Seven people arrested after moonshine still, meth, pot, guns, steroids and cash seized on Alabama's Sand Mountain

Seven people arrested after moonshine still, meth, pot, guns, steroids and cash seized on Alabama's Sand Mountain

April 25th, 2019 by Ben Benton in Local Regional News

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Discovery of a dismantled moonshine still, 50 gallons of mash, drugs, guns, several thousand dollars in cash and steroids combined with foot chases and a car pursuit Tuesday night on Alabama's Sand Mountain landed seven people in jail.

The items were seized during two operations conducted by officers from the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office, Fort Payne, Henegar and Ider police departments, as well as members of the Drug Task Force, Sheriff Nick Welden said in a statement.

A search at a home on County Road 754 yielded more than 28 grams of methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia, two firearms, marijuana and cash, officials said. John Jolley, 56, and Ruth Smith, 49, both of Ider, were charged with meth trafficking, possession of drug paraphernalia and second-degree possession of marijuana.

The search team then headed about 8 miles north to a home on County Road 155 to serve an arrest warrant. When the law enforcement officers arrived, three people bolted from the residence on foot but were soon captured. During a search, officers found a disassembled moonshine still, 50 gallons of mash, marijuana and 90 grams of meth, officials said.

Arrested in the second operation were:

» Jonathan Matthew Higdon, 44, of Bryant, charged with trafficking methamphetamine, second-degree possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia;

» Erica Castleberry, 32, of Higdon, charged with trafficking methamphetamine, second-degree possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia;

» Dustin Roberts, 32, of Higdon, charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia;

» Brian Sartain, 48, of Trenton, Georgia, charged with second-degree possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia;

» Ryan Hardeman, 24, of Higdon, charged with second-degree possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia, officials said.

Officials said none of the people arrested are the property owners where the operations took place.

While officers were working at the County Road 155 home, "a vehicle pulled into the driveway, then fled at a high rate of speed," Welden said. Officers chased the vehicle into Jackson County, where the driver fled on foot and escaped.

Officials said a "large amount" of steroids was found inside the vehicle left behind.

"The suspect's identity has been confirmed and charges are pending," Welden said.

Department spokesman Tyler Pruett said Thursday federal authorities could become involved since weapons were found with the drugs.

More charges could be pending in relation to the moonshine still, Pruett said. The last time officers found a still was in July 2016 in Sylvania, he said.

The sheriff praised the officers and departments involved and thanked members of the public for providing tips.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.