STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
No. 01 CRS 81913
JOHN WILLARD YOUNG, JR.
Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Special Deputy Attorney
General Teresa L. White, for the State.
James P. Hill, Jr. for defendant-appellant
MARTIN, Chief Judge.
Defendant was charged in a two count bill of indictment with trafficking in more than ten pounds, but less than fifty pounds, of marijuana by possession and by transportation. He appeals from judgments imposing consecutive active terms of imprisonment entered upon jury verdicts finding him guilty of both offenses.
The evidence at trial tended to show that on 10 March 2001, members of the High Point Police Department were maintaining surveillance of defendant's home at 906 Bridges Drive, High Point, North Carolina. While other officers observed the house, Detectives Marty Ferrell (Ferrell) and Kyle Pratt (Pratt) left to obtain a search warrant. Before they returned, a man, later determined to be Jimmy Lee Shue (Shue), rode up to the house on abicycle, went to the back door, pounded on it, and demanded to be let in. Believing Shue had warned the occupants of the house, and that evidence would be destroyed, the officers went in and secured the residence until the search warrant arrived.
When Ferrell and Pratt returned with the warrant, they read the occupants their rights and began searching the house. Ferrell also searched a 1986 Chevrolet Suburban with Texas license plates which was parked in the backyard of the residence. After finding a gas can in the back seat and noticing that the fuel gauge had been severed and reattached, Ferrell crawled under the vehicle looking for hidden compartments. He found that the front part of the gas tank had new bolts holding it in place while those in the back were rusty. When he removed the gas tank it felt heavy but without a lot of sloshing.
Ferrell went back inside the house and asked defendant who owned the vehicle. When defendant responded that he owned it, Ferrell took defendant to another room to question him more thoroughly. Ferrell testified that when he asked defendant for a second time to whom the Suburban belonged, defendant responded that he had purchased the vehicle while in Texas and had patched it together to get it back to North Carolina. Defendant told Ferrell there was nothing in the gas tank.
After removing the gas tank, Ferrell took it to Guil-Rand Wrecker to determine whether the tank had a hidden compartment. The officers left defendant at his residence. Ferrell and the owner of Guil-Rand Wrecker drained the gas tank and found a hiddencompartment containing large packages of plant material wrapped in cellophane. The contents of the packages were later analyzed and were determined to be 41.8 pounds of marijuana.
Ferrell, along with two other detectives returned to defendant's house, but were unable to locate defendant. On 15 May 2001, defendant was arrested in South Carolina.
Defendant offered evidence and testified that his mechanic loaned the Suburban to him while his car was being worked on and that he had never been to Texas. Defendant's mother, niece and hair dresser each testified that they had seen and spoken with defendant in the days preceding 10 March 2001.