A 31-year-old charged in a September slaying had apparently worked previously as a drug informant for law-enforcement agencies in southcentral Idaho.When you're investigating serious crime, unfortunately, saints and angels do not often present themselves as witnesses. But this case shows why criminal informant use should be restricted to more serious crimes and not employed profligately to pursue low-level offenders: Not infrequently, police wind up tolerating more serious offenses by their snitches than they're investigating in the first place.
John Henry McElhiney faces trial along with Cameron Watts, 29, next March in the killing of 18-year-old Dale Miller.
His body was discovered Sept. 12 bound with wire and stuffed inside a barrel in the garage of a Twin Falls apartment complex.
McElhiney had previously been enlisted by the Blaine County Sheriff's Office in some of its drug investigations.
Detective Steve Harkin called McElhiney a "cooperative individual" on some probes into drug peddling in the region.
Miller's slaying has already been linked to drug activity
Would Idahoans have been safer if police had viewed Mr. McElhiney as an investigative target instead of as a tool? Certainly the 18-year old victim might have been.
RELATED: See another informant-related scandal from the Pacific Northwest, in this case a lying informant who set up an innocent person through "controlled buys" monitored by drug task force officers. In Oklahoma, a drug task force officer pled guilty to a misdemeanor this month embezzling seized drug money and staging a burglary to cover up the crime.
ALSO RELATED: The federal Byrne grant fund that pays for regional drug task forces has been cut by 2/3 in the most recent federal budget. In 2006 Texas abolished its drug task forces, shifting Byrne grant money to drug enforcement on the border.