An Elgin Police Department (EPD) officer arrested a man and a woman on the evening of March 27 on drug charges after spotting a man not wearing a seatbelt in the car in which he was riding as it passed by.
According to an EPD report, after the officer turned around to conduct a traffic stop, the female driver -- identified as Karen Aliece Thompson, 19, of Duke Drive, Lugoff -- the car drove around the back of the nearby IGA and around to back into a parking space between the store and Family Dollar. As the officer pulled up, the male passenger -- identified as Nicholas Gudalupe Ventura, 24, of Oak Branch Lane, Elgin -- got out and had to be told to get back in the vehicle. Ventura said he did not have a driver’s license or ID card; Thompson handed the officer a Virginia driver’s license, but both had trouble locating the car’s registration. Ventura said he had borrowed the car from someone else and had Thompson drive because he did not have a license.
As the couple continued looking for the registration, the officer detected the odor of burnt marijuana coming from inside the car. When they could not locate the registration, the officer had Ventura step out of the car and then noticed a purple cloth bag Ventura had been sitting on. When asked about the odor, Ventura admitted to smoking marijuana earlier in the day and was still wearing the same clothing, and that the car’s owner also smokes marijuana. He also claimed not to know if there was any marijuana in the car at that time. Thompson also admitted to smoking marijuana earlier.
The officer then ran down a list of possible drugs that could be in the car and Ventura answered that he did not know if any of those drugs were in the car. However, when the officer named methamphetamine, Ventura reportedly paused and then responded that he had just gotten the car.
When the officer went to search the car, he noticed that the purple cloth bag was missing. He confronted Thompson who admitted she had placed it in her pants. She handed it over, but said it was not hers. Inside, the officer found several plastic bags containing meth along with a number of empty baggies that had not been used yet. Ventura denied ownership of the cloth bag as well, and would not despite having been the one sitting on the bag when the officer first approached the car.
At this point, the officer placed Ventura and Thompson in handcuffs. While handcuffing her, Thompson reportedly claimed that she was “doing this” for Ventura, and that he had told her to hide the cloth bag after the officer instructed him to get out of the car.
While Thompson and Ventura were in the back of the patrol car, they reportedly had a conversation about the bag in the officer’s presence during which they allegedly admitted knowing there were drugs in the bag, that Ventura had brought the bag in case “they guy gave him the go on it,” and that Thompson hid the bag in her pants after opening it and seeing what was inside.
Thompson was also found to be hiding a glass smoking pipe in her pants once they reached the jail.
The officer ultimately charged both Ventura and Thompson with meth distribution. As of Wednesday morning, Thompson was being held on a $15,000 bond, while a judge set Ventura’s at $45,000, according to Kershaw County Detention Center online records. Ventura, who is still being detained, also faces pending charges of unlawful carrying of a pistol from an arrest made on or around Jan. 24, and a previous charge of meth distribution as well as possession of less than one gram of meth or cocaine base from an arrest made on or about March 13.
The EPD also reported the following recent incidents:
An officer arrested a 24-year-old Elgin man for possession of crack cocaine, methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia around 12:45 a.m. March 13 after stopping him for not having a working tag light on Church Street. After making the stop, the officer recognized the driver as someone who has a suspended driver’s license. Other officers arrived on the scene and the driver was instructed to exit the vehicle. Initially, he reportedly claimed not to know of any illegal items in the car, but then allegedly admitted he had some meth and crack cocaine under the driver’s seat. Officers arrested the man and then searched the vehicle, turning up the met and crack as well as three scales, a used syringe needle, three glass pipes and a packet containing six 350 milligram THC gummies.
An officer arrested a 30-year-old Elgin man for possession of ecstasy and drug paraphernalia following a traffic stop for speeding and not wearing a seatbelt on Main Street near Surrey Lane. During the traffic stop, which actually took place behind the IGA and Family Dollar stores, the officer smelled the odor of raw marijuana. The man claimed he didn’t know why the officer might smell marijuana from the car because it had been three years since he had used any. However, during a search, the officer found not only a small cigar wrap containing a small amount of marijuana, but a plastic bag containing four pills that turned out to be ecstasy. In addition to the drug, speeding and seatbelt violation, the officer also cited the man for having an expired vehicle license.
Two women living at a Needle Palm Way residence reported that someone went through their 2012 Nissan Altima and 2007 Chevy Tahoe sometime between 11 p.m. March 6 and 8:30 a.m. March 7. Nothing appeared to have been taken from either vehicle. Another woman living nearby reported that someone went through her husband’s 2007 Toyota Tacoma during the same time period, but also did not appear to have taken anything.
On March 11, Elgin officers received a call from a real estate company that two people may have been squatting in one of their vacant homes, on the 1700 block of Smyrna Road. A company representative said they had sent a carpet cleaning service to the residence and when the workers arrived, a man and a woman exited from the rear door and ran from the scene.
A clerk at the Circle K reported finding a hypodermic needle and medical supply packaging in the trash when she went to remove the trash from the store’s gas pumps on March 12. An officer responded to the scene and safely removed the needle, which appeared too large for illegal narcotics.
Someone unbolted and removed the Elgin town limits sign from its pole on Sessions Road sometime between midnight March 6 and 8 a.m. March 7.
Elgin officers also assisted other agencies, and dealt with recent incidents involving assault, domestic disturbance, and a private property collision.
(EPD reports are provided under the S.C. Freedom of Information Act. Subjects are considered innocent until proven guilty.)