Ten days after Cortez resident Robert Marquez led Montezuma County Sheriff’s deputies on a 25-mile car chase in late November, the county jail was placed on lockdown on suspicion that he was dealing meth behind bars.
An anonymous call from a New Mexico area code about 10:24 p.m. on Dec. 8 tipped off MCSO staff that Marquez was possibly in possession of illegal narcotics. The caller had knowledge of which cellblock Marquez, and the drugs, were located.
The officer in charge at Montezuma County Detention Center placed the jail on lockdown and gave inmates a fake reason to avoid alarm, according to an MCSO incident report. A patrol sergeant and two patrol deputies were called in for assistance.
About 11 p.m., five officers entered the cellblock and ordered all the inmates to lay on the floor.
Two of the officers headed straight to Marquez’s cell and saw him grab something from his waist and placed his hand into the toilet, according to an incident report. The officers recovered toilet paper from the toilet and saw what appeared to be meth scattered across the floor. A K9 unit indicated the presence of drugs throughout Marquez’s cell.
Inside the cell, officers found a chess piece — from the board game in the common room — that was possibly used to conceal drugs. It had a plug that fit into the bottom of the chess piece that could be used to move narcotics. There were also small pieces of cut-up bags that fit inside the chess piece.
MCSO officers submitted into evidence the toilet paper with possible meth inside, two pieces of drug distribution paraphernalia and approximately 0.17 grams of meth crystals that were found on the floor of the cell.
Marquez is charged in Montezuma County Court with three felonies: conspiracy to distribute a schedule II controlled substance, introduction of contraband and tampering with physical evidence.
He was already charged with four felonies and four habitual criminal sentence enhancers in relation to a car chase on Nov. 30, where Marquez reached speeds of 105 mph on Colorado Highway 184 between Dolores and Mancos.
Sheriff Steve Nowlin said this recent case of contraband introduction is just one more reason why he plans on purchasing a full-body scanner. He said contraband introduction is the biggest problem at the detention center.
“Let your imagine run wild with you about where people can secret things,” Nowin said. “That’s why we need a scanner.”
He said he has been looking into the cost of a scanner and possible grant funding. Nowlin said he saw one last year priced at $300,000, which he said is too expensive. He said he is sending a captain to Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office in February to check out their scanner and receive training.
It would work similar to a full-body scanner at airports, he said, and every inmate would go through the scanner upon entering the jail. He said there are lots of safety features on the scanners, and radiation is not really a problem.
“It’s been on my to-do list for several years now, and hopefully we can make it happen this year,” Nowlin said.
There have been at least two other cases of contraband introduction since late October. On Oct. 31, a search of inmate Darrell Perez returned a small black bag containing meth. On Dec. 20, a search of inmate Zakri Sanchez returned three syringes in his hair bun, one of which contained Suboxone, a narcotic that treats opioid dependence.