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June 18, 2010

Five charged with trafficking

Hauls includes 26 pounds of marijuana, $14,000 in cash, guns

CULLMAN — Five people were arrested and approximately 26 pounds of marijuana were recovered in Cullman County on Wednesday, as a six-month long investigation into drug trafficking came to a close.

Shawn Keith Smelser , 28, and Eric Loyd Blaylock, 27 — both of Cullman — were charged with trafficking marijuana and conspiracy to traffic marijuana. Brandon D. Mathis, 21, of the Prospect community, Joseph R. Hyatt, 26, of Crane Hill, and Susan M. Holmes, 41, of the Prospect community were charged with conspiracy to traffic in marijuana. Mark A. Christmann, 25, of Cullman was also charged in the case for possession of marijuana in the second degree.

Authorities from the Cullman Narcotics Enforcement Team (CNET), Cullman County Sheriff’s Office and the Cullman Police Department tactical unit worked together to execute two search warrants in the City of Cullman, and one in the Phelan community, throughout the day.

“This was a great collaborative effort between the city and county,” Sheriff Tyler Roden said. “These guys put in a lot of work, and a lot of surveillance time was put into this case.”

The majority of the marijuana — approximately 21 pounds — was recovered at a self-storage unit in Phelan. Smelser, Blaylock and Hyatt were at the storage unit when CNET agents arrived and were arrested at the scene.

Search warrants were also executed at Smelser’s Cullman home on Lakehill Street, where approximately $14,000 in cash, a handgun and a small amount of marijuana was seized. Christmann, who lives at the Smelser residence, was arrested there.

The third search took place at Blaylock’s residence on Adelsheim Circle in Cullman, where a small amount of marijuana was seized.

Holmes and Mathis were not present at any of the three locations searched, but were arrested later in connection to the case.

“They were picked up and charged with conspiracy,” Roden said.

The total 26 pounds of marijuana recovered is estimated to have a street value of $52,000.

Investigators believe the drugs were brought into Cullman County from another area, and were to be distributed by Smelser and Blaylock.

“We certainly believe much of it was to be sold locally, and that these individuals were involved with trafficking a lot of marijuana into our community,” Roden said. “Smelser and Blaylock were the main focus of the investigation, and we believe the drugs were grown somewhere else and coming in to them. The investigation developed around them.”

Smelser and Blaylock are being held on $2 million bonds at the Cullman County Detention Center, while Mathis, Holmes and Hyatt are being held on $1 million bonds. Christmann has since posted bail and been released.

Trafficking in marijuana, and conspiracy to traffic in marijuana, are both Class A felonies. Anyone convicted of trafficking more than 2.2 pounds, but less than 100 pounds of marijuana, must serve a mandatory minimum three-year prison sentence and pay a $25,000 fine.

‰ Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 225.

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