published Monday, April 1st, 2013

Men named in Miller slaying face federal drug charges

Two men named but never charged in the 2010 robbery-slaying of Monroe County, Tenn., businessman Jim Miller now could face lengthy federal prison terms on methamphetamine charges.

Wallace "Boonie" Stokes Jr. was among a dozen people named last week in a seven-count indictment. He and Brandon Steele initially were indicted in December, but Steele made a plea deal. The superseding indictment of Stokes last week added new names and new charges.

Murder defendant Jessica Kennedy named Stokes and Steele during her trial last year in Miller's death. The body of the Monroe County election commissioner was found July 19, 2010, in his burning car on a rural road in Sweetwater, Tenn. He had been robbed and shot three times in the head.

Kennedy was charged with felony murder, aggravated robbery, abuse of a corpse and arson. She testified that Stokes and Steele, her former boyfriend, had been involved in the slaying. Both denied involvement and have not been charged.

A jury found Kennedy guilty of facilitation on all four counts. She was sentenced to 22 years in prison.

Prosecutors say Stokes operated a meth house in Sweetwater, where he and others cooked the drug. He is charged with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, attempted manufacture and possession of chemicals and equipment to manufacture. He also is charged with two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Stokes' attorney, Russell L. Leonard, of Winchester, Tenn., did not respond to a request for comment.

The initial indictment in December charged Steele with conspiracy, attempted manufacture, possessing equipment and chemicals to make the drug and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

He reached a plea agreement March 13 to a single count of conspiring to manufacture meth, federal records show. Magistrate Susan Lee recommended the plea agreement not be accepted until his sentencing hearing June 20. That typically means a defendant has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

Both men have been in custody since their initial indictment in December.

Other defendants in last week's superseding indictment are Bonnie Freeman, Stokes' girlfriend; Marcus Dean "Crow" Grissom; Samuel "Cornbread" Moses; Shane Lee Runyon; Joseph Dunkin; Dustin Rose; Melanie Maxwell O'Connor; Raymond Scott Knox; Deveria McCall; Charles Benjamin "Chuck" Brown; and Hank Sherwood.

All are charged with conspiring to manufacture methamphetamine. Grissom and Rose also are charged with attempting to manufacture and possessing equipment or chemicals to make meth. And Grissom faces one count of aiding or abetting Stokes to possess a weapon.

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