Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

December 20, 2013

Motion to suppress meth case search denied

By Michael R. Moser

CROSSVILLE — A meth lab-related case against a Crossville man appears headed for a jury trial or settlement after a Cumberland County Criminal Court judge denied a motion to suppress a search of a residence in a Crossville subdivision two years ago.

Judge David Patterson denied Randal Boston's motion filed on behalf of his client, Stephen Robert Stults, 68, to suppress evidence seized during a search of the home and property of Stults' late mother.

As a result of the ruling, the initiation to manufacture methamphetamine, and theft of less than $500 and simple possession/casual exchange in an unrelated case, were continued to the Jan. 17 discussion docket and Jan. 29 deadline docket.

Crossville Police Ptl. Johnathan O'Neal testified that on Oct. 11, 2011, he was dispatched to the Ivanhoe Lane residence of Patricia Weaver after receiving a complaint and a report of suspicious activity at the Camelot subdivision residence.

When he arrived he found Stults outside the house, and Weaver inside. O'Neal said he made contact with Weaver, made sure she was okay, and then asked for permission to search the property, which he testified Weaver granted to him and Ptl. Don Johnson.

A search was conducted and in a crawl space police find components commonly associated with the clandestine manufacture of meth. Stults was taken into custody and later gave police a statement, denying the components were his.

Under questioning from Boston, O'Neal testified that he did not obtain a written waiver because the homeowner granted him permission to search without question.

Boston's only witness was Pamela Stults, sister of the defendant, who testified that another sister of the two was responsible for the request for a welfare check because of a long simmering dispute.

She testified that she and Stephen Stults took turns carrying for their ill mother, and that neither gave permission to search.

Deputy District Attorney Gary McKenzie argued that Stults did not having standing to challenge the search as a resident of the house, since there was no evidence he lived there.

Boston countered that Stults' staying on and off with his sick mother gave the defendant "reasonable expectation of privacy."

Patterson ruled that the officer's testimony stood unchallenged and because of that, the search was constitutional and that evidence of the meth lab components was admissible in court.