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NEWS RELEASE

OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY

WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI


JOHN F. WOOD


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


APRIL10, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


METH LAB OPERATORS CHARGED IN WOMAN’S DEATH,

ANOTHER LAB CAUSED EXPLOSION


ELEVEN DEFENDANTS INDICTED FOR METH

MANUFACTURING, TRAFFICKING


            KANSAS CITY, Mo. – John F. Wood, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that 11 defendants were indicted by a federal grand jury today in two separate and unrelated cases that involve the manufacturing and trafficking of methamphetamine. According to the indictments, one methamphetamine manufacturing operation resulted in the death of a Smithville, Mo., woman and another caused a violent explosion in a Riverside, Mo., residential neighborhood.


            Both indictments contain federal charges against the defendants for creating a substantial risk of harm to human life while manufacturing or attempting to manufacture methamphetamine. A third methamphetamine lab was allegedly located near a public elementary school in Kansas City, Mo.


            “Methamphetamine production and trafficking is deadly and dangerous, not just for those directly involved but for the whole community,” Wood said. “Both of these cases demonstrate the potential of meth production to injure or even kill people.”


U.S. v. Williams, et al


            John D. Williams, 29, and Benjamin T. Clarkson, 37, both of Kansas City, Mo., were charged in a superseding indictment returned today by a federal grand jury in Kansas City. Today’s superseding indictment replaces a Dec. 4, 2007, federal indictment and adds Clarkson as a co-defendant as well as additional charges.


            Today’s indictment alleges that Williams and Clarkson, aiding and abetting each other and others, created a substantial risk of harm to human life while manufacturing or attempting to manufacture methamphetamine. According to the indictment, while they were attempting to manufacture methamphetamine at their residence, they placed toxic and dangerous chemicals that are used to manufacture methamphetamine – including lye – in unmarked containers out in the open areas of the kitchen and surrounding rooms. Carly E. Morris, 24, of Smithville, unwittingly ingested one of these toxic and dangerous chemicals while she was a guest at their residence. Morris died on Oct. 22, 2007, as a result of the injuries caused by her ingestion of that chemical.


            The indictment alleges that Williams and Clarkson participated in a conspiracy to distribute and manufacture 50 grams or more of methamphetamine from Jan. 1 to Nov. 15, 2007. The indictment also charges Williams and Clarkson with two counts of attempting to manufacture methamphetamine and with maintaining a place for the purpose of manufacturing, storing, distributing and using methamphetamine.


            Williams is also charged with possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime and with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Williams was allegedly in possession of a Winchester 20-gauge, short-barreled shotgun on Nov. 15, 2007. Under federal law, it is illegal for anyone who has been convicted of a felony to be in possession of any firearm or ammunition.


            This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew P. Wolesky. It was investigated by the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department.


U.S. v. Leonard, et al


            Bryan G. Leonard, also known as Dan Ward, 32, Melissa J. Fox, 41, and April D. Coots, 25, all of Platte County, Mo., Jeremiah L. Harris, also known as Luke, 28, of Independence, Mo., Tracy J. Kerr, 38, Shelli M. Smith, 43, and Shawn P. Berkstresser, 41, all of Kansas City, Mo., and Eric V. Cares, 45, and Lisa W. Yazel, 45, both of Lee’s Summit, Mo., were charged in a 16-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Kansas City.


            Today’s indictment is related to the explosion of a residence at 4800 N. Northwood Rd. in Riverside on Sept. 5, 2007. Police officers responded to a call from the Crime Stoppers TIPS Hotline regarding a methamphetamine lab at the residence, and when no one answered the door, remained at the scene while waiting to obtain a search warrant. Leonard came out of the residence shooting at police officers. Following an explosion that caused the house to burn to the ground, Leonard led police officers on a high-speed pursuit before being arrested. Coots was arrested at the house. No one was injured in the shooting or the explosion.


            “I am pleased with the participation and cooperation we have received from Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd, who has been actively involved in this case from the beginning,” Wood said. “This is another example of the excellent working relationship between our offices, and of the benefits of local and federal law enforcement partnerships.”


            The federal indictment alleges that Leonard, Harris, Fox and Coots aided and abetted each other and others to attempt to manufacture 500 grams or more of methamphetamine on Sept. 5, 2007. The indictment also charges that on that day Leonard, Harris, Fox and Coots, aiding and abetting each other and others, created a substantial risk of harm to human life while manufacturing or attempting to manufacture methamphetamine, and that they maintained a place for the purpose of manufacturing, storing, distributing and using methamphetamine.


            The indictment also alleges that on Sept. 5, 2007, Leonard, Harris, Fox and Coots, aiding and abetting each other and others, used or discharged firearms in furtherance of the drug-trafficking crime of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute methamphetamine.


            Leonard is charged with using a dangerous weapon – a firearm – to forcibly assault a federal agent while he was engaged in his official duties on Sept. 5, 2007. Leonard is also charged with being a felon in possession of firearms. Leonard allegedly possessed two Ruger 9 mm pistols and a Smith and Wesson .38-caliber revolver. Leonard is also charged with arson.


            The federal indictment alleges that each of the nine co-defendants has participated in a conspiracy to manufacture and distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine since Jan. 1, 2006.


            In addition to the conspiracy, Kerr is charged with attempting to manufacture more than 50 grams of methamphetamine on Aug. 27, 2007, as well as maintaining a place for the purpose of manufacturing, storing, distributing and using methamphetamine, creating a substantial risk of harm to human life while manufacturing or attempting to manufacture methamphetamine and possession with the intent to distribute five grams or more of methamphetamine.


            Smith, Berkstresser, Cares and Yazell are also charged with aiding and abetting each other and others to attempt to manufacture more than 50 grams of methamphetamine on Jan. 3, 2008. They are also charged with creating a substantial risk of harm to human life while manufacturing or attempting to manufacture methamphetamine. Smith and Berkstresser are also charged with maintaining a place within 1,000 feet of James Elementary School in Kansas City, Mo., for the purpose of manufacturing, storing, distributing and using methamphetamine.


            The indictment also charges Harris with possessing with the intent to distribute five grams or more of methamphetamine.


            This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew P. Wolesky. It was investigated by the Metro Drug Task Force, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Platte County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the Parkville, Mo., Police Department, the Riverside, Mo., Department of Public Safety, and the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department.


            Wood cautioned that the charges contained in these indictments are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.


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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/index.html