Tip after car repair leads sheriff's officer to cocaine
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

Feb. 13, 2004 -- Sheriff's officers arrested a Bolingbrook, Ill., couple on felony drug charges Monday after a tip from a local wrecker service resulted in the recovery of 808 grams of cocaine from beneath the front windshield cowling of their car.

Hopkins County Sheriff's Cpl. Michele Peek initiated a traffic stop on an 1989 Mitsubishi Galant at 5:23 p.m. at the 128 mile marker on Interstate 30 for failure to maintain a single lane of travel.

Peek began monitoring the vehicle after receiving information from employees at Tommy Evans Firestone that they had located what appeared to be cocaine in the dash of the Illinois passenger car they were repairing. After noting the traffic violation, Peek stopped the car driven by 58-year-old Israel Lopez, who was accompanied by his wife, 52-year-old Juana Lopez.

The corporal noted Israel Lopez to be "extremely nervous while speaking" with her, which led Peek to suspect the pair may have been transporting illegal substances. After receiving Israel Lopez's permission, Peek searched the vehicle. Finding nothing in plain view, she retrieved her canine partner, Body, from her patrol vehicle to conduct an open air sniff search of the vehicle for narcotics. Body gave a positive alert on the right front passenger door seam and right front quarter panel of the car.

Tommy Evans Firestone was contacted to assist in disassembling the windshield cowling of the car and towing it to Hopkins County Sheriff's Office. Reserve deputy Sean English also assisted at the stop, according to reports.

A brown bundle containing the contraband was located in the vehicle at the scene. Both Israel Lopez and Juana Lopez were taken in custody at 6:25 p.m. on felony possession of controlled substances charges.

At the sheriff's office, further inspection of the vehicle turned up two other bundles from the same area of the car. All together, the three bundles of white, powdery-like substance believed to be cocaine weighed 808.4 grams.

Both Israel and Juana Lopez remained in Hopkins County jail Tuesday morning in lieu of $100,000 bond each on the aggravated felony possession of more than 400 grams of cocaine charge. If convicted, they each face 10 years to 99 years or life in prison and an optional fine up to $100,000.

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