Judge tosses alleged drug evidence in Dover trial

DOVER — The state ended its prosecution of two defendants Wednesday after a ruling that an unconstitutional shed search in February disqualified drug evidence from presentation at trial.

While a search warrant authorized Delaware State Police to investigate the shed at 79 Terry Drive in Magnolia, Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Clark found in a 24-page order released Tuesday, the affidavit request for it did not indicate the structure was connected to alleged criminal activity.

Thus, the 715 packaged bags of heroin weighing 10.72 grams seized by police on Feb. 26 were to be suppressed at the now-canceled trials of Magnolia residents DeShawn T. Friend, 41, and Charlene M. Heckerman, 34.

The shed was on a residential property where police believed drug dealing operations were ongoing after a two-month investigation, according to court papers. A search warrant was granted at Justice of the Peace Court 2 in Rehoboth Beach on Feb. 25 and executed the next day.

According to police, Mr. Friend and Ms. Heckerman were located inside the shed by troopers and taken into custody without incident. The ensuing search located drug evidence that brought charges, authorities said at the time.

DeShawn T. Friend

According to the Court, “Friend was not a target of the search, nor was he suspected to have been involved [in] the drug related crimes alleged [at the residence].

“Nevertheless, when the DSP executed the warrant, they found Friend in the shed located on the rear of [the property.]”

Judge Clark referred to the Terry Drive property as owned by another man suspected of drug dealing activity by police, according to documents.

While the State maintained that the property “was not his,” and thus could not object to a search, Mr. Friend claimed “it was his” and he had a right to privacy.

A pre-trial case report for Mr. Friend listed one of two residences as the Terry Drive location, according to the Court, and “the parties concede that he had been sleeping in the shed for some time …”

Charlene M. Heckerman

Mr. Friend’s trial was scheduled to begin on Monday, and Ms. Heckerman had a date on Jan. 18, 2017, according to court documents. Charges against the duo included Tier 5 drug possession, Tier 4 drug dealing, second-degree conspiracy, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Prosecuting Deputy Attorney General Greg Babowal argued against suppression, while attorney Alex Funk represented Mr. Friend’s interests. The matter was submitted by Mr. Friend to Superior Court on Oct. 13.

Judge Clark cited Delaware case law including the matter of convicted pediatrician Earl Bradley as part of his decision regarding identification and specifics connected to outlying building searches.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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