Robbery, Drugs, Murder: Delaware State Police, DOJ announce 35 arrests in sprawling investigation

From left, the trio police said connected everything else: Kellam, Waples, and Robinson/(Courtesy DSP/DOJ)

A task force made up of state and local police agencies that was investigating a pair of murders during a 2014 home invasion linked members from that excursion to a number of large-scale criminal enterprises operating out of Kent and Sussex counties, authorities announced Thursday, resulting in a total of 35 arrests or issued warrants.

"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."

According to the Department of Justice and Delaware State Police, the murder of Cletis Nelson and William Hopkins--shot and killed during a home invasion robbery at a residence located on Harmon's Hill Road in Millsboro--has been tied to Steven Kellam, Richard Robinson, Rhamir Waples, Shamir Stratton, Damon Bethea, and Carlton Gibbs, who were all charged in connection to the home invasion and murders following the advancement of "Operation In The House."

Additionally, Rachel Rentoul and Jackie Heverin were charged with robbery-related offenses for allegedly assisting in the planning of the crime.

Clockwise from top-left: Tallent, Rentoul, Jones, and Bethea/(Courtesy DSP/DOJ)

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Since that investigation, members of that group have been implicated in a number of other cases as well, and new members of the group have been identified through further investigative methods, police said. Three members in particular, Steven Kellam, Richard Robinson and Rhamir Waples, all face charges in connection to a number of home invasion incidents, listed as follows:

  • A home invasion robbery that occurred in the 28000 block of Russell Avenue in the Oak Orchard section of Millsboro on May 18, 2014. A 24-year-old male victim was pistol-whipped during the incident.
  • An attempted home invasion that occurred on August 22, 2014, in whcih the suspects kicked in the door of a residence in the 27000 block of Chris Drive in Millsboro, but fled when the residents blocked the door and called police.
  • A December 11, 2014, home invasion robbery in the 27000 block of Sandy Drive in Millsboro in which a 46-year-old male was pistol-whipped and a 56-year-old woman was assaulted.
  • A December 14, 2014, home invasion robbery that occurred in the 29000 block of Cordrey Road in Millsboro, during which a 37-year-old male victim was shot and wounded.

Several individuals were heavily involved in the trade of heroin and cocaine around Sussex County and had direct ties to the trio implicated above, police said.

Jason Vanvorst, of Laurel, allegedly operated a large distribution network in the county and employed John Richardson, Ray Revel, and Cornell Smith in distributing drugs. Angelina Levan and James Johnson were Vanvorst's suppliers. Vanvorst was also tied to a large shoplifting ring in which he sent drug users to steal predetermined items from numerous department, hardware, and grocery stores. He'd then pay the thieves in drugs, police said, and then sold the stolen items for profit.

Clockwise from top-left: Stratton, Zerden, Gibbs, and Herevin

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Large-scale crack-cocaine dealers were then identified through the home invasion connections. Australia Mackey, of Millsboro, was identified during police investigation as the operator of a cocaine operation distibution ring, which funneled supplies to other large-scale operations in the region, including Nathan Henry, Aaron Isler, Myricka Sampson, Leondious Gibbs, Corina Lloyd, Samuel Jones, Jermichael Deshields, and Thomas Deshields.

Police said Tavon Biles, of Rehoboth Beach, and Zachary Bates, of Smyrna, were supplying Mackey with large amounts of cocaine for his operation.

Authorities executed 25 search warrants at various locations throughout both counties and 30 individuals were indicted by a Sussex County Grand Jury. During those searches, the following items were recovered and seized:

  • 2,321.7 grams (more than 2 kilograms) of cocaine
  • 108.3 grams (of 7,200 bags) of heroin
  • 7,921.65 grams of marijuana
  • .02 grams of meth
  • 41 prescription pills
  • $135,310 in U.S. currency
  • 19 firearms
  • 15 vehicles

Authorities said all of the following individuals has been arrested and charged with the following crimes. They said not all of the individuals remain in police custody, except for those facing first-degree murder charges, who are held without bail:

