A man charged with being the ring leader of the "Hell's Kitchen" meth house and a suspect in the murder of the Monroe County Election Commission chairman was sentenced Thursday to serve 25 years in federal prison.
Wallace Stokes, 40, appeared before Federal Judge Curtis Collier.
During the hearing, TBI Agt. Josh Melton identified Stokes as a suspect in the slaying of businessman Jim Miller in front of "Hell's Kitchen" on Creek Road at Sweetwater.
When the agent denied that he made promises to Stokes after he gave information about the meth operation at his parents' home, Stokes spoke out, "That's a lie. He's a liar." Stokes apologized after being admonished by Judge Collier.
At the time of his sentencing, Stokes turned to Agt. Melton and said, "I hope, Josh, you find out who killed Jim Miller. I hope with all my heart you do. I think it played a big part in all of this."
Agt. Melton, who called Stokes "a very volatile person," said he believes he came forward with the drug admissions "to divert attention away from the homicide."
Jessica Kennedy is the only person charged thus far in the Miller murder. She was found guilty and given a 22-year sentence. Jim Miller was shot three times in the head and his body was placed in the trunk of a car. His vehicle was later set on fire. It is not known why he was at "Hell's Kitchen."
Agt. Melton earlier said at least 15 people were making meth at the property belonging to the family of Stokes, who earlier served time in state prison after being convicted of trying to hire the murder of a TBI agent who was seeking to buy drugs from him undercover and whose cover was blown.
Agent Melton said Stokes got out of state prison in March 2008 and was back involved in drugs within six months. He said he first lived with a girlfriend in Meigs County, then moved to his parents' place on Creek Road after they moved to Florida. He said Stokes then allowed a number of people to use the property to produce large quantities of meth. He said Stokes was given a portion of the produce. The agent said Stokes later began cooking meth himself.
Seven others arrested in the "Hell's Kitchen" operation with Stokes were also sentenced. Melanie O'Connor, 54, and Deveria McCall, 37, who were described as "smurfs" who went out and purchased pseudoephedrine, got 70 months. Judge Collier noted that in some federal jurisdiction "smurfs" are not prosecuted. However, they are in this jurisdiction, and he said half the court's cases are drug prosecutions. He said in some federal jurisdictions that drug cases make up 25-30 percent.
Charles Brown got 92 months and Hank Sherwood 160 months. Shane Runyon, 39, was given 148 months and Joseph Duncan, 32, got 151 months. Raymond Knox received 57 months.
Brown had been facing as high as 137 months, but prosecutor Michael Porter said he gave valuable help to the government that led Stokes to plead guilty.
Brandon "Rooster" Steele, 35, was earlier sentenced by Judge Curtis Collier to serve 135 months. He was also listed as a suspect in the July 2010 Miller killing.
Prosecutor Porter said meth was cooked at the Stokes property for over four years with more than three kilograms produced.
Stokes also said during the hearing, "We all had addictions and we were feeding that addiction."
Judge Collier said it was the most people he has sentenced at any one time.