Asheville man lost eye in wreck at Lenoir fire station

Aug. 27, 2014 @ 11:13 AM

A man who crashed a car into the Lenoir Fire Department building downtown while fleeing drug investigators in October will serve 18 to 23 years in prison.

Ryan Oneal Jeffries, 38, of Harmon Circle in Asheville also was ordered to pay $700,000 in fines. Jeffries appeared to smirk when told how much he now owes.

Jeffries, wearing a black eye patch because he lost his right eye from injuries in the crash, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Caldwell Superior Court to three counts of trafficking in opium, one count possession with intent to sell and deliver cocaine and fleeing to elude arrest, all felonies. He originally was charged with nine counts of trafficking in opium, possession with intent to sell or deliver cocaine, failure to stop for blue lights and siren, driving while license revoked, reckless driving to endanger, and speeding to elude arrest.

Undercover officers had bought drugs from Jeffries — morphine, crack, oxycodone and hydrocodone — three times before moving in to arrest him on Oct. 8, 2013, right after the third undercover drug buy, Assistant District Attorney Dawn Tutterow said in court.

The first was on Sept. 16, 2013, when an undercover officer had arranged to meet Jeffries and his girlfriend, Vanessa Snyder, 32, of Nebo, in the parking lot of the McDonald’s on Harper Avenue about 10 p.m., Tutterow said. Jeffries decided to move inside the restaurant after seeing police cars, and inside the bathroom he sold the undercover officer 28 morphine tablets for $375.

Nine days later, on Sept. 25, an undercover officer met Jeffries and Snyder in the parking lot of Quest 4 Life on Morganton Boulevard, Tutterow said, where Jeffries handed Snyder two baggies filled with 70 hydrocondone pills, 20 oxycodone pills and 38 grams of morphine. Snyder then gave it to the officer for $420.

Shortly before noon on Oct. 8, Jeffries and Snyder met undercover officers in the parking lot of Lowe’s Home Improvement on U.S. 321 and sold them 58 doses of morphine, 55 doses of hydrocodone, 20 doses of oxycodone and 10.9 grams of crack, Tutterow said.

Afterward, Tutterow said, Jeffries drove his 2003 Chrysler Sebring out of the parking lot and turned north onto U.S. 321. Two Lenoir police patrol cars fell in behind the Sebring as it passed through Smith’s Crossroads. Jeffries noticed the marked police cars and suddenly pulled into the parking lot of Burger King, then drove out the other side of the parking lot and turned right onto Wilkesboro Boulevard, headed west. Officers turned on their blue lights and sirens as Jeffries passed through the intersection, and Jeffries turned into the Rite Aid parking lot, went through the lot and back on to Blowing Rock Boulevard, swerved around several cars and back onto Harper Avenue going west and sped away. By the time police caught up to him, Jeffries had crashed the Sebring into the fire station, where it plowed into a bay and hit a 35,000-pound fire truck with enough force to knocked it backward a few feet.

Police found pill bottles and a large amount of cash on the floorboard of the car, Tutterow said.

Snyder, bleeding, was pulled from the car’s passenger side window. After her injuries were treated, officers found

almost 4 grams of cocaine concealed in her genitals, a court official said.

Jeffries, who was slumped over unconscious in the driver’s seat with severe injuries, eventually was flown to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte in critical condition. 

Jeffries was supposed to go into physical rehabilitation after his release from the hospital in late October, but he did not, and Lenoir police were not told he had been released. Police arrested him Nov. 7 at a gas station in Black Mountain.

Jeffries previously had been convicted of numerous felonies, including traficking in a Schedule II controlled substance in 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2010, speeding to elude arrest, indecent liberties with a child and armed robbery in 1997, and failure to register as a sex offender in 2009, according to the N.C. Division of Adult Correction.

Snyder is scheduled to appear in court this week. She is charged with six counts of trafficking in opium by possession, sales or transportation, maintaining a vehicle for a controlled substance, and possession with intent to make, sell and deliver cocaine, all felonies.