NATIONAL NEWS

California trucker hauling $4.5M in heroin is snagged in N.J.

Police seized heroin worth as much as $4.5 million following a traffic stop on Interstate 295 in Gloucester County, officials reported this week.

Logan Township Police stopped a tractor-trailer driven by Jose Meza, 50, of California, and a narcotics-detecting K-9 indicated the presence of heroin in the vehicle’s cab.

Officers found 10 kilograms of heroin in a hidden compartment.

“The kilograms were individually packaged and stamped with unique markings,” according to an announcement from the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office, which collaborated on the arrest.

Authorities called the bust “historic.”

This quantity of the drug could have produced 200,000 to 300,000 individual doses, which would have sold on the street for $10-$15 each, county Prosecutor Charles Fiore estimated.

“This seizure represents a major impact on illegal drug distribution activities in our region,” Fiore said in a statement.

Officials cited the importance of this bust, given the ongoing opioid addiction crisis in New Jersey. Gloucester County alone has reported more than 130 fatal overdoses in 2018, the prosecutor’s office noted.

Meza was charged with possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute, a first-degree charge, and possession of CDS, a third-degree offense.

He was released pending future court appearances.

Charges refiled in deadly Interstate 70 crash

Georgia man accused of manslaughter.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Charges have been refiled against Georgia man accused of manslaughter in a fatal 2015 crash on Interstate 70.

Anthony West of Jonesboro, Georgia, is accused of ignoring warnings on westbound I-70 in Boone County on July 1, 2015, when he crashed his tractor-trailer into stalled traffic, killing 79-year-old Margaret Haile of Auxvasse. A single charge of second-degree involuntary manslaughter was filed against West on Thursday.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol had put up signs warning about a crash farther west on the interstate, which snarled traffic that afternoon. The patrol claims West didn’t slow down when he passed those signs, eventually hitting Haile’s car and coming to a stop when he hit the back of another semi. The patrol in a probable cause statement said Haile was driving at 68 mph and only hit his brakes one second before impact.

West’s trial was delayed a day before it was set to take place in June 2017 after a judge excluded several pieces of evidence that prosecutors wanted to use against him. West had initially pleaded guilty, but his plea was thrown out after a judge said he made statements that conflicted with the official record of the event.

An initial arraignment in West’s new case is set for Dec. 27.

 

Bland pleads ‘not guilty’ to leaving scene of fatal crash

RENSSELAER — A Terre Haute man accused of leaving the scene of a fatal crash in October pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Jasper County Circuit Court.

Joseph Bland, 43, is charged with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, a Level 5 felony. He had been identified by investigators as the operator of the white semi-tractor trailer that allegedly failed to stop at the intersection of U.S. 231 and State Road 16 on Oct. 10 that struck and killed Melissa Dano, 40, of Rensselaer.

Bland’s first appearance in court Tuesday included a noticeably-high police presence, including Rensselaer Police Chief Matt Anderson and Jasper County Sheriff-elect Pat Williamson. Anderson said this was because of the potential for someone to act out during the court proceedings since emotions could be running high. 

Jasper County Courthouse security escorted Bland back to his vehicle after his plea had been entered and his new court dates were set.

During the hearing, Circuit Court Judge John Potter asked Bland about his job status since the accident. Bland said he was on an undated leave, and he agreed with Potter that this meant he had essentially lost his job after the accident. Since Bland did not have a lawyer, Potter arranged for one to be appointed for him. 

The hearing was attended by members of Deno’s family, including her mother, Cindy Burks, of Wheatfield. Burks wore a jacket bearing the slogan “Justice for Missy” in reference to her daughter’s death, and said she had wished for a plea of guilty in light of the evidence in the case.

That said, she didn’t have anything to say for Jasper County Prosecutor Jacob Taulman, who will be handling the case after being sworn in this week.

“I don’t even know what I’d say,” Burks said. “I think it’s out of my hands.”

