MPD Shuts Down Three More “Problem Building” Drug Houses

  • MPD Shuts Down Three More “Problem Building” Drug Houses

    MPD Shuts Down Three More “Problem Building” Drug Houses

    The Martinsburg Police Department announced today the initiation of three more cases under the city’s “Drug House Ordinance” for rental properties at 721 Winchester Avenue, 321 West Race Street, and 122 South Raleigh Street following recent drug investigations and arrests by MPD Patrol officers at the three multi-unit apartment buildings.

    Chief Richards appeared before Martinsburg Chief Magistrate Ella Buckner to obtain Orders of Abatement to address the illegal drug activity.  The owners of the rental properties have been identified as John Perlov, for 721 Winchester Avenue; Jeremy Thompson of Ma-Jer Investments LLC for 321 West Race Street; and Dennis Grove for 122 S. Raleigh Street.  The landlords have been found to be in violation of the Drug House Ordinance.  Richards described all three properties as “problem buildings” with multiple calls for police service during the past 12 months including 37 calls on Winchester Avenue, 10 calls on West Race Street, and 15 calls on South Raleigh Street.  The repeated police-calls have included multiple disturbances, trespassing, suspected drug activity, threats, wanted persons, arrests, and drug overdoses.

    On May 30th, MPD Canine Unit Officer Ryan Fritz went to 721 Winchester Avenue while searching for a person wanted on outstanding criminal warrants.  While inside the building, Fritz alertly observed a quantity of brown powder he suspected to be heroin and related drug paraphernalia.  Officer Fritz returned to the police station to obtain a search warrant while assisting officers detained several residents of the building.  During the search, officers recovered 11 grams of methamphetamine, .5 grams of heroin, and packaging material for drug distribution.  The Estimated Street Value of the recovered drugs totaled $1,700.  Teresa Joan Gellner, 52, was arrested and charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine.  Also arrested and charged with Possession of Heroin was Charles Franklin Robinson, 44.  Two other residents, Peggy Hanna, 62, and Barbara Carter, 35, were issued criminal citations for possession of illegal drugs.  Following the police search warrant and arrests, City Building Inspectors declared the entire structure “Uninhabitable” after finding multiple Building Code violations and deplorable living conditions.

    While responding to a call of a domestic disturbance at 321 West Race Street, Apartment B, on June 2, 2019, Corporal Marybeth Cole encountered one of the apartment’s tenants, Tina Michelle Nichols, and her guest, Teaira Shanika Brown.  While on the scene, Corporal Cole observed quantities of Heroin and Methamphetamine.  Cole recovered 6 grams of methamphetamine, 4 grams of heroin, and determined that the illegal drugs belonged to the tenant and her guest.  Nichols, 44, was placed under arrest and charged with Possession of Methamphetamine and Heroin.  Brown was issued a criminal citation for two counts of Possession of a Controlled Drug Substance.  The Estimated Street Value of the recovered drugs totaled $1,700.

    In the 122 S. Raleigh Street Drug House case, MPD officers responded to a suspected domestic disturbance at Apartment B at the location on June 10, 2019.  Upon arrival, the officers immediately observed extensive evidence of illegal drug activity.  Patrolman Rodney Crawford recovered 2.1 grams of MDMA (Ecstasy) and placed two apartment occupants in custody.   James Buford Cressel, 47, and Tara Nicole Feathers, 35, were both charged with Possession With Intent to Distribute Drug Substances.   A search warrant obtained by Corporal Eric Neely resulted in the recovery of 7.9 grams of the synthetic pain killer Gabapentin, .2 grams of methamphetamine, two digital scales, and packaging material for the distribution of illegal drugs.  Corporal Neely placed in custody the apartment’s tenant, Danny Lee Bagnet, 54, who was charged with Possession With Intent to Deliver Gabapentin and Methamphetamine.   The Estimated Street Value of the recovered drugs totaled $7,920.

    Chief Richards commended the dedication and teamwork of his MPD officers in cleaning up three more problem buildings.  “Canine Officer Ryan Fritz, Corporal Marybeth Cole, Patrolman Rodney Crawford, Corporal Eric Neely, and all our responding officers did an amazing job cleaning up some very big on-going problems that were hurting decent people and families in our community.  Having three buildings causing more than 60 calls-for-service in only 12 months is totally unacceptable and won’t be tolerated.  These landlords will be held accountable and the problems will be fixed,” stated the MPD Chief.

    Recently, landlord cooperation with MPD also resulted in resolving a problem without the use of the Drug House Ordinance.  On June 1, 2019, Mr. Mickey Duncan, contacted Deputy Chief George Swartwood to report suspicious activity in his property located at 416 Virginia Avenue.  After Mr. Duncan could not locate his tenant who was absent from the rental property due to a medical condition, he went to monitor the situation at his building.  When Duncan found several unauthorized people inside, he immediately called the police.  Sergeant Justin Harper, Patrolwoman Britney Conner, and other officers responded and observed evidence of illegal drug activity inside.  Officer Conner obtained a search warrant and recovered heroin and cocaine, a digital scale, syringes, and drug packaging material.  Conner arrested Justin Troy Clark, 26, and Taylor Parker, 21, who were charged with Possession With Intent to Deliver Drug Substances and misdemeanor drug charges.  Officer Conner also recovered $480 in suspected drug-money.  The unlawful residents have been removed from the property.

    Deputy Chief Swartwood commended the property owner for his communication and cooperation with the police.  “An important goal of our Drug House Ordinance is to build more cooperation between landlords, police, and the community.  This is a great example of how that kind of partnership is supposed to work.  I want to thank Mickey Duncan for responsibly stepping up and work with MPD to resolve a serious issue before it turned into a drug house problem,” stated the Deputy Chief.

    John Perlov, Jeremy Thompson, and Dennis Grove are scheduled to appear before Municipal Judge Dale Buck on July 10, 2019 to provide evidence that they have complied with the Chief Magistrate’s order to clean up the drug problem on their properties and prevent it from recurring in the future.

    As part of the Martinsburg Police Department’s community-policing strategy, the Drug House Ordinance is a powerful drug-fighting tool.  Since its adoption in April, 2016, MPD has utilized the ordinance to shut down 46 drug houses.  Repeat calls-for-service at these locations have been reduced by 90%.  Huntington, Parkersburg, Clarksburg, and Fairmont, West Virginia have enacted similar drug house ordinances based on Martinsburg’s to help fight the drug problem.

    Under the provisions of the Drug House Ordinance, property owners are subject to fines if they fail to take appropriate action to abate the problem after 30 days of notification.  The Martinsburg Drug House Ordinance applies to owners of both rental and owner-occupied property.