New Castle News

May 30, 2013

‘The dog found it’: Traffic stop leads to arrests of Detroit residents

Nancy Lowry
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Five Detroit residents expected to drive through Ellwood City Wednesday morning.

But they hadn’t planned on Jozek.

The nearly 8-year-old German shepherd “told” his partner, Officer Mike McBride, that the car police had stopped at 1:15 a.m. was the one they had been waiting for.

Police said they recovered 78 grams of suspected heroin and charged four people, all from Detroit.

Officers arrested Donsha Crutcher, 24, Erica Bennett, 25, Terry “Lucky” Brown, 33, and Edward Terry, 45. All were arraigned before District Judge Jerry Cartwright on charges of felony possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with intent to deliver, and misdemeanor charges of possession of a controlled substance by a person not registered to posses it and conspiracy to possess a controlled substance by a person not registered to possess it.

All four are in the Lawrence County jail — Brown and Terry on $250,000 bond each, and Crutcher and Bennett on $100,000 bond each. Preliminary hearings are set for Wednesday.

The driver, Tamara Headen, 25, was not charged.

Police said she had been cooperative and admitted she had been paid $100 to drive the car to Ellwood City. They added she was the only one of the five with a valid driver’s license.

Ellwood City and New Castle police, working with the Lawrence County District Attorney’s Drug Task Force, acted on a tip that a car loaded with heroin was coming from Detroit. They said they stopped a gold, 2002 Chrysler on Fourth Street when the driver failed to use a turn signal.

The driver gave officers consent to search the car.

“She didn’t think that we’d find anything,” McBride said of Headen. The officers didn’t, but Jozek drew attention to the driver’s side rear wheel well at the door crease.

With the driver’s consent, police had the car towed to their station. McBride said one passenger asked for the keys, which included the key to an apartment at 815 South St. in the Beaver County portion of the borough. The police provided him with other accommodations, McBride said.

With the dog letting them know they were on the right track, police continued to search. They found a string attached to a plastic piece of molding in the wheel well. They followed the string to a USB cable, similar to cell phone cords, and gave it a tug. Attached to the cable, officers said, was a softball-size object wrapped in several layers of duct tape and covered in red grease.

Police scraped off the grease, unwrapped the duct tape and dug through six layers of plastic baggies. In the last, they found approximately 78 grams of a powdery substance divided into 789 smaller bags. The contents field-tested positive for heroin, McBride said.

“The dog found it,” McBride said, adding, “He has participated in more than 200 confirmed narcotics arrests in Lawrence County. He’s been a real asset.”

He added that police from North Sewickley and Franklin Township in Beaver County participated by providing backup.

Lawrence County District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa said Wednesday’s arrests were a year in the making. He explained they had been started by the narcotics unit of the New Castle police department, who had tracked a suspect for a year.

Lamancusa said the police departments and task force “set up a curtain of officers” to screen traffic after receiving a tip a drug shipment was on the way.

He added the alleged drugs have a street value of $11,000 to $15,000.

The package was covered in axle grease to mask the scent and throw off drug dogs, but it was no match for Jozek, Lamancusa said. “This dog is a real success story.”

Mayor Anthony J. Court commented, “We believe this is the biggest heroin bust in the history of Ellwood City.”

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)