SHENANDOAH COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) — On Friday, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Virginia State Police, Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office, and Woodstock Police Department teamed up for a joint press conference to announce charges in what they call a "heroin pipeline" to the Shenandoah Valley.
According to U.S. Attorney Thomas T. Cullen, a federal grand jury returned six indictments this week for five people in connection with heroin that was trafficked from Maryland into Shenandoah County.
That heroin led to one fatal overdose, as well as another overdose where the victim survived.
An indictment for five people was returned under seal on May 21 and unsealed later in the week after arrests were made.
The grand jury charged 52-year-old Craig Allen Kidwell and 54-year-old Norma Lynda Kidwell, of Mount Jackson, each with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute 100 grams or more of a substance containing a detectable amount of heroin resulting in death and resulting in serious bodily injury, as well as a count of distribution and possession with the intent to distribute resulting in death and injury.
The overdose victims were labeled as only J.H. for the victim who died and J.W. as the victim who survived with serious injury.
In addition, 52-year-old James Harold Lichliter, of Mauretown, 42-year-old Stacy Allen Marston, of Woodstock, and 42-year-old Jonathan Dale Neice, of Woodstock, were each charged with one count of distribution and possession with the intent to distribute resulting in the death of J.H. and the serious bodily injury of J.W.
"Over the last two years, more Americans have died from fatal opioid overdoses than the total number of troops killed during the Vietnam War," Cullen stated. "In order to mitigate this public health crisis, we will aggressively prosecute street dealers and corrupt health-care providers whose unlawful activities directly result in harm to others."
Cullen credited local partners in Shenandoah County for bringing the individuals to justice.
According to the indictment for each of the people involved, a Maryland-based drug trafficking network began selling controlled substances to Virginia-based traffickers around June 2017.
Those traffickers then took the drugs to Shenandoah County for redistribution.
The indictment alleges Craig Kidwell and his wife, Norma, repeatedly traveled from their Shenandoah County home to Maryland to get heroin from the Maryland drug ring. At times, the indictment says, the heroin they brought back was mixed with deadly drugs like fentanyl.
Once they had the drugs, the Kidwells allegedly transported them back to Shenandoah County, where they were distributed to others, including Lichliter, Marston, and Neice, who then redistributed them to others around Shenandoah County.
One person, J.H., died from an overdose caused by the drugs provided from this network in December of 2017, and J.W. was injured. Those two overdoses launched the Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office's investigation, which uncovered the chain of distributors and suppliers.
"The resulting indictments should serve as a warning of what will happen to those who make it their business to exploit and profit from the members of our community," stated Special Agent in Charge Jesse R. Fong of the Drug Enforcement Administration Washington Division. "We will remain relentless with our local partners in holding drug dealers accountable for poisoning our citizens."
The investigation was carried out by the DEA, Virginia State Police, the Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office, and the Woodstock Police Department.
Each person faces a minimum sentence of 20 years if convicted of their charges.