Dealer arrested on new charges

Police: Meth lab in Greenfield home led officers to suspect

GREENFIELD — The remnants of a meth lab led Greenfield police to arrest a convicted dealer on new felony charges this week, according to court records.

After a weeks-long investigation, Greenfield Police Department detectives booked 45-year-old Shawn Elkins, 207 Walnut St., Greenfield, into the Hancock County Jail on a charge of dealing methamphetamine.

Police found equipment typically used to make meth inside a Greenfield home earlier this year. The discovery led them to Elkins, who pleaded guilty to drug dealing more than a decade ago after police found a meth lab in the Greenfield hotel room he’d been staying in.

Now, Elkins is being held in the Hancock County Jail on a $20,000 cash bond. He faces three charges: one Level 5 felony count of dealing methamphetamine; one Level 5 felony count of corrupt business influence; and one Level 6 felony count of possession of methamphetamine.

Greenfield Police Department Lt. Randy Ratliff, the head of the department’s investigations unit, said the case is still under investigation. Detectives are working closely with the Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office, and they anticipate additional charges will be filed — and arrests made — in the coming weeks, he said.

Reports of a possible break-in brought police to 200 block of west Walnut Street in late March. Neighbors called 911 after seeing someone use a flashlight to peek in the windows of a home along their street, officers said.

While searching the area, police discovered an open door at 207 Walnut St. – the home they later determined was Elkins’, investigators said.

Officers entered the house to ensure no one had burglarized the place. Inside, they found burners and other equipment typically associated with manufacturing meth, officials said.

Members from the Indiana State Police Meth Suppression Team found a white powdery substance on the equipment that tested positive for methamphetamine, police said.

Greenfield detectives launched a more in-depth investigation from there. Once they had identified Elkins, they arranged to have someone go undercover and buy drugs from him, police said.

Using confidential informants, they purchased drugs from Elkins at least twice, according to charging documents. Each time, the crystal-like substance Elkins sold tested positive for meth, court documents state.

This week, police arrested Elkins at a home in the 200 block of north School Street in Greenfield. At the time, Elkins had a baggy with him that contained meth, police said.

Detectives searched Elkins’ Walnut Street home after he was taken into custody, and they found drugs and paraphernalia, including several syringes, police said. A package also found in the home contained an unknown powder officers suspect was heroin, officials said. The substance has been sent to the Indiana State Police crime lab to be tested.

Elkins has a lengthy criminal history that includes arrests and stints in prison and jail on drug-related charges, records show.

Police say Elkins ran one of the first meth labs found in Hancock County, and the man served seven years behind bars after he pleaded guilty in 2004 to the charges filed against him following its discovery.

In January 2002, police were called to a local motel after a clerk noticed a strange odor coming from one of the rooms. Investigators found Elkins inside the room along with starter fluid, lithium batteries and anhydrous ammonia – all used to make meth, officials say.

Meth labs discoveries are fairly uncommon in Hancock County, Ratliff said.

Greenfield police officers found one lab in a home in the 100 block of West Pierson Street last year. Five were discovered in 2015 – the highest number found in the county since Indiana State Police started tracking data in 2000.

On average, fewer than two labs have been found in Hancock County each year – an amount lower than other rural Indiana counties. An average of 20 labs a year have been found in nearby Madison County. Officials in Delaware County have located an average of 37 labs a year since 2000, state records show.

Though meth doesn’t seem to be made locally, Hancock County drugs users are seeking out the substance more often as an alternative to heroin, which some users have deemed unsafe because of the overdose risk associated with it, Ratliff said.

Forty-six people were caught with meth and charged with possession in 2016, up from three in 2012, according to records from the prosecutor’s office. Nineteen people have been booked into the county jail on that charge so far this year, Prosecutor Brent Eaton said.

“There are more drug-related arrests and prosecutions because it’s a priority for all of us,” Eaton said. “We are working to be more proactive, … and it’s encouraging to see the results.”

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.