information was available on her case.
The Daily Herald was able to identify the following suspects as having formerly lived in the Tyrone area or having Tyrone connections.
• Joshua Flick, 126 Willow Drive, Duncansville, three counts each, delivery and possession, heroin. His attorney requested a hearing. However, due to the amount of cases before the district court yesterday, it will be held next Tuesday
• Ezra Brooks, 1001 8th Ave. No. 19, Altoona, had a warrant issued for arrest on charges of three counts each, delivery, possession and criminal conspiracy, heroin. No new information was available and
• Lindsey Wills, Blair County Prison, had a warrant issued on charges of three counts each, delivery and possession, heroin. No new information was available.
Authorities said as many as two juveniles had petitions filed against them as a result of the investigation. No addresses were listed for the juvenile suspects. Judge Miller said their cases are handled by the juvenile court and do not go through a district judge’s office.
In addition to the Altoona and Tyrone area suspects, a Brooklyn, NY man was also arrested on heroin-related charges.