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Court testimony reveals how drug suspect escaped custody
Mans case involving $150K of meth moves to Superior Court
William Suarez enters Hall County Magistrate Court on Friday morning.

Don Carter State Park

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Child locks in cars are for the big kids, too.

Locks that weren’t set in a Hall County Sheriff’s Office car played a role in the escape of a 62-year-old Hall County man charged with methamphetamine trafficking.

The case involving William Suarez moved on to Superior Court on Friday after a committal hearing in Magistrate Court.

“(The deputy) got in his car, and I got in my car. He stepped out of the car and said, ‘Hey, this guy’s not in the backseat anymore,’” said Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad investigator Jefferey Shull.

The investigation into Suarez, Shull said, began with search warrants for false documents that Suarez allegedly used to obtain a driver’s license.

MANS agents searched two residences on Dec. 18 on McConnell Drive and Georgia Avenue, leading to the discovery of roughly $150,000 worth of methamphetamine, about 3.3 pounds, in plastic containers in the oven area.

“The sheer weight in itself indicates that it was distribution weight,” Shull said.

After further inspection, a 9 mm pistol was found behind the stove.

“Had we not just found methamphetamine …. I probably wouldn’t have found it. I probably wouldn’t have looked behind there,” Shull said.

Suarez later met with law enforcement, Shull said, and admitted he was connected to both locations. He did not admit to the methamphetamine, Shull testified.

Shull said no charges were pressed at that time on an agreement to cooperate with law enforcement on future investigations.

On Jan. 6, Hall County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Deputy Nicole Bailes testified she and other officers were conducting a home visit on Driskell Drive as a part of DUI Court.

Bailes said there was a strong smell of marijuana when entering the residence. Another investigator went into one of the bedrooms, Bailes said, and found Suarez.

Suarez allegedly fought the officer.

“Mr. Suarez was actually on the ground. (The investigator) was on top of him trying to detain him … I did observe him try to grab (the investigator’s) firearm that was secured in his holster on his waist,” Bailes said.

Bailes said she focused her attention on people in the living room, including Jose Cardenas, who was charged with trafficking cocaine.

“Because he kept making direct eye contact with the shaving kit, I asked him was there anything or any weapons in the shaving kit and could he unzip it,” Bailes said. “Mr. Cardenas unzipped the shaving kit that was next to him, and I could immediately see the marijuana protruding from the bag at that time.”

Investigators found a mason jar with marijuana, plastic bags with marijuana and cocaine packaged with black electrical tape.

Shull was called to the scene and interviewed Suarez. Shull’s plan was to interview him fully back at the MANS office and record it because Shull said he didn’t bring a camera or recording device to the scene.

Shull said a deputy put Suarez in the back of the deputy’s patrol car and returned to briefly discuss the initial interview. The two returned to their vehicles roughly five minutes later, Shull said.

When investigating the escape, Shull said he asked the deputy, who had a new vehicle, if he had put on the child locks. The deputy, according to Shull, said he believed the locks were set, but Shull said they were not.

Shull explained to Suarez’s public defender Matthew Leipold that the police vehicles are similar to any other vehicle on the road.

“When I got my patrol car, I cut off the handle and I cut off the locking mechanism,” Shull said.

Bailes wrote in an email after the hearing that “it is the responsibility of the officer to ensure that their vehicle is secured and that the child safety locks are enabled when transporting.”

All of Suarez’s charges — including trafficking methamphetamine and cocaine, escape and attempting to remove a public safety officer’s weapon — were moved on to Superior Court.