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Taillight stop leads to marijuana, heroin, meth bust

Lake County authorities say 74-year-old Thomas Earl Sheppard was arrested when deputies found drugs in his SUV after pulling him over because of a defective tail light.
Lake County authorities say 74-year-old Thomas Earl Sheppard was arrested when deputies found drugs in his SUV after pulling him over because of a defective tail light.
Lake County Sheriff's Department

Authorities in California’s rural Lake County say a defective taillight has led to the arrest of an elderly man and the seizure of heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana from the SUV he was driving.

A sheriff’s spokesman says the drug find came after a deputy pulled over a Ford Explorer because of the light as it drove along Highway 20 near the tiny community of Clearlake Oaks just before midnight Wednesday.

Lake County sheriff’s Lieut. Steve Brook says after the SUV was stopped a background check of the driver -- 74-year-old Thomas Earl Sheppard of Chico -- determined that he was on felony probation with a “search clause.”

The check also found that a passenger in the SUV -- 40-year-old Sheri Lynn Hann of nearby Lucerne -- was wanted on a “citable” warrant.

When deputies searched Sheppard’s SUV they say they found eleven plastic bags containing more than two grams of methamphetamine, five bundles containing a little more than five grams of heroin, packages with about four ounces of marijuana, and other items including a digital scale, and a fanny pack with $1,520 in it.

In announcing the arrests late Friday, Brooks said in a statement that Sheppard had admitted to deputies that he had sold two pounds of marijuana earlier in the day for $2,000.

“Sheppard said the money located in the fanny pack was from the sale, minus some that he used to pay bills,” Brooks said in the statement.

Sheppard was arrested on suspicion of having controlled substances, marijuana and narcotics for sale, as well as violating the terms of his probation.

He was being held in a Lake County jail. Hann was arrested on a “citable” warrant and later released.

The latest drug find follows a long list of seizures and arrests in the rural county, including last month’s discoveries of tens of thousands of marijuana plants growing in different locations across the county.

With a population of about 64,000 people spread across nearly 1,300 square miles of scenic and rural countryside about 120 miles north of San Francisco, Lake County is one of California’s least populated -- and though incomes vary widely among the county’s residents -- also one of the poorest counties in state.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau nearly 24 percent of county’s residents are living below the poverty level