VALPARAISO — Prosecutors have dropped the high-level felony charges against four Fort Wayne residents who claim the 10 pounds of "white flaky substance" found in their vehicle last month was soy wax and not methamphetamine.
The action was taken after state police received an inconclusive field test result and left the substance in the car unbeknownst to prosecutors, according to Porter County Prosecutor Brian Gensel.
By the time prosecutors learned this week that the substance was left behind, the vehicle had already been reclaimed from the tow yard and, along with it, any opportunity to carry out conclusive testing, he said.
Indiana State Police spokeswoman Sgt. Ann Wojas had the same understanding of the events.
"We never took it," she said of the substance in question.
The defendants were charged with two high-level felony counts of dealing in methamphetamine — one carrying a potential sentence of 10 to 30 years behind bars and the other carrying a potential of three to 16 years, according to court documents.
Gensel said the charges were filed based on the first of two field tests done, which returned a positive result for methamphetamine. A second, more thorough, field test returned inconclusive results, so the officers left the substance behind.
Each of the defendants still faces low level drug charges, he said.
The higher-level charges were dropped a day after prosecutors agreed in court to reduce the $15,000 cash bonds on the defendants to $2,000.
The reduction was pursued by defense attorney Bob Harper, who argued on behalf of his client, Jessica Jones, 25, for quicker testing of the substance in question and for a bond more in line with the possibility that it is candle wax.
"The defendant tried to explain to the officer that the material was bought for approximately $20 from Amazon and in fact contained a soy wax which was used for making candles," according to the motion Harper prepared on Jones' behalf.
Harper said Tuesday he was happy for Jones and the others.
"This could have gone on for months," he said.
The other defendants in the case are Shawn Williams, 39; Cassandra Rigg, 25; and Michael Mavrides, 30.
The four were arrested following a traffic stop Sept. 14 in the parking lot of AJ's Pizza Co. just east of Ind. 49 near the access point to the Indiana Toll Road in Chesterton, according to the charging documents.
Police said they found a scale and hypodermic needles in the vehicle, a plastic bag containing a white substance and a metal bucket containing the plastic bag with 10 pounds of a "white flaky substance."