Suspect in meat-tampering case again denied bond

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EAST ST. LOUIS, IL (AP) – A southwestern Illinois man accused of inserting what prosecutors called “booby trap” sewing needles into packaged supermarket meats again lost a bid Wednesday to be eligible for release on bond.

U.S. District Judge David Herndon sided with federal prosecutors in ordering that Ronald Avers, 68, remain jailed pending his trial tentatively scheduled for November on seven felony product-tampering counts.

Avers’ public defender had asked Herndon to consider the matter after a federal magistrate judge refused to allow the Belleville man to be freed, ruling that no conditions of his release would reasonably ensure the public’s safety.

Avers has pleaded not guilty to the felonies, accusing him of slipping sewing needles into packaged meat items at a Shop `n Save in Belleville from May 2013 through July.

One customer eventually bit into a needle, and another customer got stuck in the hand by a needle in a steak. No serious injuries were reported from the needles, which the FBI said turned up in everything from ground beef to roasts and steaks.

The FBI said Avers told investigators he did it “just for the hell of it.” Federal prosecutor Suzanne Garrison seized on that quote when initially opposing any bond for Avers, saying the comment reflected the man’s “utter indifference to the noteworthy risk of serious bodily injury or death that is associated with consumption of a needle.”

By JIM SUHR