UPDATE, 8:15 P.M. Monday - Cronin convicted on all counts

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By The Staff

TELL CITY - A jury of seven men and five women returned guilty verdicts on all 20 counts Monday evening in the meth trial of Kenneth Cronin.

The panel began deliberating at 4:40 p.m. and reached a decision in less than 90 minutes. Cronin, 45, showed little emotion as Magistrate Karen Werner read from the verdict forms. He will be sentenced at 8 a.m. April 6 on four Class A felony counts of dealing in methamphetamine as well as lesser charges of possessing the drug and chemicals and precursors used in  manufacturing it. He was also found guilty of possessing marijuana and paraphernalia.

The four Class A felonies carry an advisory sentence of 30 years but Werner could add up to 20 years for aggravating factors. She could order some sentences to be served concurrently, that is at the same time, or consecutively.

In a second phase of the trial, jurors convicted Cronin of two additional offenses of unlawful possession of a firearm. The two charges, which are Class B felonies, were filed because Cronin, in 1998, was convicted in U.S. District Court in southern Illinois of possessing meth with the intent to distribute the drug. Under Indiana law, people judged to be violent felons are banned from possessing firearms. The two firearms charges were filed with the other 20 counts, but could not be considered by jurors until after the first phase of the trial and required a second deliberation. The second phase of the trial lasted about an hour.

Cronin is awaiting trial in two unrelated cases. He was charged in 2006 with neglect of a child and unlawful possession of a firearm after a fatal shooting. Police said Cronin was asleep at his home when his 3-year-old son removed a handgun from a bedroom cabinet and accidentally shot himself.

He was arrested in November 2007 on charges of possessing methamphetamine, marijuana and paraphernalia.

UPDATE, 12:30 P.M. Monday - Jurors to begin deliberation soon

TELL CITY - Jurors will hear closing arguments this afternoon as the 20-count methamphetamine trial of Kenneth R. Cronin nears its end. Deliberations will follow final statements and jury instructions.

Cronin took the stand Monday morning and denied knowing anything about meth, drug-making supplies and a small arsenal of weapons found during police raids last April of his two homes.

Wearing a tie and blue blazer, Cronin said Derrick Stiles, a man he said was once a close friend, was the likely source of the evidence he said was planted in his primary residence on Highwater Road. He said Stiles rented a second home on Aster Road but claims Stiles had access to Cronin's garage on Highwater Road and knew the location of a key to the home.

Cronin faces 20 charges, including four Class A felony counts of dealing in methamphetamine. The trial began last Monday with jury selection. The prosecution wrapped up its portion of the case Friday.

Police searched both homes April 18 after receiving information from Stiles that Cronin was involved in making meth. Cronin was arrested at the Aster Road home with more than $9,000 in his pocket. His wife was arrested at the Highwater Road home. Charges against her were later dismissed.

Cronin said he drove to the Aster Road property to mow grass. He said more than $7,000 came from winnings the previous day at Casino Aztar. He regularly carried about $2,000, Cronin said, which he used to strike bargains for used cars, trucks and all-terrain vehicles.

Under direct questioning by his attorney, Michael McDaniel, Cronin admitted he used meth and marijuana and had bought meth from Stiles. But he denied involvement in making the drug. He said the fumes would have damaged the finishes on vehicles he painted in the garage as part of a car-repair and refinishing business.

Cronin was cross-examined by Perry County Deputy Prosecutor Jason Hoch, who questioned how someone would have had the time to plant meth, drug-making supplies and guns at Cronin's Highwater Road house.

He also asked why Cronin would rent the second home to a man he knew was a meth cook. 

"Because I'm a meth user," he replied. Cronin said he had told Stiles not to make meth at the house on Aster Road.

Police said they found a handgun under Cronin's mattress at Highwater Road and a shotgun in the same spot inside the house at Aster Road. Cronin denied owning any of the weapons. He also denied knowing anything about a metal cylinder hanging from his truck's steering column police testified held meth and cocaine. He said the radio-detection equipment found in a garage at Highwater Road had been purchased at Stiles' request.

Police said the equipment could have been used to detect radio signals from someone wearing a recording device.

Cronin said he had no reason to worry about anyone wearing a wire. He told jurors he tried to hide his meth addiction from his wife, but never made the drug.

EARLIER STORY, posted Monday morning: Prosecution rests in Cronin trial

TELL CITY - Perry County Prosecutor Robert Collins wrapped up the evidence portion of the state's case against Kenneth Cronin Friday, setting the stage for defense attorney Michael McDaniel to begin calling witnesses today.

Cronin is expected to testify in his own defense.

Police officers who raided two homes last April testified last week, telling jurors about the methamphetamine, drug-making supplies, firearms and cash they found.

Cronin faces 20 charges stemming from April 2008 raids of homes at 9749 Highwater Road near Tobinsport and at 9050 Aster Road. Also testifying was Derrick Stiles, who provided information to officers who were investigating meth activities last year as part of a task force.

In his opening remarks to jurors, McDaniel said evidence would show that Stiles had access to both homes and was involved in making meth.

Once the defense wraps up its case, jurors will hear closing statements.

The News mistakenly identified Cronin's attorney as Bart Betteau in a story in Thursday's edition.

Betteau represented Cronin's wife in drug charges filed against her stemming from the same police searches.