Bland is currently scheduled for an omnibus hearing on Jan. 22, followed by a pretrial conference Feb. 19 and a jury trial March 5 — all of which will begin at 9 a.m. 

The accident

On Oct. 10, Jasper County Dispatch was called about a traffic collision at the intersection of U.S. 231 and State Road 16, south of Rensselaer, saying a car had struck a tractor trailer, and that the tractor trailer had left the scene. 

When investigators arrived, they found the badly-damaged car and spoke to a witness, Jerry Akers, who claimed to have seen the entire accident unfold.

Akers had been traveling south on U.S. 231 and was preparing to make a turn onto State Road 16. The detective later accessed surveillance camera footage from the nearby Rose Acre Farms facility, which showed events consistent with Akers’ story. 

The footage reportedly depicts the tractor trailer traveling west on State Road 16, toward the intersection, where it begins to slow down but does not come to a complete stop. Instead, the tractor trailer accelerates through the intersection. 

Deno’s red passenger car is also visible in the footage, where it can be seen traveling north on U.S. 231 and striking the driver’s side of the trailer. The car passes underneath the trailer and comes to rest on the north side of the intersection, after also striking Akers’ vehicle.  

After the accident, Akers tried to flag down the tractor trailer. According to reports, Akers stated that the truck “appeared to slow to a stop” past the intersection after the car had passed under it, but then kept heading west. 

Jasper County investigators were later able to find the tractor trailer, and Bland was identified as the man driving it at the time of the collision. Investigators initially pursued a charge of reckless homicide against Bland, but was later changed to leaving the scene of a accident resulting in death. 

Bland surrendered to deputies at the Jasper County Detention Center shortly before 1 p.m. Dec. 8, then posted a $1,500 cash bond and was released. Though he must fulfill his obligations in court, he is not currently in police custody. 

The intersection of U.S. 231 and State Road 16 has since been converted from an intersection with flashing light signals to a four-way stop. Previously, the north-south portion of U.S. 231 was equipped with yellow flashing lights, and the east-west portion of State Road 16 with red flashing lights.

Trucker asks for help to identify car driver that caused a semi to jackknife before fleeing scene

Officers are asking the public for help in finding the owner of a sedan that caused a tractor trailer to jackknife and the significant damage.

The incident happened on northbound Interstate 295 Northbound around 10 A.M. in Baltimore, Maryland, on Friday, October 14th.

In a Facebook post, fellow truck drier Erika Wilson wrote the following description, asking for the public’s assistance:

Please share! With consent from the owner I am sharing this post and ask the public to share too in hopes that the person that caused this accident will come forward or if anyone knows anything to report the information to the Maryland Transportation Authority, Officer Kellam. Local: (410) 537-1000.

Approximately 10:00 AM yesterday morning on 295 North Bound at the 895 exit, Baltimore MD an individual driving a blue, 4 door (newer body style) sedan began to pass this tractor trailer at a high rate of speed in an attempt to make the 895 exit. The car made contact with the bumper/fender of the tractor causing the tractor driver to make every effort to avoid running over the vehicle.

The driver of the car stopped, got out of the car, looked at the damage and then got back in the car, sped off and fled the scene. There is damage to the right side of the car.

It’s a sad world we live in that as a human being we lack the compassion to help our fellow man in time of need. Own up to your mistake and remember that the last thought of the truck driver was to do everything in his power to prevent seriously injuring you.

If you have any information about the incident, or are able to identify the car driver involved, please contact Officer Kellam of the Maryland Transportation Authority at (410) 537-1000.

Four Vehicles Involved In Cantonment Hit And Run Crash

At least one person was injured in a four-vehicle accident Thursday afternoon on Highway 29 near Kingsfield Road.

The driver of a pickup rear-ended the an 18-wheeler with a flatbed trailer. That pickup was then reportedly struck by a by a pickup that was hauling another pickup. A unknown white GMC then hit the second pickup involved the crash. The GMC fled the scene.

One person was transported to an area hospital by Escambia County EMS.

The crash is under investigation by the Florida Highway Patrol.