(12/20/2001)
By Bob Weaver

Calhoun Prosecuting Attorney Tony Morgan said there is insufficient evidence to proceed with a criminal investigation against State Trooper Doug Starcher, regarding his circuit court testimony used to prosecute Chloe resident Kelley Mace in a drug case. Mace was charged with possession of an illegal substance with intent to deliver.

Court records indicate Starcher obtained a Grand Jury indictment without evidence of an illegal substance, after which Mace's attorney was unable to obtain a copy of a drug report from the State Police lab.

Morgan, after reviewing court transcripts, said Starcher's testimony in Calhoun Circuit Court regarding a substance found on Mace's property was based on his professional experience, that he thought it was methamphetamine.

Morgan said Starcher's testimony did not cross the threshold of a criminal act, and he would not ask an outside prosecutor to proceed with an investigation.

Mace said "If an ordinary person got on the witness stand and did this, the system would put them away." She had sent a letter to Calhoun Prosecutor Morgan, asking him to investigate the matter.

Sgt. Bonazzo and Trooper Starcher obtained a search warrant for the Kelley Mace residence and business, and with several officers entered the property shortly before midnight last year, guns drawn. Witnesses said one man was wearing a DEA jacket, but police would not identify that officer.

State Police denied that a field test was performed on the substance at the time of the search, although three witnesses said Trooper Wiles tested what turned out to be ordinary garden sulfur with a kit obtained from his cruiser. The case against Mace moved ahead for a year based on the garden sulfur "evidence."

Morgan did move to have the case against Mace dismissed last August, a year after the "drug raid," because no illegal drug was found. Trooper Starcher or a State Police representative eventually said the State Police lab reported no illegal substance.

Former detachment commander Sgt. John Bonazzo and Trooper Starcher put together an extensive search warrant on the Mace property, claiming there was a multi-county, million dollar drug deal which included a cache of stolen guns, implying a guns and drugs deal.

The search warrant said about 270 stolen guns had been taken next door to the house of Mace's parents. Strangely, when the search was executed on the Kelley Mace property, officers did not search for the stolen guns a few steps away at her parent's house.

No stolen guns were ever found. Mace said a few guns on the property belonged to her family and the "allegation was a complete fabrication."

Sgt. John Bonazzo, who played a key role in the investigation, failed to appear in court when he was issued a subpoena and a summons.

The case was based on information obtained by State Police from informant Thomas Holcomb, who was incarcerated for other offenses when he testified, and from what appeared to be loosely strung but incriminating statements obtained from "reliable and confidential" informants in the community, mostly unnamed.

Trooper Starcher said he had copies of canceled checks amounting to $1,700 being spent at Kelley Mace's flower shop and gift business near Chloe, originating from one account. Starcher claimed that another subject he arrested "leaving Kelley Mace's business establishment" possessed marijuana and meth, "but they would not state that they had purchased drugs from (that) location."

Mace said the court case was "a long and humiliating ordeal for me and my sons," stating it ruined her business and reputation in the community. She is filing a civil suit against the State Police and has filed a professional misconduct charge against Trooper Starcher, with the deposition to be taken by Starcher's supervisor, Sgt. David Garrett of Spencer.


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