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Ex-sheriff facing new charges

Ex-sheriff facing new charges

July 23rd, 2013 in News

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A former southern Missouri sheriff already behind bars for distributing methamphetamine, selling stolen guns and other crimes is facing new allegations, accusing him of orchestrating two burglaries and three arson fires.

The new charges against Tommy Adams were filed Friday by the Missouri Attorney General's office. Adams faces arraignment Tuesday in Van Buren. He is currently housed at the Butler County Jail in Poplar Bluff.

Messages on Tuesday seeking comment from the assistant attorney general leading the case, David Hansen, and Adams' attorney were not returned.

Adams, 33, was sheriff of Carter County when the crimes allegedly occurred, all in 2010. He is accused of orchestrating break-ins at a home and an apartment. The arson charges allege that he directed another man to set fire to Adams' own home and two others. A motive wasn't given.

Adams was initially arrested in April 2011 following an undercover investigation by the Missouri Highway Patrol. The patrol said the sheriff snorted meth in front of a confidential informant. Adams resigned the next day.

The case drew national attention given Missouri's well-documented meth problem. The state has led the nation in meth lab seizures every year but one over the past decade, though meth arrests were rare during Adams' tenure in Carter County in a scenic but remote area of the Ozark Mountain foothills. The county had just five meth lab busts in the two years Adams served as sheriff.

A Missouri judge last month sentenced Adams to 12 years in prison following his guilty plea to drug possession and distribution charges. That sentence runs concurrent to a 10-year federal sentence after Adams pleaded guilty in 2012 to possession of a stolen firearm, sale of a stolen firearm and being a drug user in possession of firearms.

The new burglary and arson charges stemmed from the same investigation.

According to a probable cause statement from the patrol's Sgt. Jeff Heath, Adams ordered the burglary of the home of Robert Boone on Aug. 31, 2010, and stole several firearms. Boone was hospitalized for surgery in St. Louis at the time and had asked the sheriff for extra patrols of his home near Ellsinore while he was away, Heath's statement said.

The sheriff allegedly directed two men and his then-deputy, Steffanie Kearbey, to burglarize the home. Kearbey, now 25, is serving a five-year federal sentence for possessing and selling a stolen firearm. She is expected to face state burglary charges next month. Her attorney has said Adams was behind those crimes.

The other burglary charge against Adams alleges that he stole meth from another man's apartment, but never placed it into evidence.

"Adams took the methamphetamine for personal reasons," Heath wrote.

Heath said Adams directed Gary Bender to burn three homes in Carter County, including Adams' own modular home.

Bender, 48, was sentenced in June to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to arson and drug distribution charges.