Coroner indicted on drug charges

LITTLE ROCK, AR (AP) - The Independence County coroner has been indicted on drug charges along with four other people accused of running a marijuana ring for 12 years.

Coroner Hardy Willis told the Batesville Daily Guard that his van had been stolen from Willis Funeral Home and was later discovered outside Dallas with marijuana hidden in a casket, but that he didn't know anything about the indictment.

The indictment, unsealed last week, accuses Willis and four others of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana from 1997 to 2009.  Others indicted are: 64-year-old James Robert Cruse and 31-year-old Amy Cruse of Bethesda, 64-year-old Mary Jo Andrews, whose address was unknown, and 42-year-old Brian Fulbright of Batesville.

At a hearing Tuesday in Little Rock, Willis pleaded not guilty to the charge and was released on his own recognizance. Trial was set for Sept. 28.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)