Dozens arrested after months-long operation


Delaware State Police this week revealed the results of a months-long operation designed to proactively impact violent crime in Sussex and Kent counties.

The effort, dubbed “Operation In the House,” entered the planning stages in February and targeted subjects allegedly participating in an organized criminal enterprise. Members of the network were believed to be active participants in racketeering, murder, home-invasion robbery, illegal weapons possession and the distribution of illegal narcotics, according to police.

Officially begun March 17, the operation involved the DSP Troop 4 Major Crimes Unit, Delaware State Police Homicide Unit, Sussex County Drug Unit and the Delaware Department of Justice, which organized and conducted the operation with the assistance of the Sussex County Governor’s Task Force, Kent County Drug Unit, Kent County Governor’s Task Force, the Delaware State Police Special Operations Response Team (SORT), Drug Enforcement Administration–Dover Field Office (DEA), U.S Marshals, Delaware Department of Corrections, Dover Police Department, Georgetown Police Department and the Philadelphia Police Department.

During the operation, police said, investigators used numerous investigative techniques to identify members involved in violent crime and the distribution of large amounts of cocaine and heroin in Kent and Sussex counties.

Through the investigation, police said, detectives were able to establish that Steven Kellam, Rhamir Waples, Richard Robinson, Shamir Stratton, Damon Bethea and Carlton Gibbs operated in a criminal network that targeted specific victims for home-invasion robberies. The victims targeted by the organization were believed to be involved in the distribution of illegal narcotics.

According to the DSP, the suspects planned and committed numerous home-invasion robberies with the goal of obtaining illegal narcotics and cash from the victims and would conceal their identities by donning clothing items over their faces and then make forced entry into the home of the victims and use firearms to commit robbery.

During one of the home-invasion robberies, two victims were shot and killed, and during another, one victim was wounded during an exchange of gunfire.

Arrests were made in relation to crimes dating back to January of 2014, when Cletis Nelson and William Hopkins were shot and killed during a home-invasion robbery in a residence located on Harmon’s Hill Road in Millsboro.

Kellam, Robinson, Waples, Stratton, Bethea and Gibbs were all charged with the home invasion and murder of the victims. Rachel Rentoul and Jackie Heverin were charged with robbery-related offenses for assisting in the planning of the crime.

Kellam, Robinson and Waples were also charged with a home-invasion robbery that occurred on Russell Avenue in the Oak Orchard area of Millsboro on May 18, 2014. During that robbery, the suspects allegedly pistol-whipped a 24-year-old man.

Additionally, Kellam, Robinson and Waples were charged with an attempted home invasion that occurred on Aug. 22, 2014, during which they allegedly kicked in the door of a residence on Chris Drive in Millsboro but fled as the residents blocked the door and called police.

Kellam, Robinson and Waples were further charged with a Dec. 11, 2014, home-invasion robbery on Sandy Drive in Millsboro. During that incident, the suspects allegedly pistol-whipped a 46-year-old man and assaulted a 56-year-old woman.

Kellam, Robinson and Waples were also charged with a Dec. 14, 2014, home-invasion robbery on Cordrey Road in Millsboro. During that incident, the suspects allegedly shot and wounded a 37-year-old man.

Investigation connects violent crimes with drug network

According to the DSP, their investigation also showed that the subjects had relationships with several individuals heavily involved in the trade of heroin and cocaine in Sussex County. Investigators were able to determine that Jackson Vanvorst of Laurel allegedly operated a large distribution network in Sussex County and employed John Richardson, Ray Revel and Cornell Smith in the allocation of the heroin.

Investigators were also able to determine that Angelina Levan and James Johnson of Harrington were allegedly supplying Vanvorst with large amounts of heroin. Vanvorst also allegedly orchestrated a large shoplifting ring in which he would send drug users to steal pre-determined items from numerous department, hardware and groceries stores. Vanvorst would “pay” the individuals with drugs, police said, and he would in turn sell the items for profit in the community.

Investigators were also able to identify several large-scale cocaine dealers through relationships with the individuals involved in the home-invasion robberies, police said.

Australia Mackey of Millsboro was identified as allegedly operating a cocaine network in Sussex County and was allegedly distributing powder and “crack” cocaine to numerous other large-scale drug dealers in Sussex.

Those individuals were identified as Nathan Henry, Aaron Isler, Myricka Sampson, Leondious Gibbs, Corina Lloyd, Samuel Jones, Jermichael Deshields and Thomas Deshields. The investigation determined that Tavon Biles of Rehoboth Beach and Zachery Bates of Smyrna were allegedly supplying Mackey with large amounts of cocaine. All of the suspects were charged with numerous drug-related charges.

The first phase of Operation In the House ended during the first week of May 2015. The operation ended with the execution of 25 search warrants at various locations throughout Kent and Sussex counties. At that time, 30 individuals were indicted by a Sussex County Grand Jury.

