By Alex Lippa Staff Writer
---- — HAVERHILL — What started as a routine traffic stop led to the discovery of a safe containing heroin in the vehicle, police said.
When officers found the drugs they arrested a man and woman, who are both from Haverhill. Police said the man pleaded with them not to arrest the woman because she has a baby at home.
According to a police report, Officer James Cotreau was patrolling River Street late Wednesday night when he noticed a white Chrysler van travelling erