The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

January 28, 2013

Undercover drug deal leads to $5K in stolen merchandise; five arrested

Van Holland

TARBORO — After making an undercover drug buy from a residence on Whichard Lane in Tarboro, the Edgecombe County Sheriff's Office discovered at least $5,000 in merchandise that had been stolen from local and area businesses. They also seized 20 stolen firearms and a large amount of drugs.

In a combined effort,  sheriff's office deputies and officers of the Tarboro Police Department raided 34-year old Walter Keel's residence at 119 Whichard Lane on Jan. 17. The raid came after officers had made an undercover drug purchase of heroin from Keel and two of his accomplices,  32-year old Andrew Jefferies and 28-year old Kristen Ashley Smith.

After the undercover purchase, officers executed a search warrant and found 49 bags of heroin, oxycontin, percocet, klonopin and suboxen, along with other drug paraphernalia.

What law enforcement didn't expect to find were 20 firearms and more than $5,000 in stolen goods from Wal-Mart, JC Penney, Lowes and other retail businesses. The stolen items included numerous vacuum cleaners, Keurig coffee makers, power tools, air tools, battery chargers, blue ray players, air rifles, clothing, shoes and toys.

After locating the firearms, officers checked the cache of weapons and found that most of them were reported stolen in Edgecombe County, along with one from Pamlico County. Five of the firearms were stolen in a residential break-in in Tarboro and two were stolen from the West Edgecombe area. Officers are doing a further trace of the remaining firearms to see if they have been reported stolen.

After finding the firearms, investigators were led to 24-year old Brandon Charles Cook and 24-year old Hali Alexandra Whitehurst. The investigation revealed that Cook and Whitehurst, along with 25-year old Brandon Smith, were responsible for the theft of the five firearms stolen from Tarboro and had sold them to Keel. As the investigation continued, officers learned Cook was responsible for the two break-ins in the West Edgecombe area and had sold Keel two of the three firearms stolen from those break-ins.

After the investigation was completed, officers arrested all five suspects. A sixth suspect is still being sought.

Keel was charged with sell and delivery of heroin, conspiracy to sell and deliver heroin, possession of heroin, possession with the intent to sell and deliver schedule III controlled substance, trafficking in opium, possession with the intent to sell and deliver schedule II controlled substance, possession with the intent to sell and deliver schedule I controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, maintaining a dwelling for storage and sell of controlled substance, possession of stolen firearms and possession of stolen goods. He was placed in the Edgecombe County jail under a $50,000 secured bond.

According to officers, Keel could be facing more charges in connection with the stolen merchandise.

Jeffries and Smith, both of 501 Huntington Road, Tarboro, were each charged with sell and delivery of heroin and conspiracy to sell and deliver heroin. They both received a $55,000 secured bond.

Cook, of 8151 Town Creek Road, Elm City, was charged with three counts of breaking and entering, three counts of larceny of firearms. He was jailed under a $50,000 secured bond.

Whitehurst, of 634 Tammy Dr., Tarboro, was charged with breaking and entering and larceny of firearms. She was jailed under a $25,000 secured bond.

Law enforcement is looking for Smith, who resides at 7354 Cedar Grove School Loop Road in Rocky Mount. Smith has outstanding warrants pending against him for his involvement in the case.

Officers are asking that if anyone has seen Smith to contact the sheriff's office at 641-7911 or the Tarboro Police Department at 641-4247.