Barry County jailer charged in drug-smuggling case

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Jail employee allegedly brought marijuana to 2 inmates

A Barry County jailer is being charged with a felony for allegedly smuggling marijuana to two inmates being held in the Barry County jail.

Matthew Hernandez, 24, of Butterfield, was charged Friday with delivery of a controlled substance at a county jail, allegedly admitting to law enforcement he picked up marijuana at the Cassville Walmart, packaged it in sealed latex and delivered the substance to two inmates. According to Mick Epperly, Barry County sheriff, Hernandez, who had been working at the jail for about a month and a half, was fired from his position on the same day.

Epperly said the conspiracy was unravelled when Missouri State Highway Patrolman Travis Hilburn arrested Logan Moore, 18, of Rocky Comfort, for leaving the scene of an accident. Hilburn obtained a warrant to search Moore's cell phone, which yielded text messages between Moore and Hernandez about drug sales and distribution.

According to a probable cause statement filed by Det. Doug Henry, with the Barry County Sheriff's Office, Hernandez was interviewed at the jail and allegedly confessed to picking up the marijuana from Moore, sealing it in latex and delivering it to Norman Baez, 25, of Monett, and Mathew Miller, 22 of Eagle Rock.

Hernandez said he was approached by Baez and Miller, who asked him to make the transaction with Moore at the Cassville Walmart, where he would receive payment. Hernandez said he had brought marijuana into the jail two times in the past four weeks.

Epperly said deputies, along with the help of Exeter Police Chief Morgan Struble and his drug dog, Bailey, searched the jail, and Bailey located a pipe with marijuana residue tucked under a stairwell in one of the pods.

"It was over $80 worth of drugs, and we searched the jail to make sure there was no contraband and it was safe," he said.

Epperly said this is the first time he has ever fired an employee for bringing contraband into the jail, and he hopes it never happens again.

"It's a bad deal to have an employee do something like that, but we are getting the point across that you will be in jail yourself if you do that," he said. "It was a bad decision. You hire someone to do a good job, and sometimes, temptation can get the best of someone."

Hernandez was transported to the Stone County jail on Friday after his arrest, and he posted a $10,000 bond less than 24 hours later. An initial hearing has been held, and a disposition is scheduled for Aug. 25 at 8:30 a.m. in the courtroom of Judge Robert Foulke.

Epperly said the sheriff's office is seeking charges against Moore, Miller and Baez, but Barry County Prosecutor Amy Boxx has yet to file official charges.

Miller is being held in the jail on charges of kidnapping, burglary, two counts of tampering with a motor vehicle, felonious restraint, third-degree assault and fraudulent use of a credit card, all stemming from the alleged kidnapping of a rural Washburn woman in January 2014. He is being held on a $75,000 bond.

Baez is being held on charges of intent to distribute a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of a firearm, which stem from a June 26 arrest in Exeter a part of a Southwest Missouri Drug Task Force sting. When arrested at the America's Best Value Inn on Highway 37, Baez was allegedly in possession of 10 grams of methamphetamine, a digital scale, 30 empty baggies and money allegedly used in an earlier controlled purchase of methamphetamine. He is being held on a $42,750 bond.

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