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NEWS RELEASE

OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY

WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI


BRADLEY J. SCHLOZMAN



Contact Don Ledford, Public Affairs ● (816) 426-4220 ● 400 East Ninth Street, Room 5510 ● Kansas City, MO 64106

www.usdoj.gov/usao/mow/index.html



FEBRUARY 15, 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


JOPLIN MAN FACES THREE LIFE TERMS FOR

DOUBLE HOMICIDE, DRUG TRAFFICKING


            SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Bradley J. Schlozman, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Joplin, Mo., man faces three life terms in federal prison after being convicted in the murder of two Joplin residents in 1999 and pleading guilty to a related drug-trafficking charge.


            Thomas D. Smith, also known as “Mad Dog,” 33, a Joplin area resident, was found guilty on Feb. 7, 2007, of two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Paris Harbin and Chandy Bresee-Plumb. The jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision whether to sentence Smith to death or to life in federal prison without parole; therefore, under federal statutes, the court must sentenced Smith to life in federal prison without parole on each of the two murder counts.


            “This defendant is nothing more than a cold-blooded, calculating killer,” Schlozman said. “With today’s verdict, the jury has permanently banished him from peaceful society. Good riddance.”


            On Jan. 29, 2007, the first day of the trial following jury selection, Smith pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of crack cocaine in Jasper County from as early as January, 1999 to December, 2000. Under federal statutes, Smith is subject to a sentence of life in federal prison without parole as a result of that conviction. Smith also pleaded guilty to managing a crack house – a residence at 115 Cleveland in Joplin, which he made available for the purpose of unlawfully storing crack cocaine – and to being a felon and an unlawful drug user in possession of a firearm.


            Smith was a leader of the Red Mob Gangsters, a subset of the Bloods street gang. Smith and other members of the gang moved to Joplin from Tulsa, Okla., Schlozman said, bringing a wave of drug distribution and drug-related violence from 1999 through 2001. Smith, who believed that Harbin was involved in the theft of money and a large quantity of crack cocaine from his crack house, confronted him in an upstairs bedroom at a friend’s apartment and shot each of the victims twice on December 13, 1999.


            Following the presentation of evidence, the jury in U.S. District Court in Springfield deliberated about eight hours before returning the guilty verdict to U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner, ending a trial that began Jan. 24, 2007.


            A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.


            Six co-defendants have pleaded guilty to charges contained in the May 2, 2002, federal indictment and subsequent superseding indictments. Four of those co-defendants have been sentenced and two await sentencing.


            * Larry Darnell Saddler, also known as Laughin’ Larry, 48, of Carterville, Mo., was sentenced on Sept. 22, 2005, to 13 years and four months in federal prison without parole. Saddler pleaded guilty on Dec. 6, 2004, to managing a residence at 2116 Grand in Joplin, which he made available from April 1999 to January 2000 for the purpose of unlawfully distributing crack cocaine. Saddler admitted that he made the residence available to co-defendants, and that sales of at least 50 grams but less than 150 kilograms of crack cocaine occurred in several locations within the residence and also outside the residence.


            * Justin L. Triplett, 32, of Joplin, was sentenced on Sept. 22, 2005, to 12 years and 11 months in federal prison without parole. Triplett pleaded guilty on May 12, 2004, to his role in the conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine. Triplett admitted that others involved in the conspiracy traveled to Tulsa, Okla., to obtain crack cocaine, which they distributed to Triplett when they returned to Joplin. Triplett then distributed crack cocaine to other individuals. The total amount of crack cocaine attributable to Triplett during the course of the conspiracy, Schlozman said, is between 150 and 500 grams.


            * Ernesto V. Bell, also known as Stone, 31, was sentenced on Sept. 22, 2005, to 14 years in federal prison without parole. Bell pleaded guilty on Dec. 16, 2002, to participating in the conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine. On February 2, 2000, Bell sold approximately one gram of crack cocaine to a confidential informant in two separate transactions, Schlozman said. On February 29, 2000, after a vehicle chase involving law enforcement officers, Bell was arrested and found in possession of a quantity of crack cocaine, money and a loaded Steyr 9mm handgun. According to Schlozman, the total amount of crack cocaine attributable to Bell in the course of the conspiracy is at least 150 grams but less than 500 grams.


            * Victoria Gonzalez, 30, of Carthage, was sentenced on Sept. 22, 2005, to seven years and six months in federal prison without parole. Gonzalez pleaded guilty on May 6, 2002, to her role in the conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine. Gonzalez received quantities of crack cocaine from a co-defendant and an associate of his, which she in turn distributed to various individuals. From approximately June, 2000, to December, 2000, Gonzalez engaged in a series of crack cocaine transactions with an undercover police officer, selling crack cocaine at her residence in Carthage.


            * Israel D. Ward, 34, Tulsa, pleaded guilty on July 15, 2005, to his role in the conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of crack cocaine in Jasper County between September 1998 and December 2000 and awaits sentencing. Ward came to Joplin from Tulsa in August 1998 and began assisting others in the manufacture and distribution of crack cocaine. Ward admitted that he cooked powder cocaine into crack cocaine for distribution by himself and others. The crack cocaine was kept and sold at several different locations in Joplin, including 2116 Grand. Ward also assisted co-conspirators by transporting them to Tulsa to obtain powder cocaine, which was subsequently transformed into crack cocaine before being distributed.


            * Brian L. McDaniel, also known as Barrion, 31, who is currently in federal custody, pleaded guilty on Dec. 6, 2002, to participating in the conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and awaits sentencing. McDaniel admitted that he engaged in the distribution of crack cocaine in and around the Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Joplin, Mo., areas as a member of the Tulsa area Red Mob Gangsters street gang, from July 1999 through July 2001. On Dec. 9, 1999, McDaniel sold approximately one gram of crack cocaine to a confidential informant. On different occasions, law enforcement officers seized quantities of crack cocaine, drug paraphernalia and cash from two homes that were used by McDaniel to store and distribute drugs and money. When a search warrant was executed in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on July 8, 2001, officers found McDaniel in possession of crack cocaine and cash. The total amount of crack cocaine attributable to McDaniel is at least 500 grams but less than 1.5 kilograms.


            This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Rush and Randall D. Eggert. It was investigated by the Joplin, Mo., Police Department, the Jasper County Drug Task Force, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Joplin Area Major Case Squad, the Tulsa, Okla., Police Department, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Jasper County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the Newton County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, COMET (the Combined Ozarks Multi-jurisdictional Enforcement Team), and the Springfield, Mo., Police Department.


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This news release, as well as additional information about the office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, is available on-line at

www.usdoj.gov/usao/mow