by MOSES LEOS III
Five arrests, including drug busts, kept the Buda Police Department jumping last week in what has become one of the most active days since the department was established three years ago. All of the arrests were made March 19-20 in less than 24 hours.
The most notable arrest happened when Hays County dispatch received a call of an intoxicated person passed out in a car at the Vantage at Buda apartments complex. Buda Officer Patrick Cheatham, who works the Buda Police K-9 unit, saw the vehicle driven by Michael Joseph Moticha at the scene. As Moticha left a fast food restaurant, Cheatham saw him commit traffic offenses and made the traffic stop.
“I believe he was on narcotics, not alcohol,” Cheatham said. “We ended up pushing (the traffic stop) to a narcotics investigation at that point.”
Moticha did not give consent to have his vehicle searched. However, when Cora, Buda’s K-9 German Shepherd came close to the car, she alerted the officer.
“The dog alerted us on the vehicle,” said Cheatham, who estimated that Cora sniffed drug paraphernalia almost 20 feet away. The K-9’s actions gave Cheatham probable cause to search Moticha. “Immediately we started finding things,” Cheatham said.
Cheatham discovered drug paraphernalia usually associated with an alleged drug dealer. According to the arrest affidavit, Cheatham discovered 52.1 grams of cocaine, .7 grams of black tar heroin, 7.9 grams of methamphetamine, 16.7 grams of Xanax, 9.8 grams of Hydrocodone, 3.4 grams of Cialis, 3.8 grams of Amphetamines and 6.7 grams of Tramadol, all concealed in a backpack behind the driver’s seat.
Cheatham also discovered more than $9,000 in cash, a knife more than five and one-half inches in length, numerous credit cards, a driver’s license and social security card belonging to another individual, as well as a ledger book and baggies which could be used to distribute narcotics.
According to Cheatham, the cache of drugs was the largest in the department’s history. He said that without the aid of Cora, none of the drugs would have been found.
“Without the K-9 unit, he would have been cut loose,” Cheatham said. “While I believe that he was under the influence of narcotics, he passed all of the field sobriety tests. Without the K-9 unit, he would have been released.”
Currently, Moticha has been charged on 12 different counts, five of those felonies, including money laundering, three counts of possession of a controlled substance and fraudulent possession of identifying information. He is currently being held in the Hays County Jail on $146,500 bond.
In the second series of arrests, Buda Officer Demerriel Young turned what seemed to be a routine traffic stop into a narcotics arrest. A routine traffic stop was made on a vehicle driven by Rowena Atalig Goff. However, the insurance came back as unconfirmed. Young said he realized something was amiss, saying that Goff’s demeanor tipped him off.
“I asked her, ‘Is there anything in your car that I should know about? Anything illegal, drugs or weapons?’ Her body language when I asked her that – I immediately knew something was up,” said Young, who noticed that Goff had the look of a “deer in the headlights,” as she avoided looking directly at the officer.
Young then asked Goff’s passenger, Daniel Thomas Edward Boyle, to get out of the vehicle.
Young said that Boyle had been sitting on drug paraphernalia, later determined to be methamphetamines. That discovery gave Young probable cause to further search the vehicle, resulting in additional drug paraphernalia found in the Goff’s purse.
Both individuals were arrested, with Goff charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance, a Class B misdemeanor and Possession of Dangerous Drugs, a Class A misdemeanor. Goff was released on March 20 on $6,000 bond. The passenger in the vehicle, Daniel Thomas Edward Boyle, was charged with Public Intoxication. He was released on March 20 with no bond.
The arrests prove a clear point, Young said, that Buda remains on the offense against drug offenders.
“Chief allows us to be proactive in our patrol duties, as well as our traffic enforcement,” Young said. “It’s being aware of indicators. Most people do not expect (drug) activity in Buda. For our officers to pick up on those signs, it sends the message: Don’t go to Buda, because they will pick up on it.”
The final arrest of the day occurred in the early morning hours of March 20. The Buda Police Department received calls about two suspicious individuals walking along Pigeonberry Path in the Green Meadows subdivision. Officer Alex Fernandez was dispatched to the area, which police say has been a hot bed for vehicle burglaries in recent months.
While driving around the neighborhood, Fernandez noticed a vehicle that was out of the norm. “It was a car parked in an odd place. After patrolling for a couple of years, you know that cars are parked in their residences,” said Fernandez, who has been with Buda Police since 2010. “(This was) not the case. There was something more.”
Fernandez’ intuition proved correct. He noticed the vehicle had the keys still in the ignition, with the windows rolled completely down and the hood still hot from use.
As he searched the area, Fernandez said he believes the individuals saw him, forcing them back to their vehicle. When Fernandez heard the car start, he said he knew where they were. “Late at night, in a small area, you can pinpoint the sound of a car starting up,” Fernandez said. “I went back to the area where the vehicle was, and it was gone.”
Fernandez called for assistance from Officer Todd Franken, who caught the alleged criminals at Old Goforth Road and FM 2001.
According to a probable cause affidavit filed by Fernandez, the officer said he noticed a low-power flashlight in plain view on the passenger seat, with a pair of pliers in plain sight on the driver side floorboard. Both men wore black sweaters and dark colored jeans, the affidavit reported, allowing Fernandez and Franken to detain both men for further questioning. The arrest affidavit said the men provided conflicting stories.
Fernandez arrested Jordan McCullum-Hamilton and Phillip Klingemann for Unlawful Possession of a Criminal Instrument, a state jail felony, and Criminal Attempt of Burglary of a Vehicle, a Class A misdemeanor. Klingemann was released on March 20 on a $10,000 bond. McCullum was released on March 21 on a $5,000 bond on the attempted burglary of a vehicle charge, with time served on the unlawful use of a criminal instrument.
For the Buda Police department, these series of events capped off a tremendously successful 24-hour period, Buda Police Chief Bo Kidd said. “I am impressed at the proactive policy we have in place,” Kidd said. “It makes me proud that all of the officers made the arrests on their own. That they were all proactive in their duties.”
Kidd also said he knows the addition of four new members within the last year has aided the department immensely.
“We have more people. That allows us to be a proactive group, rather than a reactive group,” said Young, who is part of the first hiring group in the Buda Police Department. “The other guys are excited due to the increase of the police department. We are looking forward to getting more help.”