7 students arrested in drug raid at SCSU

Published: Thursday, March 12, 2009
By Rachael Scarborough King and William Kaempffer, Register Staff

NEW HAVEN — A months-long police investigation into an alleged drug ring on the Southern Connecticut State University campus culminated Wednesday in the arrest of seven Southern students, authorities said.

All the students arrested were placed on interim suspension, according to the university.

SCSU police and officers from the Statewide Narcotics Task Force executed a search-and-seizure warrant on a university-owned townhouse at 188 Pine Rock Ave. in Hamden at about 7 a.m. Wednesday. Police said they seized 242 pills of a narcotic prescription painkiller, with an estimated street value of $12,000, along with about $3,500 worth of marijuana, $900 in cash, cutting agents and packaging materials.

The arrests took place at the back of a campus housing complex made up of blocks of two-bedroom townhouses. The area is mainly home to upperclassmen, students said Wednesday.

Mary Kate Sullivan and Jody Burns, both SCSU seniors who live across a parking lot from the townhouse, said they watched events unfold Wednesday morning as unmarked cars pulled up and officers with a drug-sniffing dog entered the apartment. They were both surprised, and had not suspected that any drug activity was taking place, they said.

One of the students, Terrance Cramer, is a community adviser in the complex, they said, a position that entails some supervisory duties. Sullivan said Cramer had previously done “room checks” in her apartment to make sure there were no illicit substances or large amounts of alcohol.

“He comes in to make sure everything’s legal; meanwhile, we should have gone to check his room,” she said.

Sullivan described the morning’s events as “really nerve-wracking.”

“You see three of your peers being taken out in handcuffs,” she said. “We’re in college; we’re not thinking that there’s no drug’s going on or drinking, but for something that massive to occur…”

Arrested Wednesday were Blaire Dawson, 18, of Trumbull; Patrick Benjamin, 22, of Hamden; Christopher Marullo, 19, of Greenwich; Connor Heney, 18, of Weymouth, Mass.; Donte Blackmon, 18, of Hamden; Odarius Turner, 23, of Teaneck, N.J.; and Cramer, 24, of New Haven.

Campus police began investigating alleged drug sales last October and asked for assistance from the State Police Narcotics Task Force. Detectives working undercover infiltrated the drug ring and made a series of controlled purchases, according to the state police.

Two additional arrest warrants have been issued, but have not been served yet, the state police said Wednesday.

University officials said the incident was serious.

“Ensuring that our campus remains a safe and healthy learning environment for all of our students is obviously an issue that we take extremely seriously,” SCSU President Cheryl J. Norton said. “We have a zero-tolerance policy regarding the sale and use of drugs on our campus.”

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