By JIM SALTER
ST. LOUIS (AP) - Criminal charges against a southeast Missouri deputy tied to a meth case against the county's sheriff were dropped Friday after the prosecutor cited a lack of cooperation by state investigators.
Steffanie Kearbey was the Carter County chief deputy under Sheriff Tommy Adams. Both were arrested in April, Adams on a methamphetamine distribution charge and Kearbey for receiving stolen property.
Kearbey was accused of selling a gun taken from the sheriff's department evidence room and stealing a duffel bag of coins from a house.
But prosecutor Rocky Kingree told The Associated Press on Friday that the Missouri State Highway Patrol has refused to provide him with evidence needed to pursue the case, including recordings of patrol interviews with Kearbey and reports from those interviews.
"I lack evidence," Kingree said in a telephone interview. "The entire probable cause is built around her statements."
Kingree said he has made repeated requests with the patrol to turn over evidence and didn't know why the patrol has refused to do so. He said he could re-file charges if the patrol turns over its reports and recordings.
Messages left with the patrol were not returned.
Kearbey's attorney, Mark Alan Kennedy, said he was pleased the charge against her was dropped, but said it should never have been filed in the first place. He said Adams was the "instigator" of her alleged crimes.
"It all stemmed from the sheriff and she was just used by him," Kennedy said. "I think that's what the proof would eventually show."
Kearbey, 23, was handpicked by Adams for the $20,000-a-year job as chief deputy even though she had no previous law enforcement experience. The sheriff even paid for her certification training.
Adams, 31, had been sheriff for a little more than two years in remote Carter County, home to roughly 6,000 people in the Ozark Mountain Foothills, when he was arrested after allegedly giving meth to an informant at his cabin. He also allegedly snorted the drug himself with a straw. The case drew national attention given Missouri's track record as one of the states hardest hit by the meth epidemic.
Days after Adams was arrested, Kearbey also was arrested for allegedly selling a gun taken from the evidence room to a confidential informant. The patrol said Kearbey also admitted to burglarizing a home, though she claimed Adams told her to do it.
Both Adams and Kearbey resigned soon after their arrests. An interim sheriff was appointed, then Bruce Van Belle was elected sheriff in a special election last month.
A preliminary hearing for Adams is scheduled for Tuesday. The Missouri Attorney General's office, not Kingree, is handling the case against the sheriff.
Adams is out of jail after posting 10 percent of his $200,000 bond.