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Lab delays prompt prosecutor to drop drug case

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County prosecutors this week dropped a criminal case over problems with evidence testing by a state laboratory.

Joshua Robert Showers appeared in the Shenandoah County Circuit Court on Wednesday where he stood charged with distribution of a controlled substance, specifically methamphetamine.

However, Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda Wiseley made a motion to dismiss the charge against Showers. Judge Dennis L. Hupp granted the motion that still allows the commonwealth to bring back the charge against Showers.

The case involves more than one defendant and multiple pieces of evidence found in various locations, Wiseley explained Thursday. The Virginia Department of Forensic Science tested suspected illegal substances as submitted for the prosecution. However, the laboratory had not yet tested seized substances directly related to Showers’ charge, Wiseley said.

Rather than delay the case further, Wiseley asked that the court dismiss Showers’ charge. Wiseley pointed out that Showers does not pose a flight risk because he remains held without bond at Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail on charges out of Warren County.

The state laboratory has a wait time for testing of approximately eight months, Wiseley said.

A grand jury indicted Showers on the charge when it met Feb. 14. The indictment charges Showers with distributing the drug on Jan. 23, 2017. Strasburg police Investigator P.A. Bernd arrested Showers, 32, of 63 W. Duck St., Front Royal, on a charge of possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute nearly a month after the alleged offense occurred Feb. 19, 2017. Authorities also charged Showers with receiving or aiding in the concealing of a stolen firearm and possession of a firearm with drugs.

Bernd states in a criminal complaint filed in the case that he responded to 319 Borum St., Strasburg, on Jan. 23 to execute a search warrant in reference to a suspected drug overdose. Bernd states he recovered in Showers’ bedroom approximately five grams of suspected crystalline methamphetamine, several plastic bags and a Winchester model 370 12-gauge shotgun. Bernd found the suspected methamphetamine in a metal box accessible by Showers and his girlfriend, identified as Merranda Ward, the complaint states. Showers acknowledged in interviews that he and Ward shared the box, the complaint states.

Bernd notes that he found the shotgun in a closet of the bedroom Showers and Ward shared. Showers said in an interview that Ward told him the firearm was a gift. When asked if the shotgun possibly had been stolen, Showers conceded that he thought it might have been stolen and not as a gift, the complaint states.

A deputy with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office contacted Bernd on Feb. 2, 2017, advising he had taken a report of a stolen shotgun with the serial number that matched the one on the weapon seized Jan. 23, 2017, the complaint states. The report named Ward as the alleged offender, the complaint adds.

Online records for the Shenandoah County General District Court show that Showers’ preliminary hearing was continued at least eight times from early April 2017 to Jan. 22, at which time the judge certified his charge distribution of methamphetamine to the grand jury. The court dismissed Showers’  firearm-related charges at the request of the commonwealth.

A Shenandoah County grand jury indicted Ward, also of Front Royal, on Feb. 14 on one count of distribution of methamphetamine. A grand jury indicted Ward on April 11 on additional drug and firearms charges related to offenses authorities say occurred Nov. 23.

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