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Jury finds local man guilty on drug charges

Sunday, December 23, 2001

BENTON - Former Sikeston resident Lawerance Strickland, 26, was convicted by a jury of two felony counts of selling crack cocaine Monday, according to Paul R. Boyd, assistant prosecutor for Scott County.

The jury returned the two guilty verdicts after approximately 20 minutes of deliberation, according to the prosecutor's office.

Strickland was convicted on a class B felony of selling crack cocaine on Oct. 14, 1999, to an undercover officer who testified that Strickland sold him five individual "rocks" of crack identified by David Nanneman, highway patrol chemist, as .59 grams of crack cocaine.

A second sale on Oct. 19, 1999, to the undercover SEMO Drug Task Force officer resulted in a class A felony of trafficking cocaine in the first degree charge as the amount, 2.19 grams, was over two grams.

A recording made by the officer during the Oct. 19 sale was played for the jury. The recording included negotiations on the price of cocaine, discussions of possible sales of methamphetamine and the promise by Strickland that he would sell 3.5 grams of crack cocaine, according to the prosecutor's office.

Strickland's alibi of being in Hannibal and not Sikeston in October 1999 was refuted by the state's presentation of Sikeston Department of Public Safety Officer Mark Vavak who investigated a traffic accident that Strickland was reportedly injured in on Oct. 20, 1999.

During closing argument, Boyd, who prosecuted the case on the state's behalf, asked the jury to give Strickland a sentence they thought was appropriate to send a message to Strickland and like-minded individuals who think dealing drugs is a way to make a living.

The jury recommended a total sentence of 15 years - 10 for the trafficking charge and five years on the sales charge.

"The jury did a good job of sorting through the facts and recommending a sentence of 15 years for Strickland's illegal acts," said Boyd. "A sentence of 15 years is a good sentence for someone selling a little less than three grams of crack cocaine. Prior to this, Strickland did not have any prior felony convictions."

Boyd was assisted by Gregory B. Spencer, assistant prosecutor. Strickland was represented by attorney Jim Green of Sikeston.

Strickland is also facing additional charges in Hannibal involving the illegal use of firearms, armed criminal action and assault with a deadly weapon from allegedly being involved in a drive-by shooting into an automobile on July 9, 2000.