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Drug dog lends helping paw in fentanyl bust
Bethany Petty

Axel is earning his keep. 

A Florida woman who had been staying at a local motel for about a week has been charged in Warren County with possession of fentanyl, an arrest made possible by McMinnville Police Department’s new canine.

The woman, Bethany Marie Petty, 21, is being held on $36,000 bond for two counts of simple possession, one count of possession of drug paraphernalia, and one count of theft of property. She was the only one charged because she accepted responsibility for all items.

McMinnville police detective Eddie Colwell and his K-9 partner, a German Shepherd Malamute mix named Axel, were out on patrol when the officer observed an argumentative couple in a white Nissan Sentra.

“It appeared that the male driver and female passenger were arguing,” said Colwell. “I got behind the vehicle as it pulled onto Sparta Street. I observed a Georgia tag in the rear window, but there was not a registration tag displayed on the rear bumper of the vehicle.”

Shortly thereafter, Colwell observed the male and female “shoving each other” as they continued to argue verbally, so he initiated a stop.

“He failed to stop for about 400 yards. While behind them, it appeared he was bent over moving stuff around in the vehicle and so was she. They stopped at Wendy’s. I got him out of the vehicle to separate them. Obviously they were arguing. He admitted they were arguing about money and about their stay at the hotel." 

“I did a canine sniff with Axel. He alerted on the vehicle,” said Colwell. “After that, she admitted to (Warren County Sheriff’s Captain) Jody Cavanaugh that there was a significant amount of fentanyl and pills in the car.”

With search revealed an off-white substance believed to be fentanyl, an assortment of pills including dilaudid and oxycodone, a glass bong with residue, needle with residue, numerous baggies, and a firearm that was reported stolen from Florida. 

Fentanyl by itself is an unusual find.

“They lace meth, cocaine and heroin with fentanyl,” said Colwell. “The presence of fentanyl is what makes people overdose. It’s not often that we find fentanyl. Most of the time, it’s already mixed with heroin or meth or cocaine before we get it.”

All opioids, such as fentanyl, are compared to morphine in terms of potency. For instance, methadone is about 3 times stronger than morphine, heroin is about 5 times stronger, and fentanyl is 100 times stronger. 

This dramatic difference in potency explains the fentanyl danger associated with overdose rates because users aren’t expecting the degree of potency they receive.

Axel was acquired by the city department to assist in efforts to locate illicit drugs in vehicles and buildings.