2-year probe leads to felony charges for selling heroin

For The Tribune

VERNON

Six of seven people charged as the result of a nearly two-year undercover drug investigation in Jennings County are accused of selling heroin.

Those charged Monday with Level 6 felonies during the Indiana State Police investigation include:

Tony C. Pearson 31, of 5740 S. County Road 400W, Commiskey, three counts of dealing in heroin.

Margo D. Garris 34, of 500 Hayden Pike, North Vernon, one count of dealing in heroin.

Both Pearson and Garris were already behind bars on unrelated offenses when the new charges were filed. Pearson is serving time at the state prison in Branchville. Garris is in the Jennings County Jail.

Court records show three other people charged either currently live or recently lived in the same apartment in the first block of Fifth Street in North Vernon:

Travis F. Clark 29, three counts of dealing in heroin.

Edward “Jesse” Swindall, 40, two counts of dealing in heroin.

Justin H. Gribbins, 29, one count of dealing in heroin.

Clark also was being held in the Jennings County Jail when formally charged this week, according to a State Police news release.

Gribbins recently moved to the Columbus area from North Vernon, according to court records.

The sixth person, identified as Suzan N. Pettit, 23, also lives in Columbus. However, court records show Pettit, who is facing three counts of dealing heroin, recently lived in the 800 block of Hoosier Street in North Vernon.

The final person taken into custody was Brandi N. Harrison 29, of North Vernon. The former Seymour resident was charged with one count of dealing in marijuana as a Level 6 felony.

The dealing-in-heroin charges released Thursday reflect current felony classification levels.

A July 1, 2014, law change reduced the amount of possible prison time for one count of dealing heroin to six months to 2½ years, Belding said.

Since Pettit was the only person accused of drug dealing after that date, the Jennings County prosecutor said he intends to seek modifications that will allow five of the people to be charged with a Class B felony for each count of dealing heroin.

If successful, that would mean Pearson, Garris, Clark, Swindall, and Gribbins could face six to 20 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000 for each count resulting in a conviction.

Launched in July 2013, the investigation that led to this week’s arrests consisted of a series of drug purchases by undercover officers, said Master Trooper Tommy Walker, State Police spokesman.

Jennings County has experienced an significant increase in heroin-related deaths in recent years, Belding said.

“That includes deaths of young adults from well-to-do families, so the victims don’t come from any particular social status,” he said.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.