A former Franklin County man described as the leader of a major drug trafficking ring will serve 27 years in prison for his role in a conspiracy that resulted in the murder of another drug dealer, authorities said.  

Detectives with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and the Franklin County Narcotics Enforcement Unit were instrumental in investigating the case of Andreus O’Bryant, 26. 

O’Bryant, who pleaded guilty last August to conspiracy to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine, was sentenced Tuesday to 330 months in federal prison by U.S. District Court Judge Audrey G. Fleissig after a two-day hearing.

He is the third and final defendant sentenced in the conspiracy that included the murder of Jamie Benson, 28, of Houston, Texas, in St. Louis on April 22, 2011. 

Scott Alan Compton, formerly of Washington, was sentenced to five years in prison and Lodgy Jackson of Texas received a 33-year sentence in the federal case, the U.S. attorney’s office reported.  

County drug task force officers initiated an investigation that identified O’Bryant as the ringleader of an operation that started out distributing large amounts of marijuana in Franklin County and adjoining areas, then later began trafficking in cocaine and crack cocaine, according to Washington Detective Darrell Balleydier who was assigned to the task force at the time. 

Balleydier said O’Bryant was a “smart” operator who insulated himself by employing associates to handle actual drug transactions.

“He had built up a hierarchy. He kept his hands clean. He was smart,” Balleydier commented. 

At the time of the drug investigation, O’Bryant was living in Washington and also spending time in the New Haven and Union areas, Balleydier said. 

While officers here were compiling information in the drug investigation, St. Louis City police were investigating the murder of Benson, whose body was found dumped in an alley. He had been shot once in the head. 

 “It started out as a regular drug distribution case, but ended up in murder,” Detective Sgt. Jason Grellner, task force commander, said. 

Amtrak Connection

Grellner said as the investigation progressed, detectives here learned that at times it involved transporting drugs between Washington, Kirkwood and St. Louis areas. 

O’Bryant had a unique way of transporting the drugs, the detective noted. 

“He was traveling on Amtrak to Kirkwood and St. Louis to avoid being stopped in a vehicle with large amounts of drugs,” Grellner said.

As the murder investigation progressed, St. Louis police and the task force began sharing intelligence information and learned that Benson had been murdered in a vehicle that O’Bryant had rented. 

That and other information led Balleydier to question O’Bryant’s girlfriend who lived in the Union area. While talking with her he received permission to look in the garage where it was suspected that O’Bryant had washed out the vehicle in which Benson had been shot.

Balleydier said he then called in Detective Lt. Chuck Subke, chief of the sheriff’s office detective bureau, to assist in obtaining blood samples which were found to match Benson’s blood. 

St. Louis police, meanwhile, had located the rented vehicle and obtained additional evidence, Balleydier said. 

The Murder

The U.S. attorney’s office said O’Bryant and his co-defendants had lured Benson to this area on the pretext of purchasing drugs from him, but actually intended to rob and murder the man. 

Authorities said Jackson shot Benson with a gun provided by O’Bryant, then the three dumped the man’s body. 

“O’Bryant and others undertook significant efforts to coverup the conspiracy and destroy evidence of the crime,” according to a press release from the U.S. attorney’s office. 

O’Bryant fled the area when he learned later that he was named in the federal grand jury indictment and remained at large for almost a year until a special task force consisting of local, state and federal officers took him into custody at a home near Houston, Texas. 

In addition to St. Louis police and Franklin County detectives, officers with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the U.S. Marshals Service, St. Charles County and O’Fallon police departments investigated the case.