WDAY: The News Leader

Published May 13, 2014, 08:43 AM

'The whole situation is upsetting'; missing Wahpeton student's mom learned her son faced drug charges from watching TV news

WAHPETON, N.D. – It wasn’t just the general public who didn’t find out until Friday that Andrew Sadek, a college student who went missing from here, had a felony warrant for his arrest. His mother says she was in the dark, too.

By: Archie Ingersoll, INFORUM, Forum News Service

WAHPETON, N.D. – It wasn’t just the general public who didn’t find out until Friday that Andrew Sadek, a college student who went missing from here, had a felony warrant for his arrest. His mother says she was in the dark, too.

“We’re just clueless ourselves,” Tammy Sadek said Monday during a phone interview from her home in Rogers.

She said she learned that her 20-year-old son, a student at the North Dakota State College of Science, had been charged with selling marijuana from watching the TV news. Finding out that way bothered her, but so has everything about this ordeal.

“This whole situation is upsetting,” she said.

The revelation that Andrew Sadek was under investigation for alleged drug crimes – a fact that may have prompted him to disappear – has raised questions about how authorities conducted an extensive search for him, which included asking residents in the Wahpeton-Breckenridge area to check their land and outbuildings for anything unusual.

Barbara Spaeth-Baum, an NDSCS spokeswoman, said school and police officials stand by their decisions.

“Our priority has been, and still continues to be, focused on finding our missing student Andrew, and bringing him home safely, regardless of any charges,” she said. “Just because he may have had a few problems doesn’t mean we aren’t going to search for him.”

Sadek was last seen early May 1 leaving his dormitory, Nordgaard Hall. The search for him began the next day when he was reported missing, and it lasted until May 6. The effort focused on a 5-mile radius around campus, including nearby rivers. No sign of him was found.

Spaeth-Baum said that while there was nothing to suggest Sadek may hurt himself, authorities were concerned he would. She also noted there was no indication he was a danger to the public.

“He just didn’t live that kind of life,” she said. “This is a nonviolent person.”

Investigators are still looking into any tips they receive and will resume searching if necessary.

“If he’s still in the area or if he’s on the run, we don’t know,” she said. “This is truly a mystery.”

Spaeth-Baum said the NDSCS Police Department, the agency leading the search, found out about the imminent charges against Sadek after the search began, though she could not say exactly when. She said campus police were unavailable for comment Monday.

Richland County Sheriff Larry Leshovsky, whose department helped with the search, said he was under the impression that campus police knew, right after Sadek went missing, that he had come under the radar of the local drug task force. Certainly by May 5, campus police knew about the charges because that’s the day the warrant was issued for his arrest.

Richland County State’s Attorney Ronald McBeth said the filing of the charges against Sadek was postponed because authorities “didn’t want to have a criminal charge interfere with looking for Andrew.” However, Sadek’s warrant was posted on the county website May 5, Spaeth-Baum said.

McBeth said a Valley City news reporter noticed the warrant on the site and inquired about it Friday. Figuring the news was out, prosecutors filed charges that day in Richland County District Court, he said. Also that day, campus police issued a news release about the charges.

Sadek faces two felony counts of delivery of a controlled substance. He’s accused of selling small amounts of marijuana, a total of 3.35 grams, to a police informant on two occasions in April 2013. The sales totaled $80 and took place in a parking lot on the campus, according to court documents.

Sadek is also charged with misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia. According to court documents, a search of his dorm room in November yielded an orange grinder that held marijuana residue. Sadek admitted the grinder was his, court documents stated.

From the court filings, it’s apparent Sadek knew he had the attention of narcotics investigators as early as November. But what’s not clear is when, if at all, he found out he was under investigation for allegedly selling marijuana.

Jason Weber, a Richland County sheriff’s deputy and a member of the local drug task force that investigated the case, has declined to talk about whether authorities approached Sadek about the alleged drug deals prior to his disappearance.

On Monday, Leshovsky said he’s on the board that oversees the task force, but that task force officers manage their own cases. The sheriff said he does not know what Sadek knew before he vanished.

The task force works with the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and a spokeswoman there referred questions to McBeth, who was also unaware of what Sadek knew.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Archie Ingersoll at (701) 451-5734