SNOW HILL – A local man, one of dozens rounded up this summer during area law enforcement’s renewed battle to rid Berlin’s neighborhoods of open-air drug dealing, pleaded guilty last week in Worcester County Circuit Court to distribution of crack cocaine and was sentenced to 10 years in jail.
Terrance Lee Purnell, Sr., 42, of Berlin, appeared in Circuit Court last Thursday to face numerous charges related to his arrest in March for selling cocaine and marijuana to undercover informants on several occasions in the Berlin area. On March 11, for example, Purnell, Sr. sold crack cocaine in an amount large enough to suggest distribution to an undercover detective in the area of Griffin and Georgetown roads.
Again on March 11, Purnell, Sr. sold marijuana to an undercover detective near the same intersection in Berlin. Purnell was not immediately arrested, but was monitored for a time as police built a stronger case against him. On March 22, Purnell, Sr., sold crack cocaine and marijuana to an undercover detective in the area of the Wolf Terrace Apartments in Berlin, this time with his son, Terrance Lee Purnell, Jr., 23, along for the ride.
Purnell, Sr. was later indicted by a Worcester County grand jury on 13 total charges from distribution of crack cocaine and marijuana to simple possession to conspiracy to distribute. Purnell, Jr. was also indicted on a conspiracy to distribute marijuana charge. Last week in Circuit Court, Purnell, Sr. pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine and was sentenced to 10 years in jail.
He was given credit for the 163 days he spent in jail awaiting trial. In November, Purnell, Jr. pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute marijuana and was sentenced to four years in jail, three of which were suspended. The younger Purnell was placed on three years probation upon his release and fined $500.
Purnell’s arrest and subsequent indictment on narcotics distribution charges were just the latest in an ongoing effort to rid Berlin’s neighborhoods of open-air drug dealing. The so-called “Take Pride in Berlin” initiative, formed by Worcester County State’s Attorney Joel Todd, promised more surveillance and arrests and harsher sentences for those found guilty of peddling drugs around Berlin.
While the success of the program will be judged in the long term, several significant sentences have been handed down to convicted dealers in the area. In the month of June, 12 new indictments were handed down by the grand jury.