Not-guilty pleas entered for Fayette deputy, ex-deputy in gun-theft case

Sgt. Merle McDaniel
Sgt. Merle McDaniel

A Fayette County deputy sheriff and a former deputy waived arraignment Friday on charges related to the theft of guns from the sheriff's office.

Fayette District Judge Joseph T. Bouvier entered not-guilty pleas for Sgt. Merle McDaniel, 55, and former Sgt. Bill Beers, 47.

Neither man nor their attorneys, Edward Thompson and Bryce Caldwell, had any comment afterward.

An internal investigation revealed that guns confiscated by McDaniel and Beers had not been booked into the sheriff's office property vault.

It was later discovered that two weapons had been sold at pawn shops, Sheriff Kathy Witt said Thursday.

McDaniel was charged Thursday with two counts of theft by unlawful taking for failing to book six weapons, according to court documents.

Beers, who resigned from the sheriff's office last week, was charged with three counts of theft by failure to make required disposition after allegedly failing to book eight weapons.

A third defendant, Maj. Chris Tudor, 37, was not in court because he was cited for official misconduct. He is accused of creating a false report to cover up four missing guns, according to court records.

McDaniel and Tudor are suspended without pay as the internal inquiry continues.

Bouvier scheduled a preliminary hearing for June 6. At that time, he will hear evidence to determine whether there is probable cause to send the cases to a grand jury for possible indictment.

At attorneys' request, Bouvier also released McDaniel and Beers from a requirement to wear electronic ankle bracelets that would monitor their movements.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader