Biggest drug bust in Haywood's history puts a dent in street supply

·4 min read

May 3—The Haywood County Sheriff's Office pulled off one of the largest drug busts in Haywood County history last Friday night following a vehicle chase on I-40 that exceeded 100 miles an hour.

Deputies seized one pound of methamphetamine and 0.7 pounds of fentanyl after eventually apprehending the suspect, who wrecked from a flat tire. The arrest of the suspected drug runner from Asheville will make an immediate dent in the flow of drugs into Haywood County, said Haywood County Sheriff Bill Wilke.

"If you buy, sell or transport illegal drugs, your freedom to operate in Haywood County is over," said Haywood County Sheriff Bill Wilke. "We will find you, charge you and ensure that you spend as much time behind bars as possible. That's a promise."

Wilke said the work to stop the illegal transactions within the county's borders is far from done, however. While the bust took a huge volume of drug supply off the streets, there's now a void other dealers will be trying to fill.

"It will hit the supply, but how much remains to be seen. There is going to be an effect, but the length and extent of that are unknown," Wilke said. "There's a market and people are buying."

That's why Wilke says his administration plans to keep the heat turned up on traffickers.

"We are going to continue to disrupt the market here in Haywood County," Wilke said. "There has to be constant pressure placed on folks trafficking drugs. We will continue these interdiction efforts well into the future."

The major arrest was a result of the ongoing drug enforcement and investigative work, Wilke said.

"There are a number of individuals we have been watching and are continuing to look at," Wilke said. "This event was a result of that effort. We have a very well-developed intelligence network. We've developed that very quickly."

The suspect

Scottie Lee Parham, 30, of Asheville, was charged with two counts of trafficking methamphetamine, two counts of trafficking opium or heroin, possession of a firearm by a felon and felony fleeing to elude arrest in a motor vehicle.

During the arrest, 497.2 grams of methamphetamine and 299.5 grams of suspected fentanyl were seized, along with a Glock handgun.

A 2 milligram dose of fentanyl is enough to be lethal, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. By that math, the bust included nearly 150,000 lethal doses of the opioid.

"The number of deaths that could be associated with that amount of drugs in our community is phenomenal," Wilke said.

Parham's bond has been set at $2.55 million. While the sheriff's office doesn't set bond, Wilke says he is an advocate of larger bonds to keep the public safe and is happy to see the amount Parham is being held on.

"We're pleased to get any kind of bond that keeps a person like this off the street," Wilke said.

Wilke said extenuating factors include Parham being a previous felon, being armed, fleeing from officers at a high speed and the risks to lives posed by that volume of drugs the market makes this crime a violent crime in his eyes.

The chase

The pursuit began in eastern Haywood County shortly before 11 p.m. April 28. Officers in pursuit of Parham traveled along I-40 at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour into Buncombe County. Parham eventually got off at an exit near Biltmore, and then crashed into a light pole right in front Mission Hospital in Asheville.

During the chase, Parham got a flat tire.

"That slowed him down and led to the inability to control the vehicle," Wilke said.

Despite the high speeds, the chase did not pose a significant risk to others on the road given the light traffic on the interstate that time of night.

"There was no exceptional danger to the public," Wilke said.

Wilke said the pursuit was a calculated decision.

"Early on in the pursuit, we made the assessment that the risk was worth it given light traffic and some of the other factors," Wilke said. "Ultimately, that decision was right. There were no serious injuries as a result."

On the other hand, the volume of lethal fentanyl doses Parham alleged had in his possession posed a clear and present danger to the public, Wilke said.

Three deputies in two cars were able to handle the pursuit.

"Our deputies used exceptional judgment and training," Wilke said. "They ensured the safety of the republic as they enforced the law."

The arrest comes as part of Wilke's continued commitment to stopping drug trafficking in Haywood County — which was an integral part of his campaign platform when running for sheriff last year.

Since his term began, the sheriff's office has been posting the trafficking arrests on Facebook once per month. March featured seven such arrests in the most recent monthly update.

Earlier this month, two men were arrested and charged with multiple trafficking charges. That pair remains in the Haywood County Detention Center, along with Parham, on a combined $1.3 million bond.

"I want the message out there that if you're moving drugs, we're going to hold you accountable," Wilke said.

Interim Editor Becky Johnson contributed to this story.