No arrests imminent for Huron County pot theft

NORWALK The case of the missing pot has gone cold. While it remains an open case, aut
Cory Frolik
May 24, 2010

 

NORWALK

The case of the missing pot has gone cold.

While it remains an open case, authorities do not expect the people responsible for the disappearance of about 113 pounds of confiscated marijuana last April will be brought to justice soon.

"We got some information that we hoped would lead us to filing a charge, but the case wasn't strong enough," Huron County Sheriff's Capt. Bob McLaughlin said.

The marijuana disappeared from an evidence-holding area in a county-owned barn in Norwalk.

It went missing only hours after the man busted for transporting it into the county saw where it was being kept.

John Nunley Jr., 36, of Grafton, was one of three people arrested in a September 2007 drug bust in which authorities confiscated more than 160 pounds of marijuana.

With the help of Toledo residents Marcos Jaso, 35, and Carlos Torres, 31, Nunley shipped four wooden crates filled with the contraband from Phoenix, Ariz., to a loading dock in Norwalk, Huron County prosecutor Russ Leffler said.

Phoenix police contacted local authorities to say the package was on the way.

After making the pick-up, Nunley and others were secretly followed by undercover police, who arrested them.

Torres and Nunley were found guilty of large-scale drug trafficking and sentenced to eight years in prison.

The evidence against Jaso was weaker, and he pleaded guilty to an amended count of obstructing justice, authorities said. He was sentenced to one year in prison.

But the traffickers may have had the last laugh.

On April 29, the day of Nunley's trial, jury members were transported from the courtroom to a barn located next to the dog warden's office on Shady Lane.

This was done to show jurors the physical evidence against Nunley -- the vacuum-sealed packages of marijuana -- which were being stored in an evidence cage in the barn.

Nunley and his attorney made the trip along with the jurors.

At 6:58 a.m. April 30, a county building and grounds employee called the sheriff's office to report a break-in at the barn.

Cpl. Jeff Kerber wrote in his report that the main door was pried open and so was the door to the evidence cage.

McLaughlin said the thieves made off with all but one bag filled with about 47 pounds of the illegal plant.

From the start, it was clear who authorities thought were behind the cannabis caper -- friends of Nunley.

"It's very suspicious," Chief Deputy Bob Sutherland said. "We can only speculate, but no one had any idea where the evidence was being stored. The defendant was here, his attorney was here, the jury was here -- we can only speculate that somebody with the case was involved."

The explanation authorities gave for the marijuana being kept in the barn instead of a secured evidence locker was because of a concern over toxic mold spores.

But McLaughlin said the drugs were vacuum-sealed and posed no risk. He called the reports of mold "inaccurate."

"It was vacuum-packed so there was no deterioration of the marijuana," McLaughlin said. "After they stole it, they could have resold it very easily."

A pound of marijuana can fetch between $1,200-$1,600, authorities said.

McLaughlin figures the drugs have been sold and smoked at this point. He said the trio of traffickers were part of a larger drug-dealing operation in Toledo. He said sometimes they come out ahead.

But criminals frequently slip up. McLaughlin said there's still a chance the culprits will boast to the wrong person and end up in handcuffs.

In the meantime, Huron County Sheriff Dane Howard -- who took over as sheriff this year -- promises the barn is being used exclusively for basic storage.

"We have no evidence in that barn, nor will there ever be any," Howard said.