Arraignments begin today and tomorrow for some of the UMW students arrested in the Fredericksburg Police Department’s crackdown on illegal drug sales.
Last Friday, the campus was stunned by the announcement of the arrests of 14 current UMW students and one former student, in what city police are calling one of Fredericksburg’s largest drug busts in terms of number of suspects.
The police delayed making the investigation and arrests public to ensure that those suspected of drug activity were not tipped off to the possibility of their arrests.
“We could have waited four more months, and brought in 15 or 20 more people,” Sgt. Pat Reed said. “But the information makes people realize what’s going on. They are going to be more cautious now.”
The most recent arrests began Wednesday, when search warrants were served in dorm rooms in Custis, Jefferson and Marshall Halls. The arrests ended Friday, according to a press release from Natatia Bledsoe, public information officer for the Fredericksburg Police Department.
Stuart Smith, 19, of Alexandria, Va., was arrested at Marshall Hall and charged on Oct. 13 with possession of narcotics and distribution of narcotics, including Ecstasy and prescription narcotics. He was also charged with possession of marijuana. Smith also has a pending misdemeanor charge for possession of marijuana in Alexandria, having been arrested on Oct. 8.
Charles Kinniburgh, 18, of McLean, Va., was arrested at Jefferson Hall and charged with a misdemeanor for distribution and possession of marijuana.
Charles Cowan III, 20, of Orange, Va., was charged with two felony counts for the distribution of narcotics, including ecstasy and prescription narcotics. A warrant for his arrest was issued on Oct. 13 and he turned himself in at the Fredericksburg Police Department on Oct. 14.
William Crowder, 20, of Fredericksburg was charged with felony distribution of narcotics. He was arrested at 4 a.m. on Oct. 15.
Crowder was picked up by the UMW police and turned over to the Fredericksburg Police Department along with Abraham Dayton.
Dayton, 19, of Fairfax was charged with felony distribution of narcotics as well. He was arrested on Oct. 15.
“Felony sale of narcotics is just as serious and dangerous if you are a college student with a privileged background or if you are a high school dropout living in a poorer neighborhood,” Bledsoe said. “You will be treated the same by the police and the judge.”
The maximum penalty for these felonies is five years in prison and a fine of $25,000. The maximum penalty for these misdemeanors is 12 months in jail and a penalty of $2,500.
According to the police, the narcotics violations on the UMW campus have involved the sale and distribution of capsules called “Mollys,” which commonly contain ecstasy and are often combined with other illegal narcotics such as cocaine and heroin.
Doug Searcy, vice president for student affairs, said in a statement yesterday that about 20 UMW students have sought medical attention at the Mary Washington Hospital emergency room for drug-induced reactions this fall, particularly after taking “Mollys.”
Prescription narcotics like hydrocodone and OxyContin were also being sold for recreational use, as well as patches of Fentanyl, which is 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to Bledsoe.
“The distribution of these dangerous narcotics represents a serious threat to the UMW community and to the whole Fredericksburg region,” said Brent Taylor, detective division commander for the Fredericksburg Police Department, in a press release. “I hope these arrests send a clear message that such illegal activities will not be tolerated.”
The investigation remains open and active, city police said, adding that they expect to arrest more suspects.
The investigations began on July 29 with the arrest of Tyler Troutman, 20, of Warrenton, Va., and Sebastian Ensign, also 20, and of Warrenton.
Police were conducting a sting operation with a dealer when Troutman and Ensign appeared and seemed to have made a purchase from the same dealer who was already part of an ongoing investigation. Police then stopped their vehicle on College Avenue and charged them for misdemeanor possession of marijuana.
Ensign was also arrested for possession of a narcotic, according to Bledsoe’s press release. At the time of the arrest, Ensign was suspended from UMW, according to Reed.
Troutman pled guilty to all charges and received first offender status, according to police.
Ensign has had a preliminary trial and will go before a grand jury Monday.
On Sept. 3, detectives were notified by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service of a package addressed to a house on Kenmore Avenue that contained approximately two pounds of marijuana. Another half pound was discovered later, according to city police.
The package did not have any distinguishing characteristics and was only found in a random search by the postal service. It was a normal-sized white postal service box.
The detectives then observed its delivery and arrested the three residents of the home, Bledsoe said.
Police said that William Bleimeister, 19, was charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute and conspiracy to distribute marijuana.
