Leader Blues

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

TOP STORY >> Drug dealers put on notice

By JOAN McCOY
Leader staff writer

Beebe Police Chief Wayne Ballew is serious about putting drug dealers behind bars.

“We may not ever win the war (against drugs), but I guarantee you they’ll know they’ve been in a battle,” Ballew said.

Last week, Cornelius Dale Earl, 40, of Judsonia was found guilty in a jury trial in Searcy on three counts of selling crack cocaine in Beebe and sentenced to 80 years in prison.

In addition to the 80-year prison term, Earl, who had refused to negotiate a plea and opted for the jury trial, was fined $75,000.

“I am very pleased with the findings of the jury and of the hard work put forth during in the investigations of the three cases not only by our officers but with the manner in which Deputy Prosecutor Becky Reed presented her case,” the chief said.

The chief says Earl’s long prison sentence and huge fine send a message to drug dealers that Beebe will not tolerate illegal narcotics.

“We want the word out. If you’re dealing dope, you better think twice before you do it in Beebe,” the chief said.

When Ballew, a retired state trooper, took over as police chief in August 2007, Mayor Mike Robertson told him that residents were tired of drug trafficking and that stopping the activity must be a priority.

Since April 22, a dozen more suspects have been arrested and more arrests are expected, Ballew said, but little information is being released for fear of jeopardizing the investigation.

The Beebe Police Department has only 12 fulltime police officers, so usually only two are free at one time to work narcotics, the chief said. But when necessary, officers are pulled from other duties to assist.

Ballew said the information they receive from informants is that some dealers now say that selling in Beebe is too risky, so they go elsewhere.