Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

September 21, 2012

Jury suggests 17 years for couple

The two were found guilty of manufacturing meth and child endangerment.

TAHLEQUAH — Jurors found a local couple guilty of four felony charges on Wednesday and recommended they serve 17 year sentences for endeavoring to manufacture methamphetamine, child endangerment, and possession of firearms during commission of a felony.

Assistant District Attorney B.J. Baker, who prosecuted for the state, said this week’s trial was the first methamphetamine case he knows of that has appeared before a jury in Cherokee County.

After deliberating for about 1-1/2 hours, jurors recommended Kelly Ray Kile, 38, and Sarah Dee Billings, 29, both spend 10 years in prison for endeavoring to manufacture meth; the maximum four-year punishment for child endangerment; the minimum two years for possession of firearms during commission of a felony; and the maximum year for unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia.

District Judge Darrell Shepherd ordered completion of a pre-sentence investigation and set formal sentencing for 3 p.m. on Nov. 8.

Attorney A.J. Garcia, who represented Kile and Billings, requested the couple be allowed to remain free on bond until sentencing, but Shepherd denied the request.

Billings and Kile were taken into custody in the courtroom and transported to the Cherokee County Detention Center.

“People will now know a Cherokee County jury is willing to give time in prison for cooking methamphetamine,” B.J. Baker said after the guilty verdicts were handed down.

Most of the testimony in the case was presented by Eldon Graves and Casey Baker, narcotics in -vestigators who work with the District 27 Drug Task Force. They told jurors they served a search warrant on a home in January 2011 and found Billings, Kile, and three other adults inside.

The 3-year-old daughter of Billings and Kile was found in a bedroom where investigators said the strongest smell of meth production was present, along with several firearms. Graves said he was responsible for searching that room, and also for logging the evidence as other officers searched the residence.

Casey Baker testified he spoke to Billings and Kile individually.

Kile confessed ownership of a bag containing meth components and also told the investigator he cooked meth when he had pseudoephedrine pills, but didn’t cook around his daughter.

Billings reportedly told the investigator she had a drug habit but didn’t use in front of her daughter.

In his closing statements, Garcia told jurors the investigators didn’t get the couple’s statements in writing or on recorded audio, and also said officers failed to do too many things at the scene. He noted the inability of the officers to recall all of the details of the day they arrested Billings and Kile.

“The evidence in this case is what is missing, what is not being presented to you,” Garcia told jurors. “Unfortunately, we heard a lot of ‘I don’t know’ [from state witnesses].”

B.J. Baker argued the state had proved everything required to convict the couple on all four charges. He asked the panel to give Billings and Kile 20-year sentences, and specifically touched on the accusations of child endangerment, asking the jury to give the pair the maximum sentence for that allegation.

“Did that child choose to do meth? Did that child choose to inhale those fumes? Did that child have a choice?” he asked.

He told jurors the child endangerment charge was the most serious, even if the maximum punishment was much smaller than that allowed by law for the endeavoring charge.

The prosecutor urged jurors not to fear sending Billings and Kile to prison, away from their 3-year-old daughter.

“I submit to you she’ll be better off,” he said.

He said the girl’s grandmother will provide a better life with better opportunities for the child, while Billings and Kile serve their prison sentences, seek rehabilitation, and “evaluate how important their daughter is to them and what changes they need to make in their lives.”

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