By Joe Beck
Three defendants made initial appearances last week in U.S. District Court in a case encompassing heroin sales in five Northern Shenandoah Valley counties.
A fourth defendant in the case, Ronnie Maurice Jones of Front Royal, is described in court documents as the largest dealer of heroin and cocaine in western Virginia.
Jones did not appear in court Thursday. The three other defendants -- Joshua Adam Pettyjohn, Charles William Smith Jr., and Columbus Pete Butler, were all returned to custody after each requested a court-appointed attorney.
All four men are charged with heroin selling offenses involving more than 1,000 grams of the drug. Jones is also charged with possessing a firearm for use in drug trafficking crimes and possessing a gun as a convicted felon.
An affidavit signed by William Metcalf, an agent with U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, states that Jones was the principal supplier of a ring of heroin and crack dealers operating in Frederick, Warren, Page, Shenandoah and Rockingham counties at the time of their arrests in June.
"Confidential informants identified Ronnie Maurice Jones, aka "RJ," aka "DC," as the largest heroin and crack cocaine source in the western district of Virginia," Metcalf wrote.
The affidavit fills in details on what police called a sweeping drug enforcement operation at the time of the arrests.
Law enforcement officials arrested Jones, 36, on June 13. Pettyjohn, a Page County resident, Butler, 57, of Woodstock, and Smith, 45, of Woodstock, were also arrested around the same time, according to court documents.
Metcalf's affidavit states "numerous witnesses and defendants have identified Pettyjohn, Smith and Butler as three of Jones' primary heroin and crack cocaine distributors in the western district of Virginia."
Metcalf's affidavit states that law enforcement officials executed four search warrants on vehicles and residences in Front Royal and Dumfries owned by Jones.
"Jones and a female accomplice were found to be in possession of in part; three firearms, ammunition, approximately five ounces of heroin, approximately nine ounces of cocaine and over $14,000 in cash," Metcalf wrote.
Search warrants were also executed at the residences of Smith and Butler in Woodstock, according to Metcalf's affidavit.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org