Charges dropped in indictment naming error

By Dean Wright -

GALLIPOLIS — Charges were recently dropped against Cynthia Russell, 53, of Bidwell, due to a naming error in a previous law enforcement investigation.

According to Gallia County Prosecutor Jason Holdren, he moved to dismiss charges against Russell without prejudice as she was named in recent indictments erroneously as a suspect by the investigating agency.

Russell’s indictments of trafficking in heroin and possession of heroin have since been dissolved.

“Our job is to pursue truth and justice,” said Holdren. “When we know something has gone awry, it’s imperative that we correct it and that we get to the bottom of it and fix the issue. In this case, we dismissed this matter immediately and we will be taking additional steps to clear Ms. Russell’s name from searchable databases and that sort of thing.”

As part of a 2014 Gallia-Meigs Major Crimes Task Force investigation, the recent 2018 indictment led from the task force investigation into the activities of a Bidwell resident, Misty Baird.

“When you look back at these cases, Misty Baird sold drugs,” said Holdren about charges to which Baird eventually pleaded guilty. “As is the case, oftentimes, when someone sells drugs, they’re not always the person that makes actual transaction. They might set the deals up or might orchestrate the business but not be person (to make a transaction). It was learned that back in 2014, that Misty’s mom (was reportedly) identified as a person helping her traffic in drugs.”

Holdren said that if one looked back at a previous police report date, the task force was just a few months old at the time as well as under a different prosecuting administration. The same Russell recently indicted was named in the previous 2014 report.

“She was misidentified as Misty Baird’s mom in 2014 by the Gallia-Meigs Major Crimes Task Force,” said Holdren. “Misty goes to prison, gets out of prison and begins selling drugs again. We jump forward to our newer case. A confidential information buys drugs from Misty Dawn Baird, but Misty doesn’t show up to sell the drugs. The CI reports it’s an older woman. At that time, a photograph is shown to this confidential informant. The CI says ‘Yes, that’s the person that sold me the drugs’ and that eroneous identification in 2014 carried through to 2017 and say this older woman is Misty Baird’s mom. That’s who was identified back then.”

Holdren said the agent who had previously made the identification was no longer with the task force, not necessarily due to recent events, but that he had moved onto other efforts in the past. He stressed the task force was only a few months old during the incident in question.

“The task force is a major crimes task force,” said Holdren. “They don’t solely deal with drug cases, but that’s the vast majority of their cases. They deal regularly with confidential informants in both counties.”

As an example, the task force has handled cases which dealt with suspected prostitution in the area and other efforts.

Holdren stated the purpose of the task force was to serve as a tool against organized crime efforts.

“Task force helped with the Rothgeb case where we had (convicted three individuals of abuse of a corpse charges),” said Holdren. “Most of their cases are drug cases. As bad as this is, and misidentifying someone and indicting someone erroneously based on a law enforcement misidentification is inexcusable, it shows we are human. Of the hundreds of cases they process every year, this is the same task force that has worked hundreds of drug cases where we have had favorable results and our community is better for the work they do and the dealers we get off the street.”

Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-02342, ext. 2103.

By Dean Wright