Text Messages Tell Of Intent To Deliver Drugs

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Two suspected local drug dealers likely received an unsolicited message following their recent arrest: don't text your intentions.

Charged following a traffic stop on Aug. 26 by Woodbury Police Department Patrolman John Fesmire were Christopher T. "Casper" Ferrell, 695 Old Prospect Rd., Woodbury, and Ronald Wayne Jernigan Jr., 846 Odell Powell Road, Woodbury.

According to arrest citations, Ferrell and Jernigan conspired to commit the offense of delivery/sale of a controlled substance. Ferrell and Jernigan were caught in a traffic stop after they had obtained marijuana and were on their way to deliver it to Brian Tramel. Text messages on Jernigan's phone support this as the intention of both Ferrell and Jernigan.

Fesmire's report of the events leading to the arrest of the two men follows:

"On Aug. 26, I, Officer Fesmire, was notified by a citizen telling that if we (law enforcement) had a warrant on Ronald "Ronnie" Jernigan Jr. that he was in town. The citizen went on to tell me that Jernigan was driving a white Toyota passenger car and had another white male in the vehicle with him and that the vehicle was just on East Main St. headed toward McMinnville. I had prior knowledge that Jernigan's license was suspended as he was recently cited by Sgt. (Kevin) Mooneyham.

"I preceded in that direction and saw the Toyota described to me. There was a pickup truck between it and my patrol unit. I followed both vehicles east. Once at the the intersection with Houston Lane, I observed Jernigan's vehicle cross the right fog line and it appeared to me to have almost struck a concrete guardrail on the bridge just east of Houston Lane. Jernigan's vehicle turned onto Old McMinnville Rd.

"Thinking that the driver of the vehicle may be intoxicated, I conducted a traffic stop before the driver had any further opportunities to cause injury to the public. Upon approach to the vehicle, I immediately identified the driver as Ronnie Jernigan and the passenger as Christopher "Casper" Ferrell (a convicted drug dealer who is on probation for such). When asked for his license, Jernigan stated he did not have it and when asked if it was still suspended, Jernigan only said that it shouldn't be because he had paid a ticket. At one point, Jernigan pointed toward Cannon Manor and said, "We're just going right there" which to me was Jernigan insisting that I allow him to park the vehicle and go with a warning.

"A check of Jernigan's license showed it was still suspended for frequent traffic violations. I returned to the passenger side of the vehicle, instructed Ferrell to step out, and instructed Jernigan to turn off the vehicle.

"Ferrell consented to a search of his person. A large roll of money was found in his right, front pants pocket. When I asked where Farrell works, he stated that he painted for "Ace" and couldn't give a last name. I asked Ferrell if he was back to dealing dope and he said he was not. A baggie containing marijuana was found in each of his shoes. I placed Ferrell in handcuffs. By this time Sgt. (John) House had arrived and had Jernigan step out, who consented to a search by Sgt. House.

"I placed Ferrell in my patrol unit and returned to where Jernigan and Sgt. House were. Being that Jernigan knew his license was suspended and had recently been generously cited by Sgt. Mooneyham, I placed him in handcuffs and began to take him to my patrol car.

"Jernigan insisted that I put his cell phone, which was removed from his pockets during the search, back into his pockets. I refused and told Jernigan that due to there being an arrest for drugs, the vehicle and its contents were subject to search in order to find further evidence of the charged crime. Also, I know that drug dealers will commonly use text messages to communicate their deals and text messages are easily deleted, so to give it back to Jernigan would jeopardize any evidence contained within the phone.

"Ferrell's cell phone contained text messages referring to purchases of gallons and half gallons and questions about how much each would cost. In 2009 I was part of a team that executed a search warrant on Ferrell's residence, which at the time was on Old Pumphouse Road. Large amounts of marijuana were located in the residence in gallon ziploc bags.

"Ferrell had managed to delete all of his text messages except for one that he had sent during the traffic stop, which went to Angelia "Angi" Heisler (Ferrell's girlfriend/wife) and in that text message, Ferrell told Heisler that he and Jernigan had gotten pulled over. After the 2009 raid, Heisler admitted that she knew of Jernigan's illegal activities.

Jernigan's phone contained rather detailed conversations between Jernigan and Brian Tramel as well as Jernigan and Ferrell, who was listed as "Casper" (Farrell's well know nickname.)

"From reading the messages, it was ascertained that Brian Tramel, who lives at Cannon Manor (which is where Jernigan pointed earlier and said that was where they were headed), had ordered an amount of marijuana from Jernigan. Tramel complained about the cost of the marijuana and and insisted that it better "weigh" because he had scales. Jernigan, in turn, got into contact with Ferrell to get the marijuana. Jernigan told Ferrell that he did not have the money and wanted Ferrell to front the marijuana and in return Jernigan would leave his debit card and keys to his truck.

