(Cape Girardeau) (AP) – A former southern Missouri sheriff who admitted stealing firearms that had been seized as evidence will spend the next 10 years in a federal prison, and his former chief deputy will do five years on the same charges after being sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Cape Girardeau.
32-year-old Tommy Adams also is facing state charges accusing him of distributing cocaine and methamphetamine. A trial date has not been set on those charges.
The former Carter County sheriff was arrested 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. 24-year-old Steffanie Kearbey was also arrested at the same time and resigned along with Adams.
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 originally was 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.
U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan said Kearbey’s sentence was so much less than Adams’ because he was her boss and her young age.
The state case against Adams has developed slowly. The Missouri attorney general’s office took over the prosecution. Hearings were scheduled and postponed. Then in October, the case was moved from Carter County to Jefferson County, near St. Louis.
The drug case against Adams was particularly troubling considering Missouri’s reputation 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.