MOUNT CARMEL - An Ashland man charged earlier this month with drug offenses following a vehicle stop in Locust Gap was released from prison on unsecured bail several hours after waiving his right to a preliminary hearing Wednesday.

James Anthony Fetterolf, 25, of 1835 Walnut St., was set free after Magisterial District Judge Hugh Jones agreed to modify his $50,000 cash bail to unsecured supervised bail.

Fetterolf, who was represented by county special conflicts counsel Sue Schwartz, waived felonies of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and criminal conspiracy, and misdemeanors of possession with intent to use a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance.

The defendant thanked the judge for modifying his bail and briefly talked to his mother, Cindi Fetterolf, after the hearing. Cindi Fetterolf, who patiently waited in the lobby for the legal proceeding to begin, spoke with arresting officer David Stamets Jr. of Mount Carmel Township police prior to the hearing and conferred with Schwartz afterward.

Jones ordered Fetterolf to appear for plea court at Northumberland County Courthouse in Sunbury April 28.

A co-defendant, Joseph Francis Boblick, 34, of 136 Railroad St., Locust Gap, wasn't as lucky as his friend when Jones denied a request from assistant public defender Paige Rosini to modify his $50,000 cash bail and recommitted him to the county jail.

Boblick waived to court the same charges filed against Fetterolf and additional offenses of driving under the influence of a controlled substance and unlawful activities.

He was ordered to appear for a pre-trial conference April 4 at the courthouse.

According to a criminal complaint, Stamets was on routine patrol in the 100 block of Railroad Street in Locust Gap Feb. 10 when he observed a dark blue Subaru Impreza STI owned by Aaron Profit, who is wanted for a felony warrant of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance.

Stamets watched three men who entered the vehicle leave the village and drive east on Route 901.

Stamets identified the driver as Boblick, who was wanted on domestic incident charges. Fetterolf and David Pellowski, of Mount Carmel, were later identified as the passengers, police said.

When Stamets pulled the vehicle over near Patterson Hardscape and Supply Co., he noticed Boblick was moving and shifting around in the vehicle.

Boblick was made aware that he's wanted on the domestic incident charges and was told to exit the vehicle. Boblick handed the car keys to Stamets and informed the officer the car belonged to Profit.

Police said Boblick refused to submit to chemical blood testing.

When Stamets put the keys in the ignition, he noticed a glass tube with a broken end and brown tar-like substance inside the tube.

Kulpmont Police Chief Michael Pitcavage, who assisted with the incident, saw a glass crack pipe sticking out from Fetterolf's right jeans pocket. Pitcavage said he found a 10-pack bag of needles, five hypodermic needles, a pipe containing burned and unburned marijuana, a black change purse containing six bags of heroin and a bag of bath salts in Fetterolf's other pockets.

Another bag of heroin was found in Fetterolf's pocket when he was searched at the police station, police said.

The complaint stated that four bags of heroin, four empty bags, a pink plastic bag containing white powder and another small clear bag were found on Pellowski, who has not yet been charged in the ongoing investigation.

Stamets said additional charges will be filed in the case.

Ice slows transport

Boblick and Fetterolf were among five inmates from the county prison transported to and from their hearings by Mount Carmel Township Police Chief Brian Hollenbush and Mount Carmel Chief of Police Todd Owens.

It took the chiefs approximately 2 1/2 hours to pick up the prisoners in Sunbury and travel to Mount Carmel due to icy road conditions caused by sleet. Their trip was further delayed by accidents on Route 54 in Ralpho Township and the intersection of Routes 61 and 54 in Strong (see separate stories).

Owens and Hollenbush voiced their frustration over transporting inmates to their hearings, especially in inclement weather.

"This is nonsense," lamented Hollenbush. "It took us 2 1/2 hours to get here."

Owens added, "I don't feel comfortable assuming liability for the borough, township or prisoners in the event we get in an accident. We have the proper infrastructure in place now to have hearings via video and I think we should use that resource more often, especially during snow or ice storms."

Owens said he plans to discuss with Jones the possibility of conducting more hearings by video.

Defendants have a right to go before a judge in person for their arraignments and hearings, but they can also elect to have them done by video.