A regional drug trafficking investigation spread into Warren County on Thursday when several agencies searched for a Middletown man wanted on a charge of felony narcotics trafficking.
Marqui Conley, 26, of the 800 block of 17th Avenue, is considered armed and dangerous, FBI spokesman Todd Lindgren said Thursday night.
Conley allegedly is part of a violent criminal organization based in Middletown believed to be involved in at least three unsolved homicides, officials said. Federal and local law enforcement agencies executed nine search warrants Monday in Middletown, Miamisburg and Dayton.
At the conclusion of the search warrants on Monday, federal authorities arrested Benwan Edwards, 25, of Middletown. He was charged with drug trafficking and he’s in the Butler County Jail waiting for U.S. Marshals.
Three others were charged with felonies and Middletown Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw said more arrests are expected.
Then on Thursday, law enforcement agencies searched for Conley in Springboro, but they were unable to locate him.
Middletown Division of Police Maj. Scott Reeve said he was forwarded a Snapchat message allegedly written by Conley. In part it read, “Now time to log off snap and get low!! Catch me if you kan!!!!!!”
Reeve said Conley has turned the investigation and manhunt into “a game.” But because police have a description of Conley and know he has ties to Middletown, Hamilton, West Chester Twp., Dayton, Cincinnati, Columbus and Toledo “it’s just a matter of time” before he’s arrested, Reeve said Friday afternoon.
The last thing police want is for there to be a vehicle chase with police and an innocent person get injured, Reeve said.
“So many of these guys and their stupidity shooting at each other innocent parties end of getting hurt,” Reeve said.
On Thursday, a “pretty quiet” Springboro neighborhood was filled with SWAT vehicles, snipers and police officers, said Ethan Saling, who lives next door to where law enforcement searched for Conley.
He said officers were looking for a white Mercedes, and the vehicle was found parked in the garage. Saling said he had never seen the Mercedes before because the garage door is rarely open.
Neighbors were told to stay inside and lock their doors, and Saling’s girlfriend, who was at home at the time, was told to leave until the area was clear, he said.
He was “surprised” by the allegations made toward Conley. He had never seen Conley before police showed him a picture.
He is approximately 5 feet 11 and 175 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes.
Anyone with information about Conley is asked to call the FBI at 513-421-4310 or the local police.
Conley has a lengthy criminal history and served five years in prison for involuntary manslaughter.
He has been charged 25 times in Middletown since 2016, according to court records. He was charged with aggravated trafficking in drugs in 2017, twice for drug abuse-marijuana and seven times for window tinting. He’s scheduled to appear May 28 in Middletown Municipal Court for window tinting.
In 2011, Conley, then 18, was sentenced to five years in prison for killing a man he intentionally ran down with a car. He pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the death of 20-year-old TaShawn Smiley as part of a plea deal before a Butler County grand jury could consider a murder charge against him.
Common Pleas Judge Andrew Nastoff gave Conley the maximum sentence.
Middletown police said Conley was driving a green Chevrolet Malibu when he ran over Smiley, who was riding his bicycle, on June 19, 2010. Conley, then 17, sped away but was arrested later based on evidence taken off the car and charged in January. His case was bound over from county Juvenile Court so he could be tried as an adult.
Before handing down the sentence, Nastoff noted that Conley, even at his young age, had a violent past that included a robbery charge. Nastoff also noted that Conley, after killing Smiley, continued to drive without a license.
WHIO-TV reporter Molly Koweek contributed to this report.
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