The Claiborne County Grand Jury handed up 72 indictments last week as the result of a joint investigation called Operation Surprise.
Officers with the New Tazewell Police Department, Tazewell Police Department, Eighth Judicial District Drug Task Force, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Office appeared before the Grand Jury last Wednesday and presented evidence and testimony, according to Sheriff David Ray.
“As a result, the Grand Jury handed up indictments against 72 people consisting of 314 criminal offenses, including Criminal Simulation (passing counterfeit money), Aggravated Child Abuse and Neglect, Aggravated Robbery, Aggravated Burglary, Elderly Abuse, Promotion of Methamphetamine, Sale of Schedules 2, 3, 4 and 6 Controlled Substances, Casual Exchange of Controlled Substances, Theft and Driving Under the Influence of an Intoxicant,” Ray said.
Taking cases before the Grand Jury helps to expedite them and get them into Criminal Court instead of first going through a preliminary hearing in General Sessions Court.
Officers from the agencies involved, along with officers of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Knox County Sheriff’s Office and Office of the Inspector General, armed with arrest warrants, spread out across Claiborne County on Friday morning in an attempt to arrest all the offenders.
The additional officers helped to ensure enough manpower to make the arrests quickly, according to Ray.
“This allows us to get out there quickly and get it done,” Ray told one media outlet. “The more efficient we are, that ensures the element of surprise.”
By the end of the day, 35 people had been arrested. Those arrested were taken to the Claiborne County Jail.
Some of those arrested include: Bruce Wayne Seward, Claudine Rebecca Burchfield, Darrell Lynn McAfee, David Lee Johnson, David Lynn Lawson, Dolene Kirby Howard, Gary Arnold Suttles, Glenda Carol Jones, Helen Mae Taylor, James David McDonald, Jason Lance Sweat, Joshua Andrew Osborne, Kevin Calin Gerding, Larry Shawn Hall, Lonnie Dewayne Engle, Margaret Jan Wilder, Melinda Ann-Marie Gerding, Orville DeWayne Hatfield, Porter Darrell Bussell, Rebecca Marie Ayers, Robert Allen Stilson, Robert Arville Stilson, Scott Eric Williams, Shawn Daniel Hubbard and Vantoy Robertson.
Arraignments are scheduled for Dec. 19 in front of Criminal Court Judge Shayne Sexton. The Claiborne Progress will have more on this investigation as it progresses.
An indictment is only an accusation. It is not an indication of guilt.