By Greg Bird
Commonwealth’s Attorney Ronnie Bowling last week announced the convictions of three individuals on drug-related charges, calling them a fulfillment of his campaign promise to incarcerate drug dealers.
The three men Bowling highlighted were all arrested in separate incidents in McCreary County over the past two years.
Bowling said while he was proud to be able to live up to his promise to put drug dealers behind bars, he extends most of the credit to the officers who worked the cases and did the leg work to ensure a conviction.
In one case Patrick Ross, 54, was arrested in October by Trooper Wells after a traffic stop. During the stop it was determined Ross was driving under the influence and a search of his vehicle revealed 24 grams of individually wrapped baggies of methamphetamine, 30 grams of marijuana, 30 suboxone pills, and a large quantity of cash. McCreary County Sheriff’s Deputy Greg Chaney assisted on the case.
As a result Ross was convicted on a charge of trafficking in methamphetamine – 2nd offense and sentenced to 10 years behind bars.
“Trooper Harrison Wells conducted a traffic stop for a busted turn signal that turned in to one of the most solid trafficking cases I have ever seen,” Bowling said.
Bowling noted it was Ross’ third trafficking offense in three years, and had been out on probation at the time of his arrest.
“Thanks to Trooper Wells and Deputy Chaney’s thorough investigation, a repeat drug dealer is going to prison,” he said. “This is not Mr. Ross’ first charge of dealing drugs in McCreary County, I am just pleased that the overwhelming evidence gathered by law enforcement made prison the only option for Mr. Ross.”
The other two cases also had local ties.
Jerry Wayne Collett, 62, of Harlan, was arrested in February of last year after attempting to flee from Deputy Greg Chaney after he initiated a traffic stop. Collett led officers on a high-speed chase before finally being apprehended in Stearns. Before he could be arrested Collett attempted to hit Kentucky State Police Troopers Donnie Jones and Shaler Jones with his vehicle, prompting them to discharge their weapons in self-defense.
Collet was convicted on a charge of wanton endangerment of a police officer and persistent felony offender status in Circuit Court and sentenced to 10 years.
“All credit in this investigation is owed to our first responders, whose lives were placed in danger by the reckless actions of Mr. Collett,” Bowling said. “As a repeat offender and a person who put numerous law enforcement officers’ lives in danger, prison is the only outcome that should happen for Mr. Collett.”
Charles Axl Rose, 24, was arrested last December after Deputy Chaney spotted a vehicle traveling well over 100 miles per hour southbound on US 27. After pulling the vehicle over, the officer along with Deputy Cody Stephens (who now serves as Constable) noted a strong smell of marijuana emanating from the car. A search found approximately 10 pounds of marijuana, along with pills and more than $3,000 in cash.
Rose was convicted on two counts of trafficking in a controlled substance and sentenced to 7 years in prison. Additionally Rose was ordered to forfeit the cash and the 2013 Camaro to the Sheriff’s Department.
“Not only am I thrilled that Constable Stephens diligently pursued Rose and acted on good information, but that we were able to forfeit all profits from selling poison into our communities. This was an excellent investigation that left Rose no option but to go to prison,” Bowling said.
Bowling said he has been working with local law enforcement agencies to unify them on proper procedures and evidence collection to be able to prosecute drug dealers more efficiently.
“They have been picking it up and running with it,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is we don’t have to put drug dealers behind bars because they will move away. I want them to know there is not going to be a time when we are not locking up dealers.”
Bowling is also working on the other end of the drug problem, trying to find treatment for those who are addicted.
“We try our best to get people in to rehab,” he said. “If we can help them, it further puts an end to trafficking locally.”
Bowling was elected Commonwealths Attorney for McCreary and Whitley counties in last year’s election. He has served in the role since December.