CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) – A former southern Missouri sheriff and his former chief deputy who admitted they stole firearms seized as evidence and sold some of them could each be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison on Monday.
Former Carter County Sheriff Tommy Adams and former deputy Steffanie Kearbey pleaded guilty to federal charges of possession and sale of stolen firearms and were slated to appear later Monday in U.S. District Court in Cape Girardeau.
Adams, 32, also faces state charges alleging that he distributed or intended to distribute drugs, specifically cocaine and methamphetamine. A trial date has not been set on the drug charges.
Adams was arrested on April 2, 2011, accused of distributing meth to a confidential informant working with the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Carter County prosecutor Rocky Kingree said Adams snorted meth in front of the informant. Adams is also accused of distributing cocaine.
He resigned as sheriff two days after his arrest. Kearbey, 24, was also arrested at the same time, and resigned along with Adams.
The state case against Adams has developed slowly. The Missouri attorney general’s office took over prosecution. Hearings were scheduled and postponed. Then in October, the case was moved from Carter County to Jefferson County, near St. Louis.
Since then, virtually nothing has happened, according to entries in Casenet, Missouri’s online court reporting system. The only significant docket entry was on Nov. 1, a clerk’s note to not set the case on a calendar until the attorney general’s office clarifies whether the circuit judge originally assigned to it, Michael Pritchett, is to remain.
The drug case against Adams was particularly troubling considering Missouri’s history as a state with a significant methamphetamine problem. Missouri led the nation in meth lab seizures in 2011 and has had more lab busts over the past decade than any other state.
Carter County, in a scenic but sparsely populated area of the Ozark Mountain foothills in southeast Missouri, had been oddly immune to the meth epidemic with just five meth lab busts in the two years that Adams served as sheriff.
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. Her attorney initially claimed Adams was behind those crimes.
She was originally charged with both state and federal crimes, but Kingree dropped the state charges, saying the attorney general’s office refused to provide him with evidence needed to pursue the case.