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Newcastle woman arrested after leaving Bainbridge ferry with suspicious cargo
Bainbridge Island officers arrested a Newcastle woman yesterday after she drove off the ferry in a van with stolen license plates and loaded with what is suspected to be stolen property.
According to a Bainbridge Island police report on the incident, the woman arrived on the island Sunday night on the last sailing from Seattle. The van was filled with piping, construction materials and other metal items.
Although they could not confirm the van's cargo as stolen property, Bainbridge officers were able to arrest the driver for operating the vehicle while having a suspended license and possessing stolen license plates.
Officers Gary Koon and Mo Stich were dispatched in separate vehicles to the ferry terminal after the license plate was found reported as stolen through the Washington State Patrol license reader. Ferry workers told police the vehicle was a white panel van without side windows.
Upon arriving at the terminal, the two officers spotted the van as one of the last vehicles in line, and stopped it on Highway 305 between Vineyard Lane and Winslow Way.
Inside the van was a female driver and male passenger. Both were detained in the separate police vehicles.
When the driver was asked about the van, however, she claimed she did not know the plates were stolen.
She said the van belonged to her passenger, whom she recently met through friends. She added that the two were taking the van's cargo to his property in Port Townsend.
As officers continued to question her about the ownership of the van, the driver's answers became more vague. She then said the van belonged to a different woman with the same name from Bonney Lake, but couldn't offer any details.
When officers asked the passenger about the van, he said it belonged to his ex-girlfriend, who worked nights at the 76 station in Bonney Lake. He could not provide a phone number.
Officer Stich then asked the driver about her life. She told the officer she has been unemployed for about three years. She was in a bad relationship and had a 19-year-old daughter. She also allegedly said she was a meth user but hasn't used since she got arrested in early July.
Stich took note of the woman's drug habit, according to the police report, as it is common knowledge in law enforcement that meth users frequently steal copper, metals and equipment with metals for their lucrative resale value.
In plain view, Stich stated in the report that she could see the van had been stuffed with piping, construction materials, metal containers, tools, plumbing fixtures and miscellaneous property she could not identify.
Stich then scanned the woman's name and found she had a suspended license in the third degree for unpaid tickets. As the driver in the incident, she was arrested for the two citations while the passenger was released.
Before the driver was transferred to Lt. Chris Jensen's vehicle to be taken to the Kitsap County Jail, she asked to have her purses from the van.
When Stich picked up the purses, however, she found the first one contained a laptop and birth certificate for another person. The driver said the name on the certificate was her daughter, and she was trying to secure low-income housing. The other purse contained a large brass car part that looked to be an internal part of an engine.
The driver passed it off as unimportant and urged the officer to give the purses to the passenger who was being released.
The purses were instead returned to the van as evidence.
Meanwhile, Officer Koon located the origin of the plates on the van as taken from a Mitsubishi vehicle in Kent.