"Ferrell asked if he could go with Jernigan. Jernigan asked Tramel if that was OK and he said it was. There were other text messages with other people asking Jernigan about getting "green" and weed as well as "tabs." It would also seem that this may be a common business relationship between Jernigan and Ferrell who, according to texts, would meet at Iconium Church to exchange money for drugs.

"Sgt. House and I searched the vehicle for further evidence and found none. The vehicle, which belonged to Erica Ramey, was towed. I transported both subjects to the sheriff's department. It was there that I notified them both I was seizing their money ($1,041-Ferrell, $46-Jernigan) as well as their cell phones.

"When offered an opportunity to give me a statement, Ferrell refused and Jernigan looked at me and said something to the effect of, "Man, you got the phones and you know what is going on." He went on to admit they were delivering the marijuana to Brian Tramel.

"Given the fact Ferrell was recently convicted of selling marijuana and given probation and now had gotten caught doing it again, I contacted Chief (Tony) Burnett to let him know of the situation and the liklihood that more drugs would be found at Ferrell's residence (which Ferrell insisted that he could not remember his own address). Agent Jason Wilkerson with the TBI was contacted and he met with myself and Chief Burnett at the Police Department. We were able to get in contact with Ferrell's probation officer, Shelley Christian, who agreed to meet with us at the Police Department. Christian was able to provide Ferrell's address.

"A decision was made to make a home visit with the probation officer. Deputy Tommy Barker brought Ferrell to the Police Department so that he could be at home with us as we searched. Deputy Barker (with Ferrell), Agent Wilkerson, Chief Burnett, Probation Officer Christian and I went to 695 Old Prospect Road and conducted a search of the common areas of the house, Ferrell's bedroom, as well as the bedroom of his children.

"It should be noted that by the time we got to the home, a few hours had passed since I had conducted the stop and Ferrell was able to contact his girlfriend/wife and let her know of the traffic stop. Heisler was not at home, nor were her and Ferrell's children. The only person there was Ferrell's roommate Claude "Hal" Purvis Jr. Nothing illegal was found during the home visit. Purvis also stated that the only vehicle that Ferrell and Heisler have is an older Ford car which has a damage right, front fender.

"While the other officers finished the search, I spoke with Purvis. He stated that up until two weeks ago he had a job and wasn't really sure of Ferrell's activities. However, he did state that during the last two weeks, he would see that Heisler get up each day and go to work while Ferrell stayed at home and kept the kids. He stated that he had no knowledge of a steady source of income for Ferrell.

"On Aug. 27 I met with THP K9 handler Gary Myers a Pelham's, which is where the Toyota was being held pending the investigation. Myers stated that if marijuana had been smoked in the vehicle, that the K9 would probably pick up on that. As he walked the dog around the car, the dog alerted at each door of the passenger compartment, passing up on the trunk, wheel wells, and other common hiding places. I was able to speak with Ramey on the phone. She stated that Jerigan asked to borrow her vehicle to go to the store and that she had no idea it was being used to deliver marijuana. Without further reason to seize the vehicle, I contacted Pelham's and released the hold placed on it.

"On the 26th, I charged both Jernigan and Ferrell with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver/sell and Jernigan with the additional charge of driving on a suspended license. On the 27th, I charged them both with criminal conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance. As of the 27th, Ferrell and Jernigan both had bonded out of jail.

"At 0400 hours on the 28th, (CCSD) deputies (Eric) Moss and (Matt) Parsley went to 695 Old Prospect Road to attempt to find Ferrell, but no one answered the door. When I gave the deputies the description of the vehicle that Heisler and Ferrell use, they stated that it was not there. It would seem that Ferrell, knowing of a violation of probation warrant and jail time, has went on the run. Deputies Moss and Parsley arrested Jernigan on the conspiracy warrant at approximately 0500 hours on the 28th.

"On the 28th I went to the apartment of Brian Tramel to try to obtain a statement. No one answered the door. While I was there, the apartment manager came over. As she approached me, a female tenant there came to the apartment manager and told her there was a drug bust on the street below (Old McMinnville Road). That tenant also said that the "kid on the top floor" (referring to Brian Tramel) was going and asking any person around if they had a police scanner and that he needed a police scanner. After not being able to make any contact with Tramel, I returned to the police department and attempted twice to call Tramel. Tramel did not answer and there was not an option to leave a voicemail."

Ferrell's bond was set at $2,500 and his initial court appearance is Sept. 14. Jernigan was released on $12,500 bond and his initial court date is also Sept. 14.
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