By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
A Curry County Detention Center officer was arrested Tuesday and charged with attempting to smuggle marijuana and other contraband into the jail.
Damien Pardue, 29, told police he was smuggling the marijuana and contraband into the jail for inmate Byron Logan, according to police reports. Logan, 25, pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree murder in district court. The murder charges were not related to the drug smuggling.
Pardue told investigators he snuck packages left by Logan’s wife from the parking lot into the jail in the cargo pockets of his duty pants. He said he thought the packages might contain narcotics based on the way they felt, but he never opened them.
Pardue is charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana and conspiracy to bring contraband into jail.
Pardue told police he agreed to the arrangement to “keep the inmates off his back and to keep them from doing anything to him or his family if he did not,” court records show.
Also arrested Tuesday was Yvonne Logan, 28, on charges of distribution of marijuana, conspiracy to distribute marijuana and conspiracy to bring contraband into jail.
She was released on bond.
Byron Logan, held at the jail since Sept. 10, 2004, was also charged with criminal solicitation, conspiracy to distribute marijuana and conspiracy to bring contraband into jail.
A monitored telephone conversation Friday between Byron Logan and his wife led to the arrests, court records show. A search by Clovis Police Department detectives revealed a package containing marijuana, tobacco, a cigar and a lighter tucked on top of a tire on a vehicle belonging to Pardue.
Lt. Jim Schoeffel, Clovis Police Department public information officer, said drugs entering the jail has been a longtime concern.
“This was not the first we’d heard of drugs getting into the jail. We and the Curry County Sheriff’s Department have been looking at the issue, but this was the first time we had anything solid that we could look at,” Schoeffel said.
He declined to say how long police believe Logan had been getting contraband in the jail, citing an ongoing investigation.
When police investigators realized what they were dealing with, they contacted the sheriff to involve him in the investigation, Schoeffel said.
The detention center falls under the jurisdiction of the Curry County Sheriff’s office.
Sheriff Roger Hatcher said the arrests and involvement of a guard did not come as a surprise.
“We know drugs are getting in. It’s common in all detention centers — the guards are the ones with free access in and out. It’s a problem and it’s something that has to be dealt with,” he said.
A confidential informant, whom the district attorney’s office asked not be identified for safety reasons, met with police and the district attorney on March 6 and gave information detailing the drug exchanges, court records show. Based on the information received, detectives began monitoring Logan’s phone calls from jail.
District Attorney Matt Chandler said getting drugs and other contraband items out of the jail has been a top priority for his office for some time.
“We have been working very closely with the lead detective in this case in regards to which charges to pursue,” he said.
Logan, accused of killing Clovis’ Tony Parker in 2004, was scheduled to go to trial on Monday in the murder case. Instead, he agreed to plead guilty to the charges against him and to serve the maximum punishment — 16 years in prison.