ATHOL — On Saturday, July 9, at 4:50 a.m., Officer Brandon Newell of the Athol Police Department went to refuel his cruiser at the Mr. Mike’s located on Main Street after patrolling the area .
According to Officer Newell’s Narrative for the incident, when he pulled up to a gas pump, he saw an unoccupied yellow Mercedes with an expired registration sticker.
He ran the plates of the vehicle and found out that it was registered, but did, in fact, have an expired inspection sticker. The sticker expired on April 1.
There was also a National Crime Information Center (NCIC) notification for the registered owner of the vehicle for an extraditable warrant from Cheshire County, New Hampshire, for failure to appear in court for two drug charges: Possession of Controlled Drug (Heroin) and Possession of Controlled Drug (Crack Cocaine). The Mercedes was registered to Melissa Dustin, a 37-year-old Athol resident.
At approximately 5:08 a.m., Dustin returned to her vehicle and Officer Newell followed her out of the gas station and pulled her over about a half mile away on Petersham Road.
According to Officer Newell’s Narrative, Trooper Brian Vaidulas of the Mass State Police pulled behind his cruiser to assist.
Officer Newell then approached the Mercedes and told Dustin that she had an expired inspection sticker.
“Officer Newell asked why her inspection sticker expired in April and she did not have a current one,” wrote Officer Newell in his Narrative. “The operator stated that she just had some work done on her car and was going to get a sticker soon. Officer Newell then asked the operator for her license, which she provided. At this point, Officer Newell walked back to his marked police cruiser.”
Officer Newell then radioed dispatch to confirm the warrant from Cheshire County, NH. Once the warrant was confirmed, Officer Newell returned to Dustin’s Mercedes.
“Officer Newell explained to the owner of the vehicle and operator Melissa, that she had a warrant out of New Hampshire and that she needed to turn off the vehicle and step out of the car,” wrote Officer Newell in his Narrative. “Melissa did not listen and Officer Newell had to repeat himself approximately four times for Melissa to get out of the driver’s seat. Melissa kept asking Officer Newell if she could make a phone call to have someone drive her car and he explained she could once she stepped out.”
According to Officer Newell, Melissa “finally” exited the car and went to the trunk area where she placed her hands on the trunk at Officer Newell’s request.
“Officer Newell asked Melissa if she had any weapons on her and she said ‘no,’” wrote Officer Newell in his Narrative. “Officer Newell went to check Melissa’s left back pocked and felt what Officer Newell knows to be what felt like a pocket knife.”
Officer Newell removed the pocket knife and placed it onto the car. He then placed Dustin in handcuffs and read her Miranda Warnings with Trooper Vaidulas present.
“Officer Newell then asked again if Melissa had any weapons on her which she said ‘no.’ Melissa explained that she did not know that knife was in her back pocket,” wrote Officer Newell in his Narrative. “Officer Newell then learned the knife is spring assisted after opening it. Officer Newell then continued to search Melissa and noticed a hard object in the front left pocket of her pants. Officer Newell then took the item out of the pocket. After observing it, Officer Newell determined from his training and experience that the substance resembled crack cocaine.”
In the left inside pocket of her sport style jacket, Officer Newell found a wad of cash and more crack. In her right inside pocket, he found more cash and heroin.
Officer Newell asked Trooper Vaidulas if there was a female trooper at the State Police barracks who could continue the search. Moments later, Trooper Kayla Leger responded to Petersham Road to assist.
Trooper Leger continued the search and found more heroin and crack on Dustin. She was then placed in the back of Trooper Leger’s cruiser and transported to the Athol Police Department for booking.
“At the Athol Police Department, Trooper Leger walked Melissa into the booking room. Melissa was cooperative with the booking process,” wrote Officer Newell in his Narrative. “It was asked if Melissa wanted to tell Officers what she had in the plastic bags in her clothes. Melissa told Officer Newell and Trooper Leger that she had heroin and crack cocaine. Trooper Leger asked Melissa if there was any fentanyl in any of the drugs and Melissa said ‘maybe the heroin.’ At this point, Melissa was secured in the holding cell in the Athol Police Department booking area.”
Officer Newell then weighed the drugs in Dustin’s possession. She had 76 grams of heroin and 9 grams of crack.
She was also in possession of $795 in cash.
According to Officer Newell, the bail clerk set a cash bail of $50,000 for Melissa’s new charges. A “no bail” status was placed on her New Hampshire warrant.
“Officer Newell notified Melissa about her bail and she began to cry,” wrote Officer Newell in his Narrative. “Officer Newell asked if she wanted to make a phone call and she did not answer.”
Dustin was given a citation for not having a valid inspection sticker and transported to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office where she was held until her arraignment.
At 10 a.m. that day, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office called The Athol Police Department to inform the department that during their strip search, they found three small pieces of crack in her sweatshirt and an additional piece in her bra. The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office sent the drugs back to the Athol Police Department so they could be placed into evidence.
Dustin was formally charged with Expired Inspection, Fugitive from Justice (for having an extraditable warrant from Cheshire County, NH), Carrying a Dangerous Weapon (for the spring assisted knife found in her back left pants pocket), Trafficking a Class A Substance (for having 76 grams of heroin in her clothes when she was searched) and Drug Possession Class B (for having 10.5 grams of crack cocaine in her possession when she was searched).
Dustin was arraigned on July 11 in Orange District Court, after which she was released on her own personal recognizance.
She’s scheduled to appear in court again on August 15 for a pretrial hearing.
Disclaimer: If you are wondering why the incident in this story was from July, that’s because I had to file a FOIA request to get the court documents for the incident. FOIAs are time consuming.