Charges arise from drug deals at jail

Vanessa Thielking

Vanessa Thielking is in trouble again.

In 2018 the 27-year-old Batesville woman pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine and was serving the remaining 113 days of her sentence in the Ripley County Jail, where the current investigation started.

Since she was released from jail, a case was filed May 28. Thielking was charged with conspiracy to deal in methamphetamine and attempt to deal in methamphetamine, Level 2 felonies; conspiracy to commit possession of meth and attempt to commit possession of meth, Level 3 felonies; and aiding, inducing or causing dealing in methamphetamine, a Level 4 felony.

This third case apparently took more time to investigate than the last one, although those incidents actually happened most recently.

Confused yet?

ln early February, Indiana State Police Detective Howard "Chip" Ayers initiated an investigation into numerous alleged illegal acts that occurred between late August and early October 2018 within the jail, according to a probable cause affidavit filed Aug. 6 in Ripley Circuit Court.

The investigation began after an incident in the early morning hours of Oct. 7, 2018, at the jail, where Dalton McCutchen and Phillip Mourey were working as trustees (inmate workers).

The duo were seated in the laundry area as part of their duties, said Ripley County Sheriff's Department jail administrator Deputy Robert Curl in a written report submitted to the court.

"McCutchen suffered the apparent opioid overdose, which was subsequently reported to jail staff via the closed-circuit intercom system" by Mourey. The RCSD investigation discovered Mourey had initially removed items from a table and secreted them in a ceiling vent before summoning medical assistance from the facility staff. A later review of closed-circuit video surveillance footage conducted by the jail staff documented the inmate's actions, and the items were located by jail officials.

The ISP detective learned Mourey had begun a romantic relationship with Thielking. "This relationship was possible due to Mourey's ability to move about the facility with relatively little supervision due to his assignment as a trustee and on more than one occasion was physical in a sexual nature. This movement was more pronounced in the overnight hours when jail administration was not present at the facility. This sexual relationship began in approximately mid to late July ... and continued" until her Aug. 23, 2018, release.

The pair "remained in contact and continued their relationship through the inmate call system, computer message program and clandestine meetings the pair would arrange on the jail grounds," according to the affidavit. "It was during these various encounters that Mourey and Thielking established a network by which they began to traffic various items into the Ripley County Jail, including, but not limited to, methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana and tobacco ..."

A review was conducted of transcripts of jail electronic messages and recorded calls. The court document noted, "These various communications revealed a sophisticated system by which various contraband and controlled substances were being trafficked into the facility by the pair and were being distributed" during Mourey's tenure as a trustee. That status was revoked after the overdose incident and Mourey was transferred to the Dearborn County Law Enforcement Center, Lawrenceburg.

These communications showed arrangements were discussed about numerous wire transfers and drug purchases. "These communications, as is common in controlled substance type dealings, frequently used code words in an attempt to avoid detection by authorities who might be monitoring the system(s)," according to Ayers. Investigators learned Mourey and Thielking also sent letters to each other, using a Batesville post office box.

On April 16, a search warrant to find the letters was served at 406 W. Catherine St., Batesville, where a three-ring type binder was located that contained a large number of handwritten letters to Thielking from Mourey. Portions of several letters alluded to the ongoing trafficking of controlled substances at jails in Ripley and Dearborn counties.

Letters from Thielking to Mourey were also seized under the warrant by jail staff.

During the home's search, Thielking was asked and agreed to another interview with the detective. A video recorded interview was conducted at the Batesville Police Department.

Thielking told Ayers she had transported methamphetamine to the Ripley County Jail on at least two occasions and delivered it to Mourey, who had made arrangements for her to buy the drugs in Ohio.

"On one occasion, she described the amount to be approximately the size of a golf ball," the court document stated. Ayers estimated that amount of meth to exceed 10 grams.

When questioned, the woman admitted she traveled to Batesville and Greensburg to complete cash and wire transfers and ATM and gift card deposits.

Thielking was charged with 12 felonies in a document filed in Ripley Circuit Court July 29: conspiracy to commit dealing in methamphetamine amount 10 or more grams and dealing in methamphetamine amount 10 or more grams, Level 2 felonies; conspiracy to commit dealing in a narcotic drug, dealing in a narcotic drug, conspiracy to commit trafficking with an inmate (two counts), trafficking with an inmate, conspiracy to commit bribery and attempted bribery, Level 5 felonies; conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice, conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering, Level 6 felonies.

At the Aug. 5 initial hearing, Patrick Magrath, Madison, was appointed as her counsel and bond was set at $25,000 cash.

In a court document filed Aug. 1, Ripley Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Sharp was appointed special judge in Ripley Circuit Court for Thielking's case after Ripley Circuit Court Judge Ryan King recused himself July 30.

Thielking, who already was in the Ripley County Jail awaiting a Nov. 19 trial, has pretrial and final pretrial hearings set for Sept. 10 and Dec. 16, respectively. A jury trial for these 12 charges has been scheduled for Jan. 21, 2020, at 9 a.m.

Debbie Blank can be contacted at debbie.blank@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.