Marshall County Prosecutor Nelson Chipman announced Friday the conviction and sentencing of Thomas Willis. Willis, 51, with a Delphi address, was convicted on June 10, 2020, in Marshall County Superior Court No. 1 on one count of Dealing Methamphetamine as a Level 2 Felony. Chief Deputy Prosecutor Tami Napier and defense counsel, Paul Stanko, tried the case to Judge Robert Bowen.
On August 11, 2019, Deputy Blake Bennett of the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department was on routine patrol at the intersection of US 31 and State Road 10. Willis, along with two other individuals, Kevin Weber and Kelsey Fleming, were traveling southbound on US 31 when Deputy Bennett noticed that the vehicle’s license plate lights were not illuminated. Upon following the vehicle, Deputy Bennett observed the vehicle make an improper lane change and proceeded to conduct a traffic stop.
The vehicle came to a stop south of 19th Road. Deputy Bennett had Weber exit the driver’s side of the vehicle and placed Weber near the front of the patrol car. Deputy Bennett approached the vehicle a second time and had Willis exit from passenger’s side.
Before Fleming exited the vehicle, Deputy Bennett found a clear, plastic bag containing a crystal-like substance on the ground under the passenger’s side door of the vehicle. In an effort to conceal the plastic bag, Willis dropped it on the ground and kicked it underneath the passenger-side door while exiting the vehicle. The crystal-like substance in the plastic bag field-tested positive for methamphetamine. Lab testing revealed that the substance was 28.03 grams of methamphetamine.
The State through Chief Deputy Tami Napier also charged Willis as being a habitual offender and a trial on the habitual offender enhancement was held on July 9, 2020. Judge Bowen found that Napier met the burden of proving that Willis is a habitual offender based on his two prior, unrelated felony convictions out of Elkhart County. Following the habitual offender trial, Judge Bowen immediately sentenced Willis. Judge Bowen sentenced Willis to 30 years in the Indiana Department of Correction on the Level 2 Dealing Methamphetamine as well as an additional 10 years for being a habitual offender. The 30 year sentence must be served first and then Willis must serve the 10 year sentence.
The prosecutor for the case, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Tami Napier, commented, “Deputy Bennett’s alertness, training, and experience prevented a drug dealer from using Marshall County roadways as a means of transporting, distributing and selling methamphetamine. Willis is a habitual offender who, despite previous attempts at rehabilitation, continues to break the law. Willis had a fair trial on the merits and Judge Bowen sentenced Willis accordingly.”