Andrews student charged with theft from drug labPublished 9:31am Wednesday, September 30, 2009
ST. JOSEPH – Berrien County Prosecuting Attorney Arthur J. Cotter announced Tuesday that he has authorized charges against 19-year-old Amanda Sheppler for the alleged theft of a quantity of marijuana from the Berrien County Drug Lab at Andrews University.
Sheppler is charged with larceny in a building, a four-year felony, and delivery of marijuana, another four-year felony.
She is an Andrews University student and the granddaughter of a former lab employee, Cotter said in a written statement.
Investigation into this matter began on Sept. 18 when two Andrews students reported to the university public safety director that they overheard Sheppler telling others that she had stolen some marijuana from the Andrews lab, where her grandmother had worked.
On Sept. 21, in a tape-recorded conversation between one of the students and Sheppler, Sheppler admitted that she had, in fact, stolen some marijuana from the Andrews lab.
Cotter said Sheppler was subsequently interviewed by detectives from the Michigan State Police and the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office and confessed to stealing a small quantity of marijuana on three occasions in September.
Sheppler was allowed access to the lab by Chief Analyst Dewey Murdick to use its small food area to eat and to visit.
Marijuana taken from the lab was allegedly given to and smoked with Sheppler’s boyfriend and several other friends.
The police investigation revealed that the marijuana came from a single closed case (i.e., the defendant in that case had already pleaded guilty and been sentenced).
Such evidence would have been destroyed in the next scheduled drug burn conducted by the lab on a semi-annual basis.
The Berrien County Drug Lab at Andrews University was sealed by detectives on Sept. 21 and remains so.
Although Sheppler passed a polygraph and passed it with respect to the limited extent of her theft, Cotter stated, an independent audit will need to be conducted to insure that no other evidence is missing due to the fact that she was allowed repeated access to the lab.
It is not known at this time how long the process will take to complete the audit before the lab can reopen.
This investigation was conducted by members of the Michigan State Police, the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office, the local FBI office, Berrien Springs/Oronoko Township Police Department and the Andrews University Public Safety Department.
“I want to personally thank the members of the law enforcement team who worked on this case and who quickly answered by call for assistance,” Cotter said. “Their professionalism and effectiveness have brought this investigation to a quick resolution.”