  • Steven Kellam, 34, of Dover, facing 81 charges made up of: Murder 1st Degree, Attempted Murder 1st Degree, Racketeering, Home Invasion, Robbery 1st Degree, Attempted Robbery 1st Degree, Possession of a Firearm during Commission of a Felony, Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited, Conspiracy 1st Degree, Conspiracy 2nd Degree, Reckless Endangering 1st Degree, Tier 4 Delivery of Narcotics, Wearing a Disguise During the Commission of a Felony. Held without bail.
  • Damon Bethea, 30, of Pennsauken, New Jersey, facing 22 charges made up of: Murder 1st Degree, Home Invasion, Robbery 1st Degree, Attempted Robbery 1st Degree, Possession of a Firearm during Commission of a Felony, Conspiracy 1st Degree, Conspiracy 2nd Degree. Held without bail.
  • Carlton Gibbs, 40, of Millsboro, facing 23 charges made up of: Murder 1st Degree, Home Invasion, Robbery 1st Degree, Attempted Robbery 1st Degree, Possession of a Firearm during Commission of a Felony, Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited, Conspiracy 1st Degree, Conspiracy 2nd Degree. Held without bail.
  • Jackson Vanvorst, 34, of Laurel, facing 55 Charges made up of: Tier 5 Possession of Heroin, Tier 2 Delivery of Heroin, Tier 4 Delivery of Heroin, Tier 4 Possession with Intent to Distribute Heroin, Possession of Cocaine, Criminal Solicitation 2nd, Conspiracy 2nd, Delivery of Cocaine, Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited, Delivery of Heroin, Possession of Heroin.
  • Australia Mackey, 39, of Millsboro, facing 62 charges made up of Tier 5 Possession of Cocaine, Tier 4 Delivery of Cocaine, Tier 4 Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine, Criminal Solicitation 2nd.
  • Tavon Biles, 32, of Rehoboth Beach, facing 14 charges made up of: Tier 5 Possession of Cocaine, Tier 4 Delivery of Cocaine, Conspiracy 2nd.
  • Zackary Bates, 31, of Smyrna: Tier 5 Possession of Cocaine, Tier 4 Delivery of Cocaine, Conspiracy 2nd
  • Angelina Levan, 46, of Harrington, facing 15 charges made up of: Tier 5 Possession of Heroin, Tier 4 Delivery of Heroin, Conspiracy 2nd.
  • James Johnson, 45, of Harrington, facing 6 charges made up of: Tier 5 Possession of Heroin, Tier 4 Delivery of Heroin, Conspiracy 2nd.
  • John E. Richardson, 30, of Georgetown, facing 7 charges made up of: Tier 5 Possession of Heroin, Tier 4 Delivery of Heroin, Tier 3 Possession of Heroin, Tier 2 Delivery of Heroin, Conspiracy 2nd, Maintaining a Drug Property
  • Ray Revel 49, of Laurel, facing 4 charges made up of: Tier 5 Possession of Heroin, Tier 4 Delivery of Heroin, Cospiracy 2nd, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
  • Cornell B. Smith, 31, of Millsboro, facing 5 charges made up of: Tier 5 Possession of Heroin, Tier 4 Delivery of Heroin, Delivery of Heroin, Conspiracy 2nd
  • Thomas Deshields, 36, of Millsboro, facing 10 charges made up of: Tier 5 Possession of Cocaine, Tier 4 Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine, Delivery of Cocaine, Possession of Cocaine, Conspiracy 2nd, Criminal Solicitation 2nd Degree.
  • Jermichael Deshields, 35, of Millsboro facing 11 charges made up of: Tier 5 Possession of Cocaine, Tier 4 Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine, Tier 4 Delivery of Cocaine, Conspiracy 2nd, Criminal Solicitation 2nd.
  • Nathan Henry, 31, of Georgetown, facing 12 charges made up of: Tier 5 Possession of Cocaine, Tier 4 Delivery of Cocaine, Conspiracy 2nd , Criminal Solicitation 2nd
  • Leondious Gibbs, 29, of Millsboro, 6 Charges - Tier 5 Possession of Cocaine, Tier 4 Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine, Tier 4 Delivery of Cocaine, Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
  • Aaron D. Isler, 34, of Ellendale, facing 8 charges: Tier 5 Possession of Cocaine, Tier 4 Delivery of Cocaine, Conspiracy 2nd , Criminal Solicitation 2nd
  • Anthony Hopkins, 53, of Milton, facing 12 charges: Tier 5 Possession of Cocaine, Tier 4 Delivery of Cocaine, Conspiracy 2nd , Criminal Solicitation 2nd
  • Corina Lloyd, 40, of Millsboro, facing 8 charges made up of: Tier 5 Possession of Cocaine, Tier 4 Delivery of Cocaine, Conspiracy 2nd , Criminal Solicitation 2nd
  • Myricka A. Sampson, 33, of Harbeson, facing 12 charges made up of: Tier 5 Possession of Cocaine, Tier 4 Delivery of Cocaine, Conspiracy 2nd, Criminal Solicitation 2nd
  • Desirae A. Hammel, 24 of Lewes facing 2 Charges - Tier 4 Delivery of Cocaine, Conspiracy 2nd
  • Perry Butler, 51, of Greenwood, facing 6 charges made up of: Tier 4 Possession of Oxycodone, Criminal Solicitation 2nd, Conspiracy 2nd , Possession of Oxycodone
  • Kevin Worrell, 35, of Lewes, facing 4 charges made up of: Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited, Possession of Cocaine, Criminal Solicitation 2nd, Conspiracy 2nd
  • Daniel Godwin, 28, of Georgetown, facing 3 charges made up of: Possession of Heroin, Conspiracy 2nd, Criminal Solicitation 2nd
  • Angela Brown, 43, of Dover, facing 2 charges made up of: Delivery of Oxycodone, Conspiracy 2nd
  • Sheri Chalfant, 52, of Laurel, facing 2 charges made up of: Delivery of Heroin, Conspiracy 2nd
  • Domonique Johnson, 20 of Ellendale facing 3 Charges - Possession of Heroin, Conspiracy 2nd, Criminal Solicitation 2nd

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"This criminal enterprise was responsible for several serious violent crimes and the importation and distribution of heroin and cocaine throughout the State of Delaware," said Colonel Nathaniel McQueen Jr., Superintendent of Delaware State Police. "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. An investigation of this magnitude requires significant cooperation, communication, coordination and resources for all of those involved. "

Arrest warrants have been issued for the following individuals, who have not yet been located by authorities:

  • Rhamir D. Waples, 19, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Facing 81 charges made up of: Murder 1st Degree, Attempted Murder 1st Degree, Racketeering, Home Invasion, Robbery 1st Degree, Attempted Robbery 1st Degree, Possession of a Firearm During Commission of a Felony, Conspiracy 2nd Degree, Reckless Endangering 1st Degree, Wearing a Disguise During the Commission of a Felony
  • Richard Robinson, 20, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Facing 81 charges made up of: Murder 1st Degree, Attempted Murder 1st Degree, Racketeering, Home Invasion, Robbery 1st Degree, Attempted Robbery 1st Degree, Possession of a Firearm During Commission of a Felony, Conspiracy 2nd Degree, Reckless Endangering 1st Degree, Wearing a Disguise During the Commission of a Felony
  • Shamir A. Stratton, 24, of Pennsauken, New Jersey, Facing 22 Charges made up of: Murder 1st Degree, Home Invasion, Robbery 1st Degree, Attempted Robbery 1st Degree, Possession of a Firearm During Commission of a Felony, Conspiracy 1st Degree, Conspiracy 2nd Degree
  • Rachel R. Rentoul, 30, of Wilmington, Facing 13 charges made up of: Home Invasion, Possession of a Firearm During Commission of a Felony, Robbery 1st Degree, Conspiracy 2nd Degree
  • Jacquelyn Heverin, 24, of Millsboro, Facing 13 charges made up of: Home Invasion, Possession of a Firearm During Commissions of a Felony, Robbery 1st Degree, Conspiracy 2nd Degree
  • Dean R. Zerden, 47, of Millsboro, facing 3 charges made up of: Possession of Cocaine, Criminal Solicitation 2nd, Conspiracy 2nd
  • Samuel J. Jones, 34, of Millsboro, facing 12 charges made up of: Tier 5 Possession of Cocaine, Tier 4 Delivery of Cocaine, Conspiracy 2nd , Criminal Solicitation 2nd
  • Thomas Tallent, 29, of Georgetown, facing 3 charges made up of: Possession of Heroin, Conspiracy 2nd, Criminal Solicitation 2nd

Anyone with information on the location of the above individuals is urged to contact authorities at 302.752.3814 or Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1.800.TIP.3333.

Denn also thanks the following organizations or individuals for their assistance in this investigation: The Dover, Georgetown, and Philadelphia Police Departments, the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S Marshalls, Department of Correction Probation and Parole, and the Sussex Correctional Institution, as well as Deputy Attorneys General Martin Cosgrove, Chris Hutchison, and Peggy Marshall