As a result of the investigation, quantities of drugs were seized, including: 2,321.7 grams (more than 2 kilograms) of cocaine, 108.03 grams (more than 7,200 bags) of heroin, 7,921.65 grams of marijuana, .02 grams of methamphetamine and 41 prescription narcotic pills. Investigators also recovered and seized $135,310 in cash, 19 firearms and 15 vehicles.

Indictments were obtained June 22 for the suspects allegedly involved in the murders and home invasions, with numerous other indictments also obtained for dozens of suspects in the various crimes. Investigations on several related incidents were still ongoing this week, police said.

“This operation — and these arrests — are just more examples of the remarkable interagency cooperation in and around Delaware that helps protect the public,” said Attorney General Matt Denn. “This is another example of law enforcement agencies working together to take criminals off the street, this time in a major operation in Sussex County.”

“This investigation targeted violent criminals and drug traffickers that were part of an organized criminal enterprise operating in Kent and Sussex County,” said Col. Nathaniel McQueen Jr., superintendent of the Delaware State Police.

“This criminal enterprise was responsible for several serious violent crimes and the importation and distribution of heroin and cocaine throughout the state of Delaware. The arrest of these suspects will have a significant impact and will go a long way to improve the quality of life in the affected communities.”

Dozens of arrests made

Arrested as a result of Operation In the House were:

• Steven Kellam, 34, of Dover, on 81 charges, including Murder 1st Degree, Attempted Murder 1st Degree, Racketeering, Home Invasion, Robbery 1st Degree, Attempted Robbery 1st Degree, Possession of a Firearm during the Commission of a Felony (PFDCF), Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited (PFBPP), Conspiracy 1st Degree, Conspiracy 2nd Degree, Reckless Endangering 1st Degree, Tier 4 Delivery of Narcotics and Wearing a Disguise During the Commission of a Felony. He was held without bail.

• Damon Bethea, 30, of Pennsauken, N.J., on 22 charges, including Murder 1st Degree, Home Invasion, Robbery 1st Degree, Attempted Robbery 1st Degree, PFDCF, Conspiracy 1st Degree and Conspiracy 2nd Degree. He was also held without bail.

• Carlton Gibbs, 40, of Millsboro, on 23 charges, including Murder 1st Degree, Home Invasion, Robbery 1st Degree, Attempted Robbery 1st Degree, PFDCF, PFBPP, Conspiracy 1st Degree and Conspiracy 2nd Degree. He was held without bail.

• Richard Robinson, 20, of Philadelphia, Pa., on 81 Charges, including Murder 1st Degree, Attempted Murder 1st Degree, Racketeering, Home Invasion, Robbery 1st Degree, Attempted Robbery 1st Degree, PFDCF, Conspiracy 2nd Degree, Reckless Endangering 1st Degree and Wearing a Disguise During the Commission of a Felony. Robinson was arrested July 3 and, as of mid-week, was incarcerated in a Philadelphia prison pending extradition back to Delaware.

• Shamir A. Stratton, 24, of Pennsauken, N.J., on 22 charges, including Murder 1st Degree, Home Invasion, Robbery 1st Degree, Attempted Robbery 1st Degree, PFDCF, Conspiracy 1st Degree and Conspiracy 2nd Degree. He was arrested July 7 and was being held without bail at Sussex Correctional Institution.

• Rachel R. Rentoul, 30, of Wilmington, on 13 charges, including Home Invasion, PFDCF, Robbery 1st Degree and Conspiracy 2nd Degree. She was released on $65,000 unsecured bond.

• Jackson Vanvorst, 34, of Laurel on 55 charges, including Tier 5 Possession of Heroin, Tier 2 Delivery of Heroin, Tier 4 Delivery of Heroin, Tier 4 Possession with the Intent to Distribute (PWITD) Heroin, Possession of Cocaine, Criminal Solicitation 2nd, Conspiracy 2nd, Delivery of Cocaine, PFBPP, Delivery of Heroin and Possession of Heroin.

• Australia Mackey, 39, of Millsboro on 62 charges, including Tier 5 Possession of Cocaine, Tier 4 Delivery of Cocaine, Tier 4 PWITD Cocaine and Criminal Solicitation 2nd.

• Samuel J. Jones, 34, of Millsboro on 12 charges, including Tier 5 Possession of Cocaine, Tier 4 Delivery of Cocaine, Conspiracy 2nd and Criminal Solicitation 2nd. He was arrested July 3 and committed to Sussex Correctional Institution on $187,500 cash bond.

• Tavon Biles, 32, of Rehoboth Beach on 14 charges, including Tier 5 Possession of Cocaine, Tier 4 Delivery of Cocaine and Conspiracy 2nd.

• Zackary Bates, 31, of Smyrna on three charges, including Tier 5 Possession of Cocaine, Tier 4 Delivery of Cocaine and Conspiracy 2nd.

• Angelina Levan, 46, of Harrington on 15 charges, including Tier 5 Possession of Heroin, Tier 4 Delivery of Heroin and Conspiracy 2nd.

