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Woman Accused Of Leading Drug Trafficking Ring Pleads Guilty

June 19, 1985

MACON, Ga. (AP) _ The only woman ever included on the U.S. Marshals’ list of most wanted fugitives, accused of being the central figure in a drug smuggling operation, has pleaded guilty to federal drug conspiracy and tax charges.

Judy Haas McNelis, of White Springs, Fla., pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to import marijuana, tax evasion, escape and the illegal transportation of more than $5,000 in currency outside the United States without filing proper papers.

The maximum sentence on each of the four counts is five years in prison, Assistant U.S. Attorney William Adams of Macon said. U.S. District Judge Wilbur Owens Jr. has not set a sentencing date, Adams said.

Mrs. McNelis was among eight people charged in a 16-count indictment returned in Macon in 1983. She was accused of being the central figure in an operation that smuggled 12,950 pounds of marijuana into the United States and was linked to the murder of an Eastern Airlines pilot.

She was charged with escape after fleeing the Valdosta city jail in July 1983 and was arrested Feb. 23, 1985, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld in May the convictions of four other defendants charged in the case. Among other things, they had argued that the trial court erred when it admitted evidence of the slaying of Frank Marrs, an Eastern Airlines pilot who was on a medical furlough when hired to pilot a drug-laden airplane from Jamaica to Sylvester, Ga.

Marrs was shot and killed in 1980 after he sought payment of about $112,000 from the drug ring for his piloting services, the 11th Circuit said. It said the slaying was carried out at the direction of Mrs. McNelis.

John Parella of Tampa, Fla., pleaded guilty to a charge of second-degree murder in Florida in Marrs’ slaying.

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