The arrest of Cocke County quadruple-murderer Eddie Dallas “Rusty” Denton on drug and firearm charges on Monday appears to be part of prosecutors’ plans to whisk Denton through the federal court system.
On Tuesday, a federal grand jury in Greeneville indicted Denton, 66, for multiple counts of conspiracy to distribute the ultra-powerful opiod oxymorphone, one count of selling methadone, possession of a firearm during a drug-trafficking offense and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Denton is the massacrer referenced in what’s been dubbed the Red Lantern Massacre, the gunfire-related slaying of four people in Newport on Christmas Day 1976. If convicted of the felonies for which he was indicted – and federal prosecutors describe an extremely strong case – Denton faces a near-certain life sentence.
The homicides occurred too long ago for the crimes to count for sentence-determining federal criminal-history points, but at least two felony drug convictions since his release could qualify him as an armed career criminal.
Denton’s latest niche in the Cocke County underworld involved selling oxymorphone, which used to be called Dilaudid, but is now marketed under the brand name of Opana. The informant who allegedly bought the pills from Denton at his Fox Chase Road home, was paying $150 per pill, according to Chuck Evans, a Drug Enforcement Administration task force member.
All of the transactions were recorded and monitored by law enforcement officials. Denton also sold the informant a handgun. When officials executed a search warrant at Denton’s home on Monday, they confiscated oxymorphone and methadone pills, along with more firearms, according to the DEA agent.
Denton’s last federal conviction was for using a telephone to facilitate a drug deal with a former Morristown man named Toby Tobias Senter. Senter, 43, is serving consecutive life sentences for cocaine trafficking and first-degree murder in the Easter Day 2007 drug-related assassination-style killing of Michael Grimes, who allegedly stole $75,000 from Senter.
In 2010, Denton was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for the phone call. In 1991, Senter was sentenced to 61 months in federal prison after he was convicted of carrying a firearm while trafficking cocaine.