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May 16, 2018


A registered sex offender was found living in a vehicle at Thealka Park Monday after Johnson County Sheriff’s deputies noticed an extension cord coming from the vehicle plugged into a shelter outlet at the public park, according to a statement released by the sheriff's office.

The statement said JCSO deputies Lauren O’Bryan and Jerry Wiley were patrolling Thealka Park when they noticed the vehicle and made contact with the driver, Jessie Ward, 40, and noticed that Ward had “bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and delayed responses.”

Deputies ran Ward’s name through their database and discovered that he was a registered sex offender, the statement said.

Jessie Ward, left, and Ella Colvin were arrested for possession of drugs at Thealka Park.Jessie Ward, left, and Ella Colvin were arrested for possession of drugs at Thealka Park.Ward was sitting on a pair of brass knuckles, the statement said, and when deputies asked Ward and his passenger, Ella Colvin, 34, of Paintsville, if there was anything illegal in the vehicle, both responded that there was not.

But a search of the vehicle led to the discovery of four uncapped syringes, two plastic bags containing a white residue, one plastic bag containing blood, three straws suspected to be used in the snorting of drugs, a glass pipe suspected to be used to smoke methamphetamine and a prescription pill bottle with neither Ward nor Colvin’s name on the prescription.

The statement said Ward told deputies he and Colvin were homeless and living in their vehicle at the park, although Ward admitted he had been told by another deputy that they could not stay at the park past 10 p.m., and were using the shelter electricity without permission.

Ward and Colvin were arrested and lodged in the Big Sandy Regional Detention Center, where they both remained as of press time. Ward was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, third-degree criminal trespassing, theft of services with a value of less than $500, carrying a concealed weapon, public intoxication, second-degree wanton endangerment of a police officer, first-offense violation of registered sex offender residence restrictions and first-offense violation of registered sex offender playground restrictions.

Colvin was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, second-degree wanton endangerment of a police officer, third-degree criminal trespassing, theft of services with a value of less than $500 and third-degree possession of a controlled substance.

Court dates in Colvin and Ward’s cases had not been set as of press time Tuesday.

By Waylon Whitson
The Paintsville Herald



By Aaron K. Nelson
The Paintsville Herald

Numbers pulled from public records at the Johnson County Judicial Center show that though methamphetamine production is on the decline in Johnson County, possession and trafficking in meth are still very much on the rise. 

The figures were pulled for meth-related charges filed in both Johnson County District and Circuit Court. Some of the cases are redundant graduations of a felony case from the district to circuit level; many other circuit cases began with a presentment of evidence directly to a grand jury. Most of these charges were disposed with guilty pleas or convictions, while others were dismissed or amended down. 

The numbers for first-offense meth possession started with a handful of charges in 2008. They slowed down in 2012, but have skyrocketed since, peaking with 80 charges in 2017. As of early May, there have already been 26 such charges in 2018, meaning this year is on course for an estimated 73 cases — less than 2017’s peak, but still nearly three times the rate of possession in any other year.

“We’re completely eat up with it around here,” said Paintsville Police Chief Mike Roe. “It’s an epidemic.”

From 2010 through 2014, the actual manufacture of meth in Johnson County was on the rise — but it has since tapered off dramatically. First-offense manufacturing peaked in 2013 and 2014 with 20 cases each year, compared to just one case in 2016, one in 2017, and zero so far in 2018.

Roe said he’s seen this himself.

“A few years ago, you had manufacturing here. A lot of shake-and-bake,” Roe said, referring to the relatively easy — and dangerous — method for making low-quality methamphetamine in small, portable labs. “Now, it’s coming in from Detroit, Louisville, Huntington … everywhere.” 

The tidal wave of possession cases tied to a decrease in local meth manufacture means that the drug is now, for the most part, being shipped in from elsewhere. This is corroborated by the sharp increases in meth trafficking cases, which first started cropping up in 2012, and have climbed dramatically since. 

First-offense trafficking meth cases in 2017 were the highest on record, with 14 cases of individuals trafficking less than two grams and 15 cases of individuals trafficking two grams or more. 

Already in 2018, those trafficking numbers have been tied or exceeded, with 14 cases of first-offense trafficking less than two grams and 16 cases of first-offense trafficking two grams or more. That puts 2018 on course to shatter previous records for trafficking busts.

Second-offense trafficking has been a much rarer charge, with at most one case each year. Compare that to 2018, which has already had four charges of second-offense trafficking, all of which were for two grams or more. 

“I would say trafficking is our top priority,” Roe said. “Busting these dealers.”

Those with any information that could assist law enforcement in investigating drug trafficking cases can supply tips anonymously. The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office can be reached at, (606) 789-3411, and the Paintsville Police Department at, (606) 789-2603.


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