A Texas County man will spend the rest of his life behind bars, a judge ruled.

Two West Plains residents were sentenced in federal court Friday for their roles in a conspiracy to distribute large amounts of methamphetamine in Howell, Greene and Texas counties.

Shirley J. Hicks, 64, and Shaun M. Ross, 44, both of West Plains, were sentenced in separate hearings before U.S. District Judge Stephen R. Bough. Hicks was sentenced to 20 years and one month in federal prison without parole. Ross was sentenced to six years in federal prison without parole.

Hicks, the leader of the conspiracy, and Ross each pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in Howell, Greene and Texas counties from Dec. 31, 2015, to June 21, 2019. Hicks also pleaded guilty to possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.

When law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Hicks’s residence on July 24, 2018, they found a red toolbox inside a shop/barn that contained six bags with a total of 5.627 kilograms of pure methamphetamine. Inside a bedroom closet in the house, officers also found 12 bags with a total of 243 grams of pure methamphetamine inside a black leather bag, and a blue waterproof box that contained 122.892 grams of pure methamphetamine.

During the search, officers also found five handguns in the toolbox and five more firearms in the house. Officers also seized a total of $20,393, which Hicks admitted was proceeds from her distribution of methamphetamine.

Two days later, law enforcement officers were conducting surveillance and saw Ross visit Hicks’s house. Officers conducted a traffic stop afterward and searched Ross’s vehicle, where they found a zippered bag that contained 17.69 grams of methamphetamine, a small bag of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. After Ross was arrested, he told investigators that he purchased methamphetamine from Hicks for $600 per ounce, which he then distributed to others. Ross said he had been getting two or three ounces of methamphetamine from her each month for several months.

Four were earlier sentenced. Two others await sentencing.

Agencies working on the investigation in this area were the Missouri State Highway Patrol and South Central Drug Task Force.

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