COSHOCTON — As authorities continue to discuss possible charges in relation to stolen goods at a local scrapyard, the married couple who lived there were in court Monday for arraignment on drug charges.
Howard Berger, 44, and Rhonda St. John-Berger, 33, both of Newcomerstown, pleaded not guilty during separate arraignments in front of Coshocton County Common Pleas Judge Robert Batchelor. Scheduling conferences for trial will be at 2 p.m. May 27 for both.
Berger recently was indicted by a grand jury on one count of trafficking in drugs, a third-degree felony; one count of trafficking in drugs, a fourth-degree felony; and one count of aggravated trafficking in drugs, a first-degree felony.
St. John-Berger was indicted on one count of aggravated possession of a controlled substance, a second-degree felony.
The couple were arrested and charged with aggravated trafficking in drugs April 3 by the Coshocton County Sheriff’s Office. An undercover drug buy led authorities to the scrapyard, where 40 grams of methamphetamine was found.
In addition, firearms, cash and property that had been reported stolen, including vehicles from several counties and other states, were recovered.
More charges are possible in connection with the case, as the sheriff’s office is conducting interviews and working with the Coshocton County Prosecutor’s Office after the recovery of more than $500,000 in stolen property from R&Z Cores scrapyard, 22375 Oxford Township Road 105.
Batchelor quipped St. John-Berger’s file was a little thick, which “is never a good sign.” She played with a necklace she wore as she answered Batchelor’s questions. She left the court before Berger’s hearing.
Berger appeared jovial, laughing as he didn’t understand Judge Batchelor’s order to sit at the defendant’s table and later smiled as Batchelor asked him whether he had any money that would allow him to hire a lawyer.
Berger will be represented by Coshocton County Public Defender Jeff Mullen, and St. John-Berger by Robert Weir, as appointed by the court.
Berger remains incarcerated at the Coshocton County Justice Center on a $100,000 cash or surety bond. St. John-Berger was released April 24 from the jail after paying $500, or 10 percent of a $5,000 bond.
This was the second time her bond was reduced and paid. Previously, St. John-Berger was caught trespassing at the scrapyard and returned to the justice center after she was directly told not to go there by authorities. She was found with a blue duffel bag containing clothes and no contraband, the sheriff’s office said.
According to court documents, she is staying with a relative in Dover. Provisions of her second release included a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, random drug testing and electronic monitoring.