What started out as an effort to assist a couple of possibly stranded motorists early Saturday morning on I-75, resulted in the arrest of two Knoxville residents, one of whom lied about his identity, on drug charges and the recovery of two stolen vehicles.
About 2 a.m., Whitley County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Hensley observed a Volkswagen Beetle with its emergency flashers activated on the side of southbound I-75 near the 21-mile marker, and he stopped to perform a motorist assist.
When the male driver exited the vehicle, he showed signs of intoxication, according to a sheriff’s department release and his arrest citation.
Whitley County E911 dispatchers were unable to identify the driver based on the information that he provided to Hensley.
“When the male went to retrieve a wallet from his vehicle, Deputy Hensley observed a handgun and took quick action to retrieve it before the driver or female passenger could,” Sheriff Colan Harrell wrote in the release.
Hensley then learned that the gun was a fake lacking the colored tip to indicate it was a toy.
The man was detained, and Hensley located needles and two spoons in a bag located on the man’s belt, according to his arrest citation.
Hensley also questioned the female passenger, Hannah N. Roberts, 23, who appeared under the influence, according to the release.
After a Corbin police officer arrived to provide assistance, Hensley searched the vehicle and discovered a “loaded” needle under the driver’s seat, according to the release.
Both Roberts and the man denied the loaded needle belonged to them. Roberts told police that it belonged to a third person, but she couldn’t give his name, according to her arrest citation.
The vehicle was loaded with household items that both claimed belonged to a third person. Hensley and Whitley County E911 contacted surrounding law enforcement agencies, but no recent thefts or burglaries had been reported, according to the release.
Roberts was initially charged with first-degree possession of a controlled substance and public intoxication.
After extensive work by Whitley County E911, the driver was initially determined to be Michael A. Smith, 38, and was charged with first-degree possession of a controlled substance, giving an officer a false identifying information, possession of drug paraphernalia and public intoxication.
Both were lodged in the Whitley County Detention Center.
On Monday, Deputy Brandon Prewitt responded to a Cumberland Falls Highway business south of Corbin regarding an abandoned vehicle complaint, and found a Jeep Wrangler that had been reported stolen from Knoxville, according to another sheriff’s department release.
Police also discovered that the Beetle, which was involved in the Saturday morning incident, had been stolen from a car lot near the Jeep’s location, the second release stated.
Prewitt and Hensley determined that each stolen vehicle contained similar and unusual items.
Prewitt, with the assistance of a Kentucky State Police Detective from the auto theft division, went to the Whitley County Detention center where they interviewed “Michael Smith,” discovering that he was actually Charles B. Smith, 31, of Knoxville, and that he had used a family member’s identity without their consent, the second release stated.
Smith now faces a felony theft of identity charge and two receiving stolen property charges. Roberts is now also facing two receiving stolen property charges, according to detention center records.