ST. GEORGE — Two women traveling through Utah from Colorado are in jail after a traffic stop on Interstate 15 in St. George turned up a suspicious spare tire packed with 40 pounds of methamphetamine.
Pebbles Yvette Gomez, 29, and 31-year-old Griselda Muniz, appeared Wednesday in 5th District Court on multiple charges, with each facing two second-degree felonies, including theft by receiving stolen property and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, along with third-degree felony possession of a firearm charge. Both women are from Aurora, Colorado, and also face misdemeanor possession of marijuana and paraphernalia charges.
The charges stem from an incident Monday when a Washington County Sheriff’s deputy stopped a vehicle on I-15 near mile marker 6 on a signal violation, and while speaking with the driver, later identified as Gomez, the deputy noticed a glass jar in the center console labeled as a THC product and containing a “green leafy substance.” He also noticed a glass pipe sitting on the floor near the passenger’s feet that appeared to be a marijuana pipe, according to charging documents filed with the court.
During a subsequent search of the vehicle, deputies located a plastic tubular container labeled as a THC product that contained a small amount of marijuana shake.
Additionally, a 9 mm pistol was located inside a backpack located in the rear seat of the vehicle. A records check revealed the gun was stolen out of Colorado. Also in the backpack were pieces of tin foil and a straw, consistent with methamphetamine or heroin use.
During a search of the rear hatch of the vehicle that was reportedly cluttered with clothes, trash and other miscellaneous items, the deputy saw a tire iron set that was easily accessible among the clutter, and once he got under the vehicle to get a clear view of the spare tire, he noticed it to be larger than the tires on the vehicle and appeared new, with little dirt or dust on it.
The deputy knocked on the tire, which gave a solid solid instead of the hollow “air-filled echo sound,” the officer noted. He followed with an echo test using a rubber mallet and a stethoscope, and instead of hearing an echo that occurs when the reverberation travels along the metal rim, the deputy heard a “thud,” which is produced when a tire is filled with anything other than air.
Based on this echo test, the deputy let the air out of the tire and detected an “overwhelming” odor of lemon pepper, a common odor in which to wrap narcotics in an attempt to mask the smell from drug dogs. As the deputy rolled the tire a few feet, he said he could feel objects rolling inside the tire.
A K-9 was deployed and indicated to the presence of drugs in the tire. Once the air was let out and the sidewall was cut and pulled back, deputies discovered the tire to be “packed full of packages” wrapped in cling wrap and smeared with a coarse grained powder that appeared to be lemon pepper.
Forty packages about the size of a softball weighing 1 pound each were removed from the tire. The packages contained a white powder that was later field tested and came back as a presumptive positive for methamphetamine.
When the deputy spoke to the suspects about the findings in the trunk, Muniz, the passenger, immediately asked for an attorney, while Gomez denied any knowledge of the stolen handgun found in the car or the methamphetamine in the trunk.
With the drugs inside the vehicle within direct reach of both suspects, the women were transported and booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility and later charged for the alleged offenses. A subsequent records check of Gomez came back showing an extraditable warrant out of Colorado for drug charges.
During Gomez’s appearance Wednesday, public defender Jacob Fisher was assigned to represent her, and despite requesting a lower bail, District Judge G. Michael Westfall said the bail amount of $22,000 would stand, with the second-degree felony charges in Utah as well as the fugitive warrant out of Colorado. He also said the fugitive warrant would be trailing the Utah case, since she would not be able to be transported back to Colorado anytime soon.
“She won’t be able to go anywhere until her case here is resolved,” Westfall added.
In the meantime, extradition proceedings will be reviewed at regularly scheduled hearings, the first of which is scheduled for Wednesday. Muniz is scheduled for a felony roll call hearing Tuesday and is being held on $20,000 bail.
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