ROGERSVILLE — Former Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office narcotics detective Brad Depew was greeted in criminal court Thursday morning with a 68-count sealed grand jury indictment stemming from the alleged theft of drugs from the sheriff’s locked evidence room in March and April.
Originally charged on April 21 with one count each of burglary, theft and tampering with evidence, Depew, 42, 251 Barrett Lane, Church Hill, is now facing a mountain of charges and evidence that includes surveillance video from the sheriff’s office.
The video allegedly shows Depew break into the locked evidence storage room with a screwdriver and exit with evidence envelopes containing narcotics.
A search of Depew’s residence on April 21 allegedly revealed him to be in possession of unspecified quantities of Schedule II narcotics oxycodone and methadone, the Schedule III narcotic dihydrocodeinone, and Schedule IV narcotics alprazolam, diazepam and clonazepam.
Each of those types of pills were allegedly missing from the HCSO evidence locker.
A search of Depew’s residence also allegedly revealed him to be in possession of 26 grams of cocaine and half a gram of meth, as well as drug paraphernalia including scales, baggies, a pipe, screens, spoons and straws.
Neither the cocaine, meth nor drug paraphernalia was missing from the sheriff’s office storage locker, however.
Depew was indicted Monday by the Hawkins County grand jury on 47 counts of tampering with evidence stemming from the number of individual criminal cases that were compromised.
Not all 47 counts involve a drug theft. In many cases, Depew allegedly opened an evidence envelope, apparently didn’t like what was inside, and put it back without taking anything.
According to prosecutors, circumstantial evidence from the cases in which drug evidence was stolen still exists including photos of the drugs and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation crime lab reports. Prosecution of the cases has moved forward or will move forward.
Depew was also indicted on charges of possession of cocaine with intent to deliver, possession of meth with intent to deliver, official misconduct, four counts of burglary, four counts of possession of burglary tools, two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia, two counts of theft under $500 for the actual evidence envelopes, and six counts of misdemeanor drug possession for the oxycodone, methadone, dihydrocodeinone, alprazolam, diazepam and clonazapam allegedly found at his residence.
Two of the evidence locker burglaries were alleged to have occurred on March 19, with the others allegedly occurring on April 16 and April 17.
Narcotics missing from the March 19 break-in included 175 oxycodone pills, 79 grams of methadone, and 84.5 methadone pills from one specific case.
Sheriff Ronnie Lawson became aware of the situation shortly after the April 17 evidence locker break-in. Lawson reviewed the surveillance video and then contacted Attorney General Berkeley Bell.
Bell then assigned the TBI to take over investigation of the case.
Depew’s April 21 arrest warrant affidavit signed by TBI Special Agent Brian K. Pritchard states that with regard to surveillance video from a March 19 burglary, “Brad Depew is observed to locate a particular envelope, examine the exterior, and then place or conceal the package inside his uniform shirt. Brad Depew then quickly exits the room.”
Pritchard also stated that the evidence room door had evidence of pry marks consistent with damage caused by use of a burglary tool.
Pritchard states in the warrant affidavit that in the later evidence room break-ins the video showed brown envelopes had been opened by Depew and an unknown quantity of narcotics taken.
A 22-year veteran of the HCSO, Depew worked as a detective on the HCSO Narcotics Unit and 3rd Judicial District Drug Task Force for more than a decade. He was reassigned to a night shift road deputy position shortly after Lawson was elected sheriff in August 2010.
Depew was fired by the HCSO upon being arrested.
On Thursday, he was booked on the new charges and released on his same $100,000 bond. He is next scheduled to appear in criminal court on Feb. 2, 2012.
Courthouse sources said there are several more charges pending against Depew still to be presented to the grand jury including additional burglaries.