• 61°

Suspected sexual predator and drug dealer netted

A 63 year-old man is charged with the sexual battery of a five year-old girl and in a separate case deputies, caught a suspect with about seven pounds of marijuana.

The suspect in the sexual battery charge is Ray Joseph O’Conner, 63, of 4001 Glover St., Gulfport, said Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department Chief Investigator Donnie Saucier. Detective Rhonda Poche said the department became aware of the case when the parents of the little girl notified them of the actions by O’Conner, who was a friend of the family.

Saucier said interviews by Poche with the victim and her articulate descriptions of O’Conner’s actions established enough evidence to press charges.

O’Conner is charged with sexual battery of a child under 13 years of age and he is being held in the Pearl River County Jail on a $1 million bond set by Justice Court Judge John Mark Mitchell, Saucier said.

If convicted of the charge, O’Conner could face from 20 years to life.

An unrelated case worked by the department took multiple pounds of marijuana off the streets. The suspected drug dealer was arrested on Friday at about 1 a.m. as investigators conducted a stop on a vehicle driven by Breyone Whitehead, 21, of 163 Whitehead Lane, Carriere. During the stop, Whitehead appeared nervous so K-9 officer Kimball Farmer and his K-9 Scar were called to the scene, Saucier said.

As the K-9 unit surveyed the vehicle, Scar gave an alert to the possible presence of narcotics. Det. Joe Garcia and Farmer searched the vehicle and found about 7.1 pounds of marijuana in the vehicle, Saucier said. Whitehead was charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.

“The proactive manner in which deputies work (has) and will continue to put a serious dent in the narcotics trade in Pearl River County,” Saucier said.

The operation was assisted by the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics. Saucier said he appreciates the continued support of the Board of Supervisors.