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Drugs & Pill Press Seized: Approx. 2,000 Pills Made Daily

By Jessie Williams

A year-long joint investigation between the Macon County Sheriff’s Department, the Red Boiling Springs Police Department, the Lafayette Police Department and the Tennessee High Patrol has resulted in the arrest of Red Boiling Springs Mayor Joel Rae Coe, and the discovery of a long-rumored pill press that has supplied our community with thousands of illegal narcotic drugs including Heroin, Meth, Morphine, Ecstasy and Fentanyl.


According to authorities, the biggest break in the case occurred on April 24, when RBS Chief of Police Kevin Woodard made a traffic stop near RBS Market. 

The driver of the vehicle, Austin Kernell, and his passenger, Dustin Johnson, were both arrested after authorities seized a variety of drug paraphernalia, meth, heroin and pills from the vehicle.

After interviewing the duo, police gathered information that then led them to obtain a search warrant for a residence at Lafayette Landing Apartments, where they discovered three bags of 10 milligram Hydrocodone pills, one bag of 7.5 milligram Hydrocodone pills, two bags of 10 milligram Oxycodone pills, 154 Morphine pills, 5 grams of a green, leafy substance, 48 unidentifiable white pills, a gun and a silencer. 

According to Detective Shane Gregory, officers then received consent to search a property on Andrea Lane, where they found a pharmaceutical-sized pill press and approximately 4 lbs. of a powdery substance believed to be a mixture of Fentanyl, Heroine and other narcotics. 

Digital scales, dies used to form pills in all shapes and sizes, electric grinders, compounds used to harden pills, coloring compounds, digital scales and baggies were also discovered at the residence.

Detective Gregory explained that during the investigation, he was given consent to a cell phone and, while it was in his custody, 51-year-old Joel Rae Coe began sending messages to the phone’s owner asking if he needed to get the pill press from the house and hide it from authorities.

After some back-and-forth communication with Coe, he offered to pick up the press, put it in trash bags and hide it. 

Authorities waited for Coe to arrive and he was arrested and charged with conspiracy: criminal (felony) and tampering with evidence on April 25.

Trash bags were located inside his vehicle.

Coe was questioned by police and gave consent to officers to search his College St. residence. 

Inside the home they found Morphine pills and counterfeit Morphine pills. 

Coe’s bond was set at $125,000, and he is scheduled to appear in general sessions court on May 1, 2019. 

Coe is still the active mayor of Red Boiling Springs, however he lost his bid for re-election last Saturday, April 27. 

Detective Gregory says more arrests and charges are pending in this ongoing investigation and anyone with further information is urged to contact the Macon County Sheriff’s Office. As always, callers have the option to remain anonymous.

The pill press is estimated to have formed 2,000 illegal pills a day while in use.