Charges accusing man of exposing children to drugs dropped by state

Photo: Steven Ray Gauger

A number of major charges against a Mountain Home man, including exposing young children to illegal drugs, have been dismissed by the state.

One of the charges against 28-year-old Steven Ray Gauger is introducing drugs into the body of another, a Class Y felony, the most serious crime in Arkansas not punishable by death.

Prosecutors say after police went into the home occupied by Gauger and 30-year-old Samantha Simpson and conducted a welfare check on four children living in the house, they should have stopped, secured the premises, and obtained a search warrant to proceed with any further examination of the house. The evidence collected in the home would, in all probability, have been inadmissible at trial.

Photo: Samantha Simpson

It all began in late February 2019 when Gauger and Simpson were arrested when Mountain Home Police officers were sent to a residence along Meadowbrook Drive shared by the couple to check on the well-being of four young children living there.

The officers found conditions so bad the children were removed and placed in the custody of the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS). Simpson and Gauger were ordered not to have contact with them except through DHS staff.

According to the probable cause affidavit, drug tests were run on all of the children – ranging in age from 2-to-8-years-old. All of the youngsters tested positive for marijuana in their systems and three for methamphetamine.

When police first went to the residence on Feb. 20, 2019 they were unsuccessful in making contact with anyone. They tried three times the next day. On the third attempt, Simpson let officers into the house.

Simpson said Gauger had barricaded the front door and refused to answer when officers made previous attempts to complete the welfare check.

She said she was able to invite police in because Gauger was not at home, having taken his two children to the doctor. Two children were in the residence at the time.

Officers reported smelling the odor of marijuana as soon as they entered the home. As they were being taken to a bedroom where the two children were, they saw numerous articles of drug paraphernalia used for the ingestion of marijuana and methamphetamine in plain sight.

According to the probable cause affidavit, the interior of the home was in disarray, with clothes, trash, a pile of dirty dishes and old food on the counters and floor.

The officers found the two children who were in the home lying in separate beds. They appeared to be ill.

Officers said an open purse belonging to Simpson was in the children’s bedroom, and a glass container of suspected marijuana could be seen in the purse.

After seeing the condition of the children and the home, officers contacted both the Department of Health and Human Services and the criminal investigation division of the Mountain Home Police Department.

The officers reported glass smoking pipes used to ingest drugs were found in spots accessible to the young children in the home.

When police interviewed Gauger, he admitted to knowing about the marijuana in the house, and said he was aware of Simpson’s alleged addiction to methamphetamine.

Gauger faces other criminal charges.

He was arrested just 21 days after the dawn of the new year when a Baxter County Sheriff’s deputy was called to an address along County Road 467 to check on a suspicious person who had been at the residence.

The caller told the deputy a man in a silver colored van came to his residence “acting strange,” and the caller provided the vehicle’s license plate number.

While he was still in the area, the deputy received another call of a person in a silver colored van at an address along County Road 37. The resident told the deputy a man had come to his residence trying to sell firewood. The homeowner said he declined, and the person left.

The victim went inside the house for a short time and, when he returned outside, he saw two chainsaws were missing from his front porch. The saws had an estimated value of almost $700, according to the probable cause affidavit.

When a check of the license plate was made, it was reported registered to a member of Gauger’s family. A photo of Gauger was shown to the two people who had made the suspicious person reports, and they both identified Gauger as the person they had encountered.

A deputy went to Gauger’s known residence along Maple Leaf Trail where he was reported to live in a camper trailer parked on property owned by another person.

The deputy located Gauger and the silver colored van at the camper trailer. Gauger was questioned about several recent thefts in the area, including the two chainsaws missing from the front porch of one of the suspicious person callers. He claimed not to know anything about the saws.

But, Gauger’s story began to unravel when the deputy saw a canoe and a flat bottom boat on the property matching the description of items reported stolen from an address along County Road 36.

When Gauger was asked about the watercraft, he said he needed to speak to his attorney.

The canoe and flat-bottomed boat were traced to the theft along County Road 36. The victim said his family’s home had recently been lost to fire, and he had been going to the site to retrieve property. During those trips, he had discovered the canoe, flat-bottomed boat, tools and other items missing from the yard of the burned-out home and two storage sheds located on the property.

Photo: Joshua Carson

A “known associate” of Gauger’s, 34-year-old Joshua Carson, has also been arrested and charged with aiding the Mountain Home man.

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