By Sarah Pridgeon
Despite allegedly using hunting spray to conceal the smell of marijuana, two Washington natives were arrested on I-90 earlier this month with an alleged 55 lbs. of the controlled substance concealed in the back of their rental vehicle. Both face felony charges of possession and intent to deliver.
On November 8, a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper was patrolling I-90 near milepost 177 when he observed a vehicle traveling over the speed limit in the eastbound lane. He conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle, which bore Washington plates, and noticed as he approached the vehicle that a retractable cover had been pulled over the rear cargo area, which he found unusual.
The only time the trooper had previously seen such a cover used was to conceal luggage containing bulk amounts of high grade marijuana. He also observed that the back seat was full of luggage.
The trooper identified the driver as Frederick Batson and asked him to accompany him back to his patrol vehicle. Once there, Batson’s voice allegedly cracked and the trooper asked him why he was so nervous.
Batson allegedly denied being nervous and told the trooper he was on vacation with his girlfriend, who was the passenger in the vehicle. Batson claimed they were heading to Rapid City to see Mount Rushmore.
The trooper noted that the vehicle had been rented in Washington less than 24 hours before the traffic stop. He estimated the drive to be around 16 hours on good roads and felt that this was too fast to be consistent with the behavior of someone on vacation.
Batson could not provide any plans for where the couple would stay in Rapid City. His behavior and unusual travel plans led the trooper to run a background check.
Batson confirmed he had been arrested for a DWI a couple of years ago but did not tell the trooper about a felony drug arrest. The trooper was able to ascertain that Batson had previously rented a car from the same company, kept it for almost two months and put an average of 1000 miles on the clock each week. The total cost of the rental was $4448, which was the most expensive rental bill the trooper had ever seen.
Batson allegedly claimed his car had broken down and he had gone to California to visit family. However, the rental receipt showed it had either been rented or returned in Illinois, which Batson allegedly did not disclose, even when trying to justify the “excessive miles on a rental car”.
The trooper advised Batson that everything about his trip was consistent with someone smuggling marijuana, at which Batson allegedly became visibly nervous and denied having any marijuana in the vehicle. He then made contact with the passenger, identified as Tonya Burroughs, who allegedly claimed the couple was traveling to Illinois, just to get out of Washington for a while, and did not confirm that they would be stopping in Rapid City.
The trooper’s K-9 did not alert to the vehicle. Burroughs allegedly admitted to having a marijuana joint in her purse and retrieved it for the trooper.
Back at the patrol vehicle, the trooper advised Batson of what had happened and that he had probable cause to search the vehicle. Batson allegedly refused the search as he said he had done nothing wrong.
A second trooper arrived on scene to assist with the search. Three large duffle bags were allegedly found under the retractable cover, locked with small luggage locks. On top was a spray bottle of hunting type scent spray, commonly used to mask odors and avoid detection by animals while hunting.
The trooper believed the bags to contain vacuum sealed packages of high grade marijuana. Inside Burroughs’ purse, several additional joints were allegedly located along with a hand written “order” for marijuana that was later found to exactly match the contents of the duffle bags.
A total of 50 bags of marijuana were allegedly located within the duffle bags, totaling 55 pounds in weight. Both Batson and Burroughs have been charged with three felony counts of possession of a controlled substance, possession with intent to deliver and conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with intent to deliver.