Police chief, officer in Texas town used informant to buy, sell drugs, court documents say

Two Payne Springs officers were arrested for allegedly selling and distributing narcotics collected as evidence.
Published: Mar. 10, 2023 at 1:41 PM CST
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HENDERSON COUNTY, Texas (KLTV/Gray News) - An arrest affidavit sheds new light on the arrests of Payne Springs’ police chief and a police officer after both were arrested on drug charges on Thursday.

According to Henderson County Sheriff Botie Hillhouse, Payne Springs Chief of Police April Dawn Meadows, 37, and Reserve Officer Jonathan Paul Hutchison, 40, were arrested around 11 a.m. Thursday at their respective houses in Mabank.

Hillhouse said his office had received information that Meadows and Hutchison had been dealing drugs previously seized by the Payne Springs Police Department. When deputies executed search warrants at the homes of Meadows and Hutchison, controlled substances were found, Hillhouse said. An additional search warrant was executed at the impound yard of the police department.

Meadows and Hutchison have each been arrested on charges of delivery of a controlled substance and money laundering. Hutchison and Meadows’ bond amounts are $1.5 million for each charge.

According to an affidavit, in February, a confidential informant gave the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office information about the alleged actions of the two after the individual became suspicious of their actions.

The informant had been working with the officer under the premise of assisting in a narcotics investigation, having made controlled buys for Hutchison when Hutchison still worked as a narcotics investigator for the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office.

In 2022, Hutchison and Meadows asked if the informant would begin making methamphetamine purchases, the affidavit stated. The informant told investigators it was at this time that Meadows became much more involved in coordinating the purchases.

The informant said they made an estimated 20 or 30 “controlled buys” for Hutchison and Meadows, though the informant never met with them beforehand, nor did they meet for a direct delivery immediately afterward, the court document states.

To hand off the narcotics, the informant said they would sometimes deliver packages to a mailbox inside a gated community. However, in some instances, the informant said they would go to the Payne Springs Police Department and would observe Meadows place the drugs inside a bag, which would then be sealed and marked as “EVIDENCE.”

The informant said that payment for their services was rendered in cash, though the affidavit states that sometimes Meadows and Hutchison would pay them via CashApp or even provide an amount of marijuana as payment. The informant said marijuana as payment seemed odd, but it was allegedly explained to them that marijuana was now legal.

The affidavit said Hutchison and Meadows were concerned about the quality of the narcotics the informant was purchasing.

In one instance described in the affidavit, Hutchison told the informant that the last two deliveries were “too weak” or “trash,” and that the informant would need to get rid of or sell the narcotics, find better drugs to turn in or return the money.

The informant began questioning the legitimacy of Hutchison and Meadows’ actions when he was told to start buying methamphetamines.

The informant, at the direction of Hillhouse, began to make controlled purchases and deliveries of methamphetamine, as well as money exchanges, to corroborate the information he provided about the officers’ alleged activities.

Investigators said Hutchison’s personal bank records show he used his personal CashApp account to pay the informant a total of $3,000. Likewise, Meadows’ personal bank records also show her personal CashApp account was used to pay the informant more than $1,800.

Cellphone text message data also corroborated the informant’s information, the document said.

Payne Springs is about 60 miles west of Tyler in east Texas.