Two to stand trial in illegal mushroom bust

Published 11:19 am Wednesday, February 27, 2019

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

COLUMBIANA – A Bessemer man and an Alabaster man are set to stand trial on a multitude of drug charges in April, according to scheduling documents recently filed in Shelby County Circuit Court.

In mid-February Circuit Court Judge William Bostick scheduled jury trials for 25-year-old Alabaster resident Thomas William Anderson and 30-year-old Bessemer resident Walter Clarence Stewart IV for the week of April 8.

Both suspects must appear in court for plea dates on March 18.

A Shelby County grand jury in May 2017 returned a seven-count indictment against Stewart, upholding one felony count of trafficking marijuana, four felony counts of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, one felony count of possession of a controlled substance and one misdemeanor count of possession of drug paraphernalia.

Trafficking marijuana is a Class A felony, and is punishable by up to life in prison upon conviction, according to Alabama law. Unlawful distribution of a controlled substance is a Class B felony, and carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison upon conviction, according to Alabama law.

A grand jury in February 2017 returned a three-count indictment against Anderson, upholding felony counts of trafficking marijuana and possession of a controlled substance and a misdemeanor count of possession of drug paraphernalia.

On Aug. 11, 2016, Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force investigators executed a search warrant on a residence in the 200 block of Fran Drive in Alabaster. While at the residence, investigators discovered “an elaborate laboratory used to harvest psychedelic mushrooms and prepare them for sale,” according to Task Force Commander Lt. Clay Hammac.

“During the search of the residence, nearly 44 pounds of psychedelic mushrooms containing psilocybin were seized, along with more than 4 pounds of high-grade marijuana, multiple firearms and more than $25,000 in cash,” Hammac wrote in a release at the time of the arrests.

Hammac said Task Force investigators allegedly determined the marijuana seized at the house was purchased from Colorado, California and Oregon.

In addition to Anderson and Stewart, Task Force members also apprehended 31-year-old James Michael Hipp, 36-year-old Behn M. Wartenburg and 20-year-old Gabrielle Elyce Gunn. As of Feb. 27, Hipp nor Wartenburg had been indicted on any charges. The charges against Gunn have since been dropped.