• James Johnson, 45, of Harrington on six charges, including Tier 5 Possession of Heroin, Tier 4 Delivery of Heroin and Conspiracy 2nd.

• John E. Richardson, 30, of Georgetown on seven charges, including Tier 5 Possession of Heroin, Tier 4 Delivery of Heroin, Tier 3 Possession of Heroin, Tier 2 Delivery of Heroin, Conspiracy 2nd and Maintaining a Drug Property.

• Ray Revel, 49, of Laurel on four charges, including Tier 5 Possession of Heroin, Tier 4 Delivery of Heroin, Conspiracy 2nd and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.

• Cornell B. Smith, 31, of Millsboro on five charges, including Tier 5 Possession of Heroin, Tier 4 Delivery of Heroin, Delivery of Heroin and Conspiracy 2nd.

• Thomas Deshields, 36, of Millsboro on 10 charges, including Tier 5 Possession of Cocaine, Tier 4 PWITD of Cocaine, Delivery of Cocaine, PWITD Cocaine, Possession of Cocaine, Conspiracy 2nd and Criminal Solicitation 2nd Degree.

• Jermichael Deshields, 35, of Millsboro on 11 charges, including Tier 5 Possession of Cocaine, Tier 4 PWITD Cocaine, Tier 4 Delivery of Cocaine, Conspiracy 2nd and Criminal Solicitation 2nd.

• Nathan Henry, 31, of Georgetown on 12 charges, including Tier 5 Possession of Cocaine, Tier 4 Delivery of Cocaine, Conspiracy 2nd and Criminal Solicitation 2nd.

• Leondious Gibbs, 29, of Millsboro on six charges, including Tier 5 Possession of Cocaine, Tier 4 PWITD of Cocaine, Tier 4 Delivery of Cocaine, PFBPP and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.

• Aaron D. Isler, 34, of Ellendale on eight charges, including Tier 5 Possession of Cocaine, Tier 4 Delivery of Cocaine, Conspiracy 2nd and Criminal Solicitation 2nd.

• Anthony Hopkins, 53, of Milton on 12 charges, including Tier 5 Possession of Cocaine, Tier 4 Delivery of Cocaine, Conspiracy 2nd and Criminal Solicitation 2nd.

• Corina Lloyd, 40, of Millsboro on eight charges, including Tier 5 Possession of Cocaine, Tier 4 Delivery of Cocaine, Conspiracy 2nd and Criminal Solicitation 2nd.

• Myricka A. Sampson, 33, of Harbeson on 12 charges, including Tier 5 Possession of Cocaine, Tier 4 Delivery of Cocaine, Conspiracy 2nd and Criminal Solicitation 2nd.

• Desirae A. Hammel, 24, of Lewes on two charges, including Tier 4 Delivery of Cocaine and Conspiracy 2nd.

• Perry Butler, 51, of Greenwood on six charges, including Tier 4 Possession of Oxycodone, Criminal Solicitation 2nd, Conspiracy 2nd and Possession of Oxycodone.

• Kevin Worrell, 35, of Lewes on four charges, including PFBPP, Possession of Cocaine, Criminal Solicitation 2nd and Conspiracy 2nd.

• Daniel Godwin, 28, of Georgetown on three charges, including Possession of Heroin, Conspiracy 2nd and Criminal Solicitation 2nd.

• Angela Brown, 43, of Dover on two charges, including Delivery of Oxycodone and Conspiracy 2nd.

• Sheri Chalfant, 52, of Laurel on two charges, including Delivery of Heroin and Conspiracy 2nd.

• Domonique Johnson, 20, of Ellendale on three charges, including Possession of Heroin, Conspiracy 2nd and Criminal Solicitation 2nd.

Murder suspect, others still at large

Arrest warrants were obtained for a number of additional individuals in connection with the investigation who had not been located as of early this week, including one of those charged with murder. They include:

• Rhamir D. Waples, 19, of Philadelphia, Pa., wanted on 81 charges, including Murder 1st Degree, Attempted Murder 1st Degree, Racketeering, Home Invasion, Robbery 1st Degree, Attempted Robbery 1st Degree, PFDCF, Conspiracy 2nd Degree, Reckless Endangering 1st Degree and Wearing a Disguise During the Commission of a Felony.

• Jacquelyn Heverin, 24, of Millsboro on 13 charges, including Home Invasion, PFDCF, Robbery 1st Degree and Conspiracy 2nd Degree.

• Dean R. Zerden, 47, of Millsboro on three charges, including Possession of Cocaine, Criminal Solicitation 2nd and Conspiracy 2nd.

• Thomas Tallent, 29, of Georgetown on three charges, including Possession of Heroin, Conspiracy 2nd and Criminal Solicitation 2nd.

If anyone has any information about the locations of the wanted subjects, they are being asked to contact Sgt. G. Windish at (302) 752-3814. Information may also be provided by calling Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1-800-TIP-3333, via the Internet at www.delaware.crimestoppersweb.com, or by sending an anonymous tip by text to 274637 (CRIMES) using the keyword “DSP.”