EAST FREEDOM - A Blair County man will face trial on drug charges after a search of his home last month by state police.
Chris L. Steele, 38, of 412 Butler Hollow Road, East Freedom, is charged with possession with intent to deliver cocaine, drug possession, possession of a small amount of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
State police said they went to his home on March 11 looking for two drug suspects and uncovered a stash of cocaine and cash. Steele, who is in Blair County Prison, waived his preliminary hearing Thursday before Magisterial District Judge Craig Ormsby.
State police drug investigators found the contraband after Steele gave them permission to search his home, according to Steele's arrest papers.
Police were looking for people who allegedly had sold cocaine to an undercover state trooper, but they had moved, Steele told troopers. When they asked to be let into a locked room, Steele initially said the room contained his landlord's "stuff." After police asked him to get the landlord on the phone, Steele unlocked the door and took police inside.
Inside the room, which had walls adorned with pro-marijuana stickers and T-shirts, police said they saw a locked foot locker on a built-in desk.
When the troopers asked Steele if he had a key to the locker, police said Steele asked if they had a warrant. The troopers told Steele they did not have a warrant for the home. Troopers also told Steele he didn't have to open the foot locker and that the officers could get a search warrant if he didn't, police said.
Steele made the decision to open the foot locker, and once police looked inside, troopers allegedly found drug paraphernalia, including marijuana pipes and seeds, several pill bottles with marijuana, 161 pills, "chunks of cocaine" and $1,161 in cash, court documents state.
The cocaine weighed 16.8 grams, just over a half ounce. Steele allegedly told police he wasn't a drug dealer "but that he helped out friends," Steele's arrest papers stated.
Other pills, an owe sheet, two gas masks used to smoke marijuana, a .22-caliber rifle and a list titled "Altoona's Drug Informants" were also found, police said.
Steele's attorney, Mark Zearfaus, questioned the search of his client's home and said troopers never identified themselves as police officers. He said his client thought they were probation officers and the troopers never provided any identification.
"The search is definitely something we will be contesting," Zearfaus said.