Charges dropped in marijuana case against woman
Judge determines evidence from Deborah Eck’s home too old
April 27, 2010
Steamboat Springs — A judge deemed the evidence collected from Deborah Kay Eck's Phippsburg-area home inadmissible during a hearing Monday morning, prompting prosecutors to drop the charges of marijuana cultivation.
Judge Michael O'Hara III ordered that the items gathered in the search of Eck's Phippsburg-area home — a reported 58 marijuana plants — were not admissible as evidence because the search warrant used to collect them used "stale" information. As a result, Deputy District Attorney Rusty Prindle moved to have the case dismissed, and the judge granted the order.
According to the order to suppress the evidence, the warrant that granted deputies entry into Eck's home was based on information gathered by investigators Nov. 17, when a confidential informant said he had seen marijuana plants in Eck's home Oct. 30 last year. The informant again was interviewed in December before the house was searched.
On Dec. 17, a SWAT team, led by the Routt County Sheriff's Office, searched the homes of Eck and her son. They did not find anything in her son's house.
Sheriff's Office Investigator Mike Curzon, who was in charge of the investigation, said the warrant was delayed by negations regarding the confidential informant. Curzon said the Routt County Public Defender's office and the district attorney's office were involved in discussions during the time between when the testimony from the informant was first provided and when the warrant was served.
"That's the way it goes," Curzon said. "It was a concern we had, we raised it, and the DA was happy to go ahead with it, but it was obviously a bigger issue than they thought."
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By the time the houses were searched, the evidence from the informant was 46 days old.
O'Hara, in his ruling, noted that precedent from other cases in the state shows that 30 days can create "stale" evidence, though there is no definite time period that makes evidence too old to use.
There also was some evidence of increased use of electricity at the home in the period Eck was thought to be growing marijuana, but O'Hara said that was not always inconsistent with her neighbors' use.
Eck, who was represented by Steamboat Springs attorney Drew Johnroe, said she was very happy with the outcome and had been confident she would win. Johnroe could not be reached for comment Monday.
District Attorney Elizabeth Oldham said she was not involved in the discussions in the case. Prindle was not available Monday afternoon.