- Jan 28
MPD Kicks Off New Year by Shutting Down Two More Drug Houses
The Martinsburg Police Department announced today the initiation of their latest two cases under the city’s innovative “Drug House Ordinance” for the properties at 311 W. John Street and 117 Whitney Way after drug investigations and search warrants by MPD Patrol Unit officers.
Chief Richards appeared before Martinsburg Chief Magistrate Ella Buckner to obtain Orders of Abatement to address the illegal drug activity documented at the two locations. The property owners have been identified as Debrah White for 311 W. John Street and Ruth Parsons for 117 Whitney Way. City records show both owners residing at the cited Drug Houses. MPD Lieutenant Justin Darby’s Shift spearheaded the police response that resulted in the latest Drug House enforcement actions.
During the past 12 months, MPD had responded to 80 calls-for-service, 45 of which were drug complaints, at 117 Whitney Way. This problem location had been the focus of patrol and investigations by all MPD Units. On December 29, 2019, officers responding to one of the many drug complaints at the location, issued a criminal citation to Marissa Staubs for Possession of Dangerous Substances. On January 7, 2020, Sergeant Andrew Garcia obtained a search warrant for the location looking for suspected drugs and a wanted fugitive. Upon making entry, Sergeant Garcia and other MPD members found evidence of illegal drug activity and recovered 30 milligrams of illegally possessed morphine pills and 102 rounds of ammunition. Arrested and charged with Possession of a Dangerous Controlled Substance were Zane Vernon Kesecker, 45; Jamie Ann Parsons, 40: and Melissa Joy Weaver, 41. All three were charged with Possession of Controlled Dangerous Substances. Melissa Weaver was also charged with Prohibited Person Possessing Ammunition. After conducting an investigation into complaints of illegal drug sales at 311 W. John Street, Sergeant Garcia obtained a search warrant that he and fellow officers executed on January 15, 2020 at approximately 1:00 p.m. Inside the residence, the officers recovered 177 grams of marijuana, a digital scale, and packaging material used for the sale and distribution of illegal drugs. Arrested on the scene were James Buddenbohn-Saillez, 23; Sarah Pearl Fitzgerald, 18; Heather Star Gagliano, 19; and Donna Lee Warner, 40. All four offenders were charged with Possession with Intent to Deliver Marijuana.
“This was excellent patrol work. The teamwork demonstrated by all the officers of Lieutenant Darby’s Shift was outstanding. I was told that when they took the offenders out of Whitney Way in handcuffs, the residents on the block were applauding,” stated Deputy Chief George Swartwood.
MPD Chief Maury Richards also recognized the alert observation and quick actions of his officers. “Lieutenant Darby, Sergeant Garcia, Sergeant Neely, and their entire Shift did a great job. Two more Drug Houses shut down and two more problems solved. 80 repeat calls-for-service from one location in 12 months is simply outrageous and something that won’t be tolerated in Martinsburg. These property owners will be held accountable.”
Ruth Parsons and Debrah White are scheduled to appear before Municipal Judge Dale Buck on March 18, 2020 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.
The Drug House Ordinance is an important component of the Martinsburg Police Department’s community-policing strategy and a highly successful crime reduction and drug-fighting tool. Since its adoption in 2016, MPD has utilized the ordinance to shut down 62 drug houses—reducing repeat calls-for-service at the individual locations by 90%. Crime on the Drug House blocks has also been significantly reduced. Comparing reported crime on the entire blocks of Drug House locations 12 months before enforcement action with the numbers of same types of incidents 12 months after compliance shows a 51% decline in Violent Crime, a 35% drop in Property Crimes, a 52% decrease in Drug-related calls, a 34% reduction in Public Nuisance complaints, and a 54% reduction in Drug Overdoses.
To fight the drug problem, Huntington, Parkersburg, Clarksburg, Fairmont, Wheeling, Buckhannon, Charles Town, Nitro, and Elkins have all enacted similar drug house ordinances based on Martinsburg’s.