In Virginia, both of the counts are felonies.
Derek Rhule, 19, was also charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute and conspiracy to distribute marijuana.
Bleimeister and Rhule will go before a jury on Oct. 25.
John Collins, 19, was charged with a misdemeanor for distribution of marijuana.
Sarah Treacy, 19, of Goochland arrived on the scene while detectives were present to make a purchase. She texted to one of the residents her intent to purchase marijuana once the package was received by the resident, Bledsoe said. Police texted back on the suspect’s phone, which had already been seized, that she should come over. She was then charged with misdemeanor for possession of marijuana, said Bledsoe.
“I had suspicions with the first package,” said Reed. “We received some anonymous calls following up and realized there was something going on.”
Treacy and Collins will go to court today.
On Sept. 30, detectives were warned of another package containing illegal substances through the cooperation of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Virginia State Police Drug Task Force, said city police.
According to Bledsoe, detectives observed the delivery and receipt of a package to 1617 Stafford Ave. The package contained approximately one and a half pounds of marijuana.
According to city police, the homes two residents, Kyle Dexheimer and Colin Rom, were taken into custody.
Dexheimer, 21, was charged with felony counts of possession with the intent to distribute marijuana and conspiracy to distribute marijuana. He has not yet attended court.
Rom, 21, was charged with a misdemeanor for the possession of marijuana. He was issued a summons and must still go to court.
Two residents of Rowe Street were also present and arrested during this investigation.
Andrew Freakley, 20, and Barak Holtslag, 21, were charged with possession and the intent to distribute marijuana and conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Neither have gone to preliminary trials.
The Bullet attempted to contact all of the students charged. Freakley, Rom, Bleimeister and Cowan declined to comment; the rest did not respond to requests for comment.
According to Searcy, the administration was in contact with the Fredericksburg Police Department when the events began to unfold.
“It is very unfortunate that the alleged incidents occurred involving UMW students, and I am distressed to learn about them,” President Rick Hurley said. “As President, I firmly believe that this type of activity is not indicative of students at the University of Mary Washington.”
Searcy was also distressed to learn about the arrests. However, he noted that UMW is no exception to drug problems across college campuses.
“Drugs are everywhere and UMW is not immune to these external influences,” Searcy said. “From my perspective, one case is too much. Illegal substances are illegal for a reason – they are detrimental to our students and to the educational process, not to mention that these substances are dangerous and can have severe health ramifications. The more we are able to educate and engage students regarding this topic the stronger we will be as a community.”
Students have also been surprised by the recent arrests.
“One of these guys lived in my dorm freshman year,” said senior Brad Dunn. “And I was really surprised when all this came out, all at once. I think some of these kids had reputations for having weed, but I don’t think anyone knew the full extent of what was going on.”
Some students believe that these crimes were punished too severely.
“They never approached or bothered me with it,” said sophomore Anna Pietras. “I don’t think the cops arresting them really created any positive change on campus. I mean, the first month of school I got a bunch of e-mails about violent crimes off campus. I think the police should be focusing on those crimes. These students weren’t hurting anyone.”
However, Bledsoe stated that those arrested are “just as dangerous as any other drug dealer out there. They don’t know the source they are receiving drugs from. They assume they are getting one thing but may well be getting something else.”
According to Reed, some of the pharmaceutical drugs were from outside of the U.S.
“There is no FDA to oversee these drugs,” Reed said. “You don’t have a clue what is in them. They are potentially deadly with the wrong dose or combination with other drugs or alcohol.”
Bledsoe stressed the seriousness of these crimes.
“The life consequences of being a convicted felon are that you are a second-class citizen,” Bledsoe said. “If they don’t understand that, then I don’t know what to say.”
– Ryan Marr, Jessica Masulli and Heather Brady contributed to this report.
Photo courtesy of Fredericksburg Police Department Public Information Officer Natatia Bledsoe and Rappahannock Regional Jail Captain Patricia Leonard. From top row, from left: Abraham Dayton, William Bleimeister, Kyle Dexheimer. Middle row, from left: Derek Rhule, Stuart Smith, Andrew Freakley. Bottom row, from left: Charles Cowan III, William Crowder, Barak Holtslag. Sebastian Ensign’s picture is not available at this time. All of those pictured are being charged with felony indictments.