Regional law enforcement agencies raided a Murphy Lane property last week, arresting three people accused of trafficking in methamphetamine.
Prosecutors have since charged Gregory Scott Tucker, Deborah Lee Mitchell and Trevor William Tucker with numerous felony and misdemeanor crimes, and the three suspects are scheduled to make their first appearances in 7th District Court on Tuesday, Nov. 29. Under the law, they are presumed to be innocent unless or until a judge formally convicts them of any charges.
Grand County Sheriff’s Lt. Kim Neal said that officers seized about 45 grams of methamphetamine, or less than one-tenth of a pound, after authorities served a search warrant at the property on the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 16.
“There wasn’t a whole bunch,” Neal said. “It has a street value of probably about $5,000.”
Officers also found an allegedly stolen motorcycle on the property, as well as numerous illegal firearms, and Neal said the three suspects were arrested without incident.
“Everything went really smoothly,” he said.
A judge issued the search warrant after a sheriff’s office launched a lengthy investigation into allegations of illegal drug possession and trafficking on the property.
“(The investigation) has been ongoing for quite a while,” Neal said. “I would be hesitant to say how long.”
One person said a friend who happened to be driving down Murphy Lane at the time of the raid reported that it looked like “hundreds” of law enforcement agents were on or around the property. The friend later downgraded that number to about 20, when pressed for clarification.
Neal said the actual number was about 15, and included representatives from the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, the Blanding Police Department and the Utah Highway Patrol.
“We work really closely with them,” Neal said. “They help us, and we help them.”
According to court documents, authorities allege that the three suspects knowingly and intentionally sold methamphetamine between Thursday, Oct. 20, and Wednesday, Nov. 16.
The Grand County Attorney’s Office subsequently charged 51-year-old Gregory Tucker with second-degree felony charges of distribution of a controlled substance; unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute; and receiving, transferring or possessing a stolen motor vehicle.
He also faces 14 third-degree felony charges of “restricted person in possession of (a) dangerous weapon,” based on allegations that he was in possession of a handgun and 13 rifles. In addition, he stands accused of misdemeanor charges of unlawful use or possession of controlled substances – including Oxycodone – as well as possession of drug paraphernalia.
The 36-year-old Mitchell, who is identified in court documents as Deborah Lee Winters, has also been charged with five felonies and five misdemeanors, including second-degree felony distribution of a controlled substance, unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute and three counts of “restricted person in possession of (a) dangerous weapon.”
Her boyfriend, 23-year-old Trevor Tucker, stands accused of distribution of a controlled substance, as well as class B misdemeanor charges of unlawful possession or use of a controlled substance (marijuana) and possession of drug paraphernalia.
All three suspects were transported to the Emery County Jail, where local inmates are being held while contractors renovate Grand County’s jail.
A person who knows Gregory Tucker and asked to remain anonymous said the older man is a “stand-up guy” who has struggled with controlled substances for many years.
“It’s so sad that (stuff) like that happens,” the person said. “… Poor Greg: He’s a good man; he’s a good father – he really is. He’s not a liar or a cheat – he’s just caught up in it.”
Long before the raid occurred, the person saw signs of allegedly suspicious activity on the property.
“There will be a day a month when suddenly there’s this stream of traffic going in and out,” the person said. “You’ll see the traffic just, ‘zheesh, zheesh, zheesh.’”
But the person never looked into that activity to find out what was happening.
“Whatever they have going on is their business,” the person said.
Another person who asked to remain anonymous alleged that a group of strangers would show up periodically and join those who live on the property.
“There will be five or six men there for a while, and they’ll kind of disappear and then come back,” the person said.
Although the second person happened to be near the area at the time of the raid, the person didn’t see what was going on. It was only after a spouse reported that the Tuckers and Mitchell had been arrested on suspicion of selling and possessing methamphetamine that the person found out what happened.
“I figured there was something going on – I didn’t ask,” the person said.
Like the other person, the individual has deliberately steered clear of any involvement with people who live on the property.
“I don’t know their business – I try to stay out of it,” the person said.
Scene of the raid is an infamous blighted property
The blighted property at 1171 Murphy Lane is familiar to many area residents for its numerous abandoned vehicles, motor homes, discarded appliances, old tires and piles of junk that have accumulated in the years since the family acquired it.
A person who asked not to be identified has twice registered complaints with county officials about land-use code violations on the property, and was told the same thing both times: “We’ll look into it.”
“It’s been disturbing to me that the county has let this go on as long as it has because there is an ordinance against it,” the person said.
The mounds of junk on the property have not grown any smaller over the years, and the discarded vehicles – including three more inoperable school buses and other signs of blight – have continued to pile up in recent months, the person said.
“It would be a blessing if they had to do something (to clean it up),” the person said.
Grand County Community Development Director Zacharia Levine said that while people talk generally about the property because it’s so prominent, his office hasn’t received any specific complaints about it recently.
However, Levine encourages citizens to file complaints if they feel like the county is not doing an adequate job of enforcing its land-use code.
In this case, Levine said, the owners do not have a permit to operate a commercial junkyard on the property, and the county has not tried to clean it up.
“That property is indicative of the challenge we’re facing at a larger community scale with respect to code enforcement,” Levine said.
Historically, he said, code enforcement was not a high priority among past county officials.
“You can see it throughout the county and the community,” he said.
However, Levine sees signs that a cultural shift is now under way, and he believes that support for efforts to resolve code violations is growing.
Notably, the Grand County Council recently allocated $20,000 for a part-time code enforcement officer, although Levine said it’s unlikely that the county can successfully clean up nuisance properties through traditional code enforcement measures.
While Levine supports efforts to enforce the land-use code – and to direct more funds and staff resources toward those efforts – he said that guidance from elected county officials is critical to their success.
“A lot of these decisions have to happen at a higher level,” he said. “It takes an institutional commitment to deal with code enforcement.”
Suspects accused of trafficking in methamphetamine