Ohio officer jailed in drug case; third arrest in dept. since Oct.

By Dana Wilson and Josh Jarman
The Columbus Dispatch

ZANESVILLE, Ohio — FBI agents and local authorities arrested a Zanesville police officer, his wife and three others in Muskingum County yesterday on federal drug-dealing charges.

Donald E. Peterson, 33, is the third Zanesville police officer arrested on drug charges since October.

He and his wife, Serritha D. Peterson, 29, were arrested along with Shelly M. Tyson, 32; Steven Gibson, 65; and Gary Moody, 50. Moody is from the village of White Cottage, and the rest live in Zanesville.

Each was charged in U.S. District Court in Columbus with distributing a controlled substance and conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, said Michael Brooks, a spokesman for the FBI's Cincinnati division.

The Muskingum County sheriff's office began investigating Peterson and the others this fall, said Chief Deputy Bryan Hoover.

Peterson is accused of distributing crack cocaine, morphine and Percocet, a painkiller. Hoover said authorities think the drug activity took place when he was off-duty.

Searches were being carried out at four locations in Muskingum County as part of the investigation, the FBI said.

The five suspects had an initial appearance in court yesterday. All but Peterson were released on a personal recognizance bond, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Marous. Peterson was ordered to remain in custody until an electronic monitoring device is set up at his home.

Hoover stressed that yesterday's arrests are not connected to a separate drug-related case filed in October involving two Zanesville police officers and an officer with Genesis HealthCare System in Zanesville.

Officers Sean Beck, 28, and Trevor Fusner, 31, along with Chad Mills II, 29, the Genesis officer, are accused of conspiring to rob a drug dealer of a kilo of cocaine and sell it themselves.

Each is charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Beck also is charged with extorting more than $8,000 from suspected drug dealers who became police informants.

The sheriff's office requested the FBI's assistance in both drug cases because its deputies often work closely with local police officers, Brooks said. "They wanted another agency involved in it."

Zanesville Police Chief Eric Lambes said Peterson's arrest brings closure to the cloud that's hung over the department since Beck and Fusner were arrested in October.

"We certainly feel now that all those persons that are involved in this activity have been rooted out of the police department," he said during a news conference yesterday. "Now we can continue to move on."

The city employs 56 police officers and 43 support personnel, according to the police department's Web site.

Scott Hillis, the city's law director, echoed the chief's statements, saying he does not believe any more officers are likely to be charged with any crimes. He said an in-depth investigation of the department was part of the earlier drug case, and the Peterson investigation was going on at the same time.

"Well, it's obviously a big morale problem for the police department now, and Chief Lambes has to handle that," Hillis said. "That's really the worst part of all this: We've got really good police officers who have to face the ridicule of being lumped in with these few individuals."

He said the rest of the police officers are glad those who were breaking the law were caught and justice was served, "but we wish it had never happened in the first place."

Copyright 2007 The Columbus Dispatch

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