The feds are cracking down on an East Texas meth ring that’s believed to have united the Aryan Brotherhood and unidentified African-American street gangs. And in an unusual twist, a federal prosecutor has singled out a group of white women as the possible leaders of the operation, which could be connected to two recent execution-style murders.
“It’s unusual. We’ve got women [at the top of the indictment],” John Malcolm Bales, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas, said at a press conference Monday.
“It’s an unfortunate expression of girl power,” he added.
Bales announced charges against 17 people in drug-trafficking cases that have plagued Longview, a city of 80,000 about 130 miles east of Dallas. Among them were 29-year-old Haley Still, 39-year-old Courtney Crim-Gross, and 36-year-old Gena Elizabeth Rowley.
One suspect, James Lamar Fountain, 34, is still at large, KLTV reported.
According to one indictment, Still and Crim-Gross, along with eight others, allegedly possessed and conspired to distribute methamphetamine beginning in January 2014. Another male defendant, Timothy Paul Morales, was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.
One woman, Gloria Aguilar, was charged with using, carrying, and possessing a firearm during and in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime. Her charge was “dismissed without prejudice due to the defendant’s medical condition,” court records show.
Meanwhile, in a second indictment, six people—including Gena Elizabeth Rowley—were charged with conspiracy to possess meth with the intent to distribute it. Some of the suspects face additional charges, including federal weapons charges and possession with intent to distribute meth and crack cocaine.
Prosecutors believe some of the 17 suspects are affiliated with the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas but would not identify which ones.
Jason Cassel, an attorney for Haley Still, told The Daily Beast there’s no indication she’s a member of the Aryan Brotherhood or related hate group. “I would be surprised if that was the case with respect to her,” he said.
“It may be jumping the gun to say they’re active members [of the Aryan Brotherhood or a gang] or involved in anything like that,” Rowley’s attorney, Reeve Jackson, told The Daily Beast.
Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney Bales said at the press conference that authorities were also exploring whether any of the women had connections to the “featherwoods”—a term indicating female skinheads in prison or the girlfriends or wives of white supremacist gang members.
“Honestly, ABT [Aryan Brotherhood of Texas] says that they’re white supremacists and the African Americans have their views or whatever. It’s all one color when it comes to drugs. It’s green, it’s money. and so they somehow happen to have alliances for that,” Bales said.
The probe used confidential informants, search warrants, and traffic stops to seize more than 15 firearms and 560 grams of meth, believed to have been made in industrial-grade labs in Mexico, the Longview News-Journal reported.
Bales also told reporters two recent execution-style murders were likely drug-related and asked for the public’s help in solving them. It was unclear, he said, if any of the arrests would lead to intel on the killings.
“I want to speak to the level of violence we’re seeing in Gregg County and appeal to the folks who will see these reports, either read them in the newspaper or see them on television,” Bales said at the presser. “We need your help.”
Kristie Brian, the Longview Police Department’s public information officer, said Bales was referring to the deaths of Dekeilen Joe Nelson, 20, and Kevin Lorenzo Stephenson, 28. Their bullet-ridden bodies were found near railroad tracks in March, the Longview News-Journal reported.
Some of the alleged traffickers were friends on Facebook and lashed out against the charges on the platform, where at least one user shared white pride images.
In one October 2015 post, Courtney Crim-Gross shared a black-and-white flyer for the American Freedom Party—a white nationalist political party—reading, “White pride doesn’t mean hate! It’s ok, you can say it! I’m proud to be white!
“There is no need to feel guilty because of the past! If that offends you, your (sic) racist,” the poster continues before adding, “Why can’t pro-white rights organizations exist without being labeled ‘racist’?”
In January, she accused someone of calling her a snitch. “AS SOON AS ONE MFR OUT HERE CAN SHOW ME PAPPER WORK WHERE I SNITCHED ON ANYONE and u can’t if u do its fake and u know it THEN SHUT THE FUCK UP …” she wrote on Facebook.
That month, Crim-Gross also requested people donate to fellow suspect, 34-year-old James Todd Harrington, referring to “JT.”
“If u owe JT $ ( I have a list) please bring to me or go put on his books ASAP n let me know somehow,” she wrote.
Another of Crim-Gross’s co-defendants in the case, Jason Ray Ragan, 26, commented on a January post, saying, “Were going to prison … we aint dead yet babe.”
One month later, Crim-Gross asked for “prayers” during a court appearance.
“Keep ya head up featherwood,” a friend replied.