SNOW HILL – The latest
significant salvo in area law enforcement’s renewed battle to rid Berlin’s
neighborhoods of open-air drug dealing scored a direct hit last week when a
local man was sentenced to 15 years on a pair of cocaine distribution
convictions, just weeks after a dozen new suspects were indicted by a Worcester
County grand jury.
With a stern warning to
known repeat offenders, Worcester County State’s Attorney Joel Todd and several
local law enforcement agencies in the spring of 2009 launched a renewed effort
to end open-air drug dealing in Berlin. The so-called “Take Pride in Berlin”
initiative promised a multi-pronged effort to rid the communities on Berlin’s
east side of the open-air drug dealing that has been so prevalent for decades.
Todd’s initiative, in
cooperation with several allied law enforcement agencies in the area including
the Berlin Police, the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office and the Maryland State
Police, for example, promised more surveillance, arrests and harsher treatment
for those found guilty. While the success of the program will be judged in the
long-term, several significant sentences have already been handed down for
convicted dealers in the area.
The latest is Rentay
Purnell, 28, of Berlin, who was found guilty on two counts of cocaine
distribution last Thursday by a Worcester County jury. Purnell was indicted on
cocaine distribution charges after members of the Worcester County Narcotics
Task Force were able to purchase cocaine from him on two separate occasions on
March 18, 2009 and April 9, 2009, as part of the “Take Pride” initiative.
After the guilty verdict
was announced, visiting Worcester County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Long
sentenced Purnell to 25 years for each cocaine distribution conviction, all of
which but 15 years was then suspended. Purnell will serve 18 months on
probation following his release.
Purnell’s conviction and
subsequent sentencing came on the heels of what was a busy month of June for
the “Take Pride in Berlin” initiative. Throughout the month of June, a total of
12 more indictments were handed down by a Worcester County Grand Jury,
including another indictment for Rentay Purnell and each of the suspected
dealers have been arraigned and await trial.
Among those indicted
last month for cocaine distribution under the “Take Pride” initiative include
Richard Huffman, 21, Berlin; Tyronn Lawson, 37, Berlin; Charles Lockwood, 55,
Berlin; Terrance Purnell, 42, Berlin; and Rentay Purnell, along with four
suspects from Pocomoke and two from Snow Hill.