SOMERSET – The sharp eye of a Pulaski County woman has resulted in the arrest of fugitive wanted by Operation UNITE for more than two years.
Paula Barrier Edwards, 43, of Regency Road, Lexington, was taken into custody in Lexington on Saturday, February 10, after being spotted at a Kentucky Basketball Academy tournament.
Somerset Assistant Chief Anthony McCollum was coaching a Somerset team participating in the tournament when a parent of one of his players approached him.
“She said she had gone onto UNITE's website a couple days earlier and recognized the lady” sitting in the packed arena as a most wanted fugitive, McCollum said Wednesday. “When the lady walked by (Edwards) she just gasped.”
“We had Internet access there so we went on the website and checked,” McCollum added. “Sure enough it was her.”
McCollum then contacted the UNITE detective who had worked the original case to verify that there was an outstanding warrant. He approached a Fayette County deputy sheriff who was at the game and the deputy arrested Edwards without incident on a charge of first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance.
The case against Edwards dates back to September 2004, when she sold a quantity of OxyContin to a police informant working in Wayne County. She was indicted by a Wayne County Grand Jury on November 17, 2004.
UNITE officials said they had been able to track Edwards to Fayette County before the trail went cold.
When UNITE launched its new website in May 2006, Edwards was among the Top 10 fugitives to be listed. With Edwards’ arrest all but two of the original most wanted suspects have now been arrested.
“The website has proven a very useful tool to our law enforcement efforts,” said Karen Engle, executive director of UNITE. “Not only have we had people call telling us where to find fugitives, we have also had people see their names and turn themselves in.”
McCollum said he did not know why Edwards was at the basketball tournament, but noted a Wayne County team was one of the participants.
On Tuesday Edwards was transported from the Fayette County Detention Center to the Wayne County Detention Center where she was being held in lieu of a $100,000 cash bond. She is expected to appear for arraignment on Tuesday, February 20.
To view a list of other most wanted fugitives, or to obtain more information about Operation UNITE, visit their website at www.operationunite.org.
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In 2003, Fifth District Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (R-Somerset) worked to create Operation UNITE, a regional anti-drug initiative empowering citizens groups and community leaders in 29 southern and eastern Kentucky counties. UNITE, which stands for Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment & Education, seeks to fight the drug epidemic by expanding drug awareness and education programs to keep people from using drugs; coordinating drug treatment and outreach programs for those who are already addicted; and operating regional undercover law enforcement task forces for interdiction and prosecution of those dealing drugs. Rogers has directed $33.1 million in federal funds to the counter-drug initiative over the past three years. For more information contact Karen Engle toll-free at 1-866-678-6483.
Drug Tip Hotline – 1-866-424-4382
Treatment Referral Hotline – 1-866-90-UNITE (1-866-908-6483)