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February 13, 2013

Charges dismissed for Stuart woman in drug-text case

McALESTER — Charges were recently dismissed for one of the women involved in a drug case involving text messages and a police officer’s cell phone.

Tara K. McDonald, 34, was charged in October in Pittsburg County District Court with multiple felony counts, including:

• Conspiracy to distribute a controlled dangerous substance (Xanax),

• Possession of a controlled dangerous substance (marijuana),

• Unlawful use of a communication facility, and

• Bringing contraband (drugs) into a jail / penal institution.

The charges against her were dismissed Feb. 11 after the District 18 District Attorney’s office filed a motion to dismiss.

McDonald was charged along side four others in the case — which involved a woman who sent a text to a police chief’s new cell phone in attempt to make a drug deal.

Heidi Lynn Halm, 44, of Granbury, Texas, pleaded guilty Nov. 29 in to felony charges of conspiracy to distribute a controlled dangerous substance (Xanax) and unlawful use of a communication facility. Halm received a seven-year suspended sentence and was fined $1,217.50.

Ora Lee Denise Henderson, 37, of McAlester, who was arrested and charged alongside Halm, also pleaded guilty in the case. On Nov. 29, Henderson pleaded guilty to felony unlawful possession of a controlled drug (Xanax) with intent to distribute and misdemeanor unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia. A misdemeanor charge of possession of a controlled dangerous substance was dismissed. Henderson also received a seven-year suspended sentence and was fined $1,167.50.

According to court records, Savanna Police Chief David Spears purchased a new cell phone late last year for the Savanna Police Department. On Nov. 15, Spears contacted the District 18 Narcotics and Violent Crimes Task Force. He had been receiving text messages from an unknown person on this new cell phone regarding narcotics activity, according to a police affidavit.

“Specifically, (he was) being asked if he knew anyone who wanted some tabs,” the affidavit states. “Spears believed that the unknown individual believed they were texting” the phone number’s previous owner and “had no idea that law enforcement now had that phone number.”

Spears went along with the text messages, the affidavit states. He set up a meeting to purchase Lortabs from the unknown individual in the Lowe’s parking lot in McAlester. Authorities waited in the parking lot for the alleged drug dealer to arrive, the affidavit states. While waiting, authorities witnessed two other vehicles engaging in what they believed to be a drug transaction just a few parking spaces away from where they were waiting, the affidavit states.

When the unknown text sender arrived in the parking lot, a woman from one of the other vehicles already in the parking lot began walking over to the unknown text sender’s vehicle, the affidavit states.

Officers then exited their vehicle, identified themselves, and then arrested multiple people involved in the alleged narcotic sales, according to the affidavit.

When searching the three vehicles involved in the drug bust, officers allegedly found Xanax, Lortabs and marijuana, the affidavit states.

Halm, the person who sent the text messages to the new Savanna Police Department phone number, and Henderson, the passenger in Halm’s vehicle, were two of four people charged in the bust.

McDonald was allegedly the woman who exited her vehicle and began walking toward Halm’s vehicle, the affidavit states.

Shannon Cruce, 42, of McAlester, was charged Nov. 16 with multiple felony counts, including conspiracy to distribute a controlled dangerous substance (Xanax), unlawful possession of a controlled drug (Xanax) with intent to distribute and unlawful use of a communication facility. Cruce was the driver of the third vehicle involved in the bust, according to the affidavit.

Cruce is due back Feb. 27.

Contact Rachel Petersen at rpetersen@mcalesternews.com.

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