New Kensington couple faces heroin charges

| Wednesday, July 3, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

An Arnold couple is facing three felony drug counts and a child endangerment charge because state police say they found 400 packets of heroin inside their apartment last week.

According to police, Shawn Michael Layhew, 34, and his girlfriend Debra Ann Landis, 31, were storing the drugs and paraphernalia, including syringes and packaging materials, where it was accessible to two children living in the home in the 1900 block of Leishman Avenue.

Police arrested the couple following a traffic stop conducted after Layhew drove away from an apartment under surveillance for suspected drug activity.

Layhew admitted to officers that he was among several people who routinely transported heroin for a dealer who lived in the apartment building, according to court documents.

Agents from the state attorney general's office and the Westmoreland County Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Taskforce were conducting surveillance on an apartment located along Fifth Street Extension in New Ken-sington on Thursday, according to a criminal complaint filed to support the charges.

About 4 p.m., according to the complaint, law enforcement saw a Dodge Intrepid arrive and park outside. When the vehicle left about two minutes later, police tailed the driver, later identified as Layhew, with an unmarked police unit.

Police pulled Layhew over near Kenneth Avenue and McCandless Street in Arnold when he made two turns without signaling. His vehicle also had a nonworking brake light.

Layhew told officers he was visiting a friend “Chris” for a few minutes and was headed back to his apartment.

He apologized for the traffic violations and seemed nervous during the traffic stop to the point where he was visibly shaking, police said.

Officers told Layhew that surveillance was taking place at the apartment building and asked him to step out of his vehicle.

Layhew told officers he wanted to cooperate because he has children and is on probation for a drug-related charge.

As he was being patted down, according to the complaint, Layhew told officers he had six $5 bills in his front pocket. He said he received the money for being a “jitney.”

He told officers he was transporting people and drugs for a dealer who lived in the apartment building.

Police say they found 40 stamp bags of heroin under the ashtray in the center console in Layhew's vehicle.

Officers later took Layhew to his apartment, where they saw his girlfriend, Landis, in the front yard.

Two children under age 18 in the apartment “continually” told police officers where the drugs and other materials were, police say. The drug paraphernalia included heroin packing items, syringes, rubber bands, spoons and smoking pipes.

Landis told police that she knew the drugs and paraphernalia were there and that she tried to hide it before officers arrived, according to the complaint.

Layhew and Landis were being held in the Westmoreland County jail on $100,000 bond each.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Wednesday before District Judge Frank J. Pallone Jr.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or

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