An internal investigation is underway as to whether the smuggling of drugs into the Fayette County Jail resulted in two reported overdoses of female inmates.
The investigation stems from a series of incidents that occurred on and around June 8.
The events reportedly began with a traffic stop by the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy sheriff stopped a silver Chevrolet Impala on South Fayette Street in Washington C.H. June 8.
The Washington C.H. Police Department was contacted to bring the K-9 officer to perform a sniff of the vehicle. After the K-9 gave a positive final response, a search of the vehicle was conducted. Several items of paraphernalia were allegedly located in the vehicle, including a spoon with burn marks and white residue and a hard, off-white substance in a clear baggie. The substance was believed to be crack cocaine, according to the sheriff incident report.
According to a report filed by WCH police, deputies checked the suspect vehicle. One of the vehicle occupants was identified as Washington C.H. resident Meesha N. Pettiford. Pettiford, 21, was found to have medication not in the prescription bottle. Pettiford gave consent to a K-9 sniff on her person, and the dog indicated on her mid-section, according to reports. Pettiford then said she had recently used heroin.
The second female occupant of the vehicle was identified as Washington C.H. resident Ashley Rohrer. Rohrer, 25, declined a K-9 sniff.
The male driver was issued a citation and the vehicle was towed. Pettiford and Rohrer were taken into custody.
Rohrer was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and transported to the Fayette County Jail for booking.
Once inside the jail, Rohrer was found to be in possession of what was reported to be crack cocaine. The Washington C.H. Police Department reported that crack cocaine was found in Rohrer’s vaginal area. This resulted in additional charges for Rohrer, including a felony charge for illegal conveyance of drugs of abuse, tampering with evidence, and possession of crack cocaine.
Rohrer plead guilty June 9 to the possession of drug paraphernalia charge from the traffic stop violation. She was found guilty and sentenced to 30 days in jail.
While serving the 30-day jail sentence, Rohrer is now awaiting a preliminary hearing June 21 in the Washington Municipal Court. The preliminary hearing June 21 is for the additional charges of possession of crack cocaine, tampering with evidence, and illegal conveyance of drugs of abuse, which were filed after she was allegedly found with crack cocaine inside her body cavity area while in the Fayette County Jail.
Rohrer has a $35,000 cash-only bond for possession of schedule I and schedule II drugs.
Following the June 8 traffic stop, Pettiford was also transported to the Fayette County Jail for a charge of possession of drugs – allegedly the spoon with burn marks and white residue and the baggie of crack cocaine that was found inside the vehicle in the traffic stop.
The Washington C.H. Police Department reported the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office had two overdoses in the jail’s female cell June 8. The police K-9 was brought into the cell and indicated on the bunk that was used by Pettiford, according to reports.
During the traffic stop June 8, Pettiford consented to a K-9 sniff of her person and the K-9 indicated on her mid-section during the traffic stop, at which time she said she had recently used heroin. At this time the jail staff advised that Pettiford had had heroin inside her vaginal area, where, according to the report, the K-9 had indicated this from the earlier detail in the traffic stop.
The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office reported June 8 that three females had been incarcerated in the Fayette County Jail. The report stated that one of the inmates fell ill and it was determined that she overdosed on heroin that had been brought into the jail by another female inmate. The report states that Naloxone was required to revive the female inmate who fell ill and she was transported to the Fayette County Memorial Hospital for treatment after the overdose.
The report further states the assisting officer on call came to the jail and investigated how the drug was obtained by the female inmate who fell ill. The report said the investigation is ongoing on this time.
Pettiford appeared in the Washington Municipal Court June 9 and plead not guilty to the charge of drug possession from the traffic stop June 8. Pettiford posted a bond of $54 and was released from jail June 10.
Pettiford was then arrested June 13 for aggravated robbery and burglary. She was arrested at the Holiday Inn in Wilmington and was taken back to the Fayette County Jail. Pettiford is being held on a $40,000 cash-only bond and awaits a preliminary hearing June 20 in the Washington Municipal Court on the charges of aggravated robbery and burglary.
According to Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth, there is an internal investigation for the illegal conveyance of drugs in the jail that resulted in the reported overdoses that happened in the female inmate cell.
Stanforth said he believe the two arrestees from the June 8 traffic stop had put “some type of drugs” in their body cavity.
“We know one did because we found it on her. The other we didn’t discover … she went back into the general population,” said Stanforth.
“We suspect others possibly participated from the one who brought it in,” said Stanforth.
Stanforth did not confirm in reports that Tiara Adams, 22, who was reportedly found unresponsive June 10 and died June 13, was one of the inmates provided drugs by the new arrestees.
Stanforth said the inmate participation in the drug activity was likely off-camera and that the cameras don’t cover the entire area. For example, there are no cameras in the showers and bathrooms.
“It doesn’t take them long to figure out the angle of the camera,” said Stanforth. “We’re reviewing the tapes as part of the investigation.”
The Fayette County Jail has had several occasions of illegal drugs being conveyed in the jail, said Stanforth. Since July 2015 the jail has reportedly had nine instances of suspected illegal drug conveyance.
Stanforth said that body cavity searches are not routine.
“We have to have probable cause to get a search warrant to do a body cavity search,” said Stanforth. “Unless we can articulate to a judge the reasonableness and probable cause to issue a search warrant for body cavity, we cannot conduct a body cavity search.”
Stanforth said, “We can’t do that unless we can articulate fully that a drug is in that body cavity.”
According to Stanforth, there is an internal investigation of the alleged incidents involving the illegal conveyance of drugs and overdoses that occurred in the jail June 8. Stanforth said the Clermont County Sheriff’s Office has been involved with the investigation since June 10.
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Reach Ashley in the Record-Herald office at (740) 313-0356 or on Twitter @ashbunton