Five charged in relics theft

Cherokee County, N.C., federal and state authorities arrested five people in the theft of archeological relics from protected lands and on numerous drug counts, according to Cherokee County Sheriff Derrick Palmer.

Palmer said 32-year-old Jason Lewis Brown, of Murphy, N.C., 42-year-old Travis Leon Brendle, of Farner, Tenn., 77-year-old Lakes Brendle, of Murphy, 39-year-old Joshua Howard, and 31-year-old Stephanie Blue, of Marble, N.C., were arrested in a joint investigation by the sheriff's office, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and the U.S. Forest Service.

Investigators executed two search warrants in a search for archeological relics that had been illegally taken from protected lands, Palmer said in a statement.

Palmer said that during the first search conducted at the Brendle residence several artifacts and relics were located and seized. Additionally, during the search of the residence controlled substances and paraphernalia were located and seized, the sheriff said. Outstanding warrants were also found on Travis Brendle and Jason Brown. Lakes Brendle, Travis Brendle and Jason Brown were arrested and transported to the Cherokee County Detention Center.

In a second search conducted in the Marble community resulted in the discovery of several pounds of marijuana, paraphernalia and numerous relics and artifacts, Palmer said. Joshua Howard and Stephanie Blue were the occupants of the Marble residence, he said. Jason Brown was charged with probation violation and appeared before a magistrate who set a $2,000 unsecure bond.

Travis Brendle was charged with two counts of failure to appear in court and is also held on a $2,000 secure bond.

Lakes Brendle was charged with "maintain place" controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, manufacturing marijuana, possession with intent to manufacture, sell or deliver marijuana and possession of methamphetamine. Brendle is held on a $5,000 secure bond. Joshua Howard and Stephanie Blue were charged with possession of paraphernalia, possession with intent to manufacture, sell or deliver. Howard and Blue are each held on a $2,500 secure bond.

All suspects face a Sept. 27 court appearance, officials said.

"We continue to work cooperatively with all agencies whether it is state, local or federal," Palmer said in a statement. "I am sure as the investigation progresses there will be more charges."

Palmer encouraged anyone with information on this crime or any other to report it. To report crime in Cherokee County you can call the anonymous tip line at 828-837-1344 or email a tip to crime.tips@cherokeecounty-nc.gov or call 911 if you observe a crime in progress.