Joshua David Howard, 34, of Warmsprings, Ga., was arrested on school grounds Wednesday evening on a fugitive from justice warrant while working as part of a crew installing new gym bleachers.
He is on probation for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in Meriwether County, Ga. Upon being arrested at the school, he was allegedly found to be in possession of a meth pipe, and he was additionally charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.
On Monday, Church Hill Police Department Detective Ethan Mays began receiving information about possible drug activity and drug trafficking taking place where five out-of-state contractors working at CVES were staying in three rooms at the Church Hill Inn.
CHPD Chief Mark Johnson said Howard seemed to be in charge of the group because he had rented out three separate rooms for his crew at the inn.
"Once enough specific information was obtained, a check through NCIC flagged Howard as having an active arrest warrant in the state of Georgia for violation of probation," Johnson said. "Mays spoke with the Meriwether County Sheriff’s Office, who advised they would extradite, and Mays obtained a warrant for fugitive from justice."
Mays also obtained a search warrant for room 114 at the Church Hill Inn.
Following Howard's arrest, Mays and other officers then conducted a search in that room and located Summer Harley "Red" Moore, 21, of West Valley City, Utah.
A pill believed to be the Schedule I narcotic ecstasy was also found in the room, and Moore was charged with possession of Schedule I.
Howard then consented to a search of the other two rooms that were rented to him, and a second pipe and a set of scales were seized.
Hawkins County Director of Schools Steve Starnes told the Times-News on Thursday that upon learning of the arrest he suspended all work on the CVES gym bleachers. A background check was conducted on all remaining workers by local authorities at the time of the arrest and they came back clean.
The Hawkins County Board of Education had recently approved the replacement of bleachers. As part of the standard terms and conditions for Hawkins County bids, companies with five or more employees must submit a drug free workplace affidavit, and all companies must require all persons or employees to pass a criminal history background check who would be accessing school grounds when children are present.
“We have been in contact with (contractor) FaciliServ all through the day trying to determine how this individual was allowed to work on our campus,” Starnes told the Times-News. “FaciliServ, as the winning bidder, was responsible for conducting background checks on their employees or anyone accessing school grounds. FaciliServe subcontracted the installation of the bleachers to Patterson Installations. According to the president of FaciliServ, it was their understanding that the subcontractor had conducted the required background checks on their workers before they came to Carters Valley Elementary School to install the bleachers.”
Starnes added, “Based on our investigation to this point, the bid documentation did inform all bidders of their responsibility for performing background checks. We will continue to investigate and review all procedures to determine if changes are needed or if improvements can be made in our process.”
An SRO deputy was present on campus during the two days while students were present at the same time as bleacher contractors, Starnes noted. He said there was no direct contact between students and the workers.
“I want to commend the Church Hill Police Department and the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Department for their diligence in following up on a tip and arresting this individual,” Starnes said. “I appreciate their never-ending efforts to make our community safer.”
Howard and Moore remained held in the Hawkins County Jail Thursday pending arraignment, which is set for Monday in Sessions Court.
The CHPD was assisted in the investigation and arrests by the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office, HCSO Tactical Team and Narcotics Unit, the Third Judicial District Attorney General’s Office and the Meriwether County (Ga.) Sheriff’s Office.