BARTHOLOMEW COUNTY, Ind. — Three people have been charged in a Bartholomew County drug investigation that police say involved inmates dumping narcotics at the local courthouse.

According to the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Office, two men and a woman have been arrested and now face various dealing charges in connection to a long-term investigation.

The arrestees were identified by BCSO Sgt. Dane Duke as:

  • Justin Bowles, 41, Columbus, Ind.
    • Conspiracy to commit dealing in a Schedule III controlled substance
    • Possession of a controlled substance
  • Erik Peetz II, 31, Columbus, Ind.
    • Conspiracy to commit dealing in a Schedule III controlled substance
  • Kelsa Burton, 26, Columbus, Ind.
    • Dealing in a Schedule III controlled substance
    • Conspiracy to commit dealing in a Schedule III controlled substance
    • Trafficking with an inmate outside a facility
    • Possession of a controlled substance

The investigation, Sgt. Duke said, began when local correctional officers reported a “suspicious” incident while driving inmates to the courthouse for hearings in their case. The COs, police said, believed inmates were involved in drug trafficking.

“Through the investigation, it is alleged that Burton under the direction of Peetz placed suboxone on the courthouse grounds, which Bowles retrieved in order to transport the narcotics back to the Bartholomew County Jail,” Duke said in a release Wednesday.

At the time of the alleged trafficking incidents, both Peetz and Bowles were already inmates at the county jail.

Online court records show Peetz has pending cases in Bartholomew County for armed robbery, escaping home detention and false informing, although it is not clear what he was being held on at the time of the alleged trafficking incident.

Bowles, meanwhile, currently has pending Bartholomew County cases for both dealing meth and trafficking other controlled substances as well as an invasion of privacy charge. It is not known what charges he was being held on when the alleged dealing at the courthouse occurred.

While Bowles and Peetz were already in police custody when these additional dealing charges were filed, an arrest warrant had to be issued for Burton before she was booked into jail.

Burton, online court records show, has previous marijuana and paraphernalia charges from 2018 in Bartholomew County as well as a 2022 theft charge that was decided in the county. Also, Burton was charged with theft in 2021 in Boone County and meth and paraphernalia possession in Marion County in 2021.

The arrests of Bowles, Peetz and Burton serve as a warning to any other inmates looking to traffic drugs in the county jail, Sheriff Chris Lane said.

“Attempted drug trafficking into the jail is a severe offense, not only because of the criminal charges but also because it endangers the safety and order of the facility,” Sheriff Lane said. “These cases will be thoroughly and aggressively investigated to prevent any future attempts.”

In his release announcing the arrest, Sgt. Duke said local law enforcement will continue to monitor drug activity in Bartholomew County.

“The Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team, a combined unit of the Sheriff’s Office, the Columbus Police Department and the County Prosecutor’s Office, is proactively targeting and monitoring those who seek to traffic illegal narcotics into correctional facilities,” Duke wrote. “This is a preliminary investigation. All persons are innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.”