AVILLA — People had been reporting suspicious activity at the house at 404 Ley St. for a long time.

“We had numerous calls on this,” Avilla Town Marshal Glen Wills said. “People were upset with the police because we weren’t doing anything.

“But they didn’t know we were.”

In fact, officers had been doing off-and-on surveillance on the property for months.

On Nov. 6, it all came to head, but in an unplanned way.

A pair of traffic stops on vehicles leaving the residence eventually led to the arrest of six people on drug charges.

Five of those people were formally charged Nov. 8 in Noble Superior Court I:

• Travis A. Bailey, 36, of the 400 block of Ley Street, Avilla, was charged with dealing in methamphetamine, a Level 2 felony; maintaining a common nuisance, a Level 6 felony; and possession of marijuana, a Class B misdemeanor.

• Corey J. Nesbitt Campbell, 30, of the 900 block of Autumn Hills Drive, Avilla, was charged with possession of methamphetamine, a Level 3 felony; carrying a handgun without a license, a Level 5 felony; and visiting a common nuisance, a Class B misdemeanor.

• Megan D. Watts, 27, of the 5700 block of C.R. 327, Garrett, was charged with possession of methamphetamine, a Level 5 felony; visiting a common nuisance, a Class B misdemeanor; and possession of marijuana, a Class B misdemeanor.

• Cassandra J. Centers, 28, of the 1100 block of West High Street, LaGrange, was charged with possession of methamphetamine, a Level 6 felony; visiting a common nuisance, a Class B misdemeanor; and possession of marijuana, a Class B misdemeanor.

• Anthony M. McClellan, 28, of the 500 block of North Walnut Street, Columbia City, was charged with possession of methamphetamine, a Level 6 felony; visiting a common nuisance, a Class B misdemeanor; and possession of marijuana, a Class B misdemeanor.

A sixth person, Jeramy M. Owsley, 29, of the 400 block of Lions Drive, Rome City, was booked Nov. 6 on a charge of visiting a common nuisance, a Class B misdemeanor.

How it went down

Officers were watching the Ley Street address from a distance the evening of Nov. 6.

“We were just trying to see what was coming and going,” said an undercover officer with the Noble County Narcotics Investigation Unit, which is comprised of officers with the Noble County Sheriff’s Department and Ligonier Police Department.

But then a vehicle left the residence.

Court documents said officers, including Avilla Deputy Marshal Eric Lawson, followed that car. A traffic stop was made at approximately 7:40 p.m. on S.R. 3 in the area of Drake Road when the driver of the vehicle, later identified as Bailey, threw a lit cigarette from the car, an infraction in the state of Indiana.

Lawson’s K-9 was walked around Bailey’s vehicle, and the dog alerted to the scent of illegal narcotics in two different locations, court filings said. Police allegedly located substances which field-tested positive for marijuana and methamphetamine. Police seized the marijuana and 32 grams of methamphetamine.

Bailey allegedly had a pill bottle in his pocket, and after being read his Miranda rights, he told police it contained LSD.

Bailey allegedly told officers there were more drugs in his residence at 404 Ley St.

A second vehicle which left the Ley Street residence was also followed by police. When the driver of that vehicle, later identified as Campbell, failed to signal a turn within the required 200 feet, a traffic stop was executed to the area of the Dollar General Store at 704 E. Albion St. at approximately 8:20 p.m., according to Wills.

Police officers allegedly saw, in plan view, a gun in on the floorboards of the back seat. Campbell was detained. Police allegedly discovered a substance in one of his pockets. Campbell allegedly told officers it was methamphetamine. Police seized the 14 grams of methamphetamine.

Because both of the traffic stops had occurred in public places, officers did a preliminary sweep of the Ley Street home in fear, according to court documents, that evidence might be destroyed. During the sweep, officers allegedly observed what appeared to be marijuana, paraphernalia and methamphetamine.

There were several people in the home, all of whom were removed.

A search warrant for the home was signed by Noble County Superior Court II Judge Steve Hagen.

Officers allegedly located paraphernalia, methamphetamine, used needles and unused needles “throughout the house,” according to court documents.

Agencies involved in the arrest and investigation were the Avilla Town Marshal’s Office, Noble County Sheriff’s Department, Noble County Narcotics Investigation Unit, Kosciousko County’s Net 43 Drug Unit, Ligonier Police department, Indiana State Police, Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Noble County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Wills said the Noble County Sheriff’s Department was instrumental in the investigation.

“What a great joint operation,” Wills said.

Officers weren’t expecting to make arrests that evening as they were still gathering evidence and intelligence from the house.

“We had (license) plates from all over,” Wills said. “The traffic (at the home) was incredible.”

But when the traffic violations happened, officers took full advantage.

“When you get the break, you just have to do for it,” Wills said.

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