Bonds drastically reduced for suspects in fentanyl foible

Published: Jul. 20, 2018 at 4:56 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 20, 2018 at 6:12 PM EDT
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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Three suspects charged in what was believed to be the largest fentanyl seizure in the state had their bonds drastically reduced on Friday after officials learned the white, powdery substance was not fentanyl.

"This morning, we received a call from the state lab, and they said when they did their test, that it came back and it was not fentanyl," said New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon.

The New Hanover County Sheriff's Office announced the bust last week after gang unit detectives made several undercover buys of heroin at a home in the 1400 block of Kornegay Avenue in the Creekwood community.

When detectives searched the home, they found heroin and nearly 13 pounds of a white, powdery substance they believed was fentanyl, which can be deadly in trace amounts. The drugs were sent to a lab where multiple field tests were performed with a positive indication for fentanyl.

"We refer to anything we do here as a field test," said McMahon. "It's a presumptive test. It's something that we kind of do initially, and that was done through our (crime scene investigation)."

Due to the quantity of the substance, McMahon requested a rush, confirmatory analysis be performed at the state lab.

However, those test results received on Friday indicate the substance was not fentanyl.

"With the fentanyl, this is the recommended test that we're using," said McMahon. "Anybody that's doing a presumptive or field test, this is the kit that, as far as we know, everybody's using, and we're using an accredited lab so they're very good at what they do."

As a result, District Attorney Ben David said trafficking and other charges against the three suspects in the case — Wanda Moore, William McIntire, and Charles Batts — were dismissed.

Additionally, Judge Robin Robinson modified their bonds to $10,000 secured in a hearing Friday afternoon. Previously, Moore and Batts were being held under a $2 million bond, and McIntire's bail had been set at $5 million.

"The job of the District Attorney is not to convict at all costs but to be ministers of justice," David said. "That commitment requires us to move swiftly to dismiss or modify charges when we become aware of new evidence that calls into question a defendant's guilt."

Moore, Batts, and McIntire still face several drug-related charges.

McMahon said the sheriff's office is evaluating its testing of fentanyl.

"These tests have always been accurate, so we're going to figure out what's going on," said McMahon. "Until then, we will send any suspected fentanyl to a certified lab."

All pending fentanyl cases will be sent to the state lab for conclusive testing, and will not be tested by local CSI, said McMahon.

"We are not going to do any more fentanyl testing," said McMahon. "We are going to send it to a lab forensic test with all the technology before we charge anyone else."

McMahon said there are fewer than 20 pending cases that will require fentanyl confirmatory testing by the state lab.

The next court date for the defendants is Aug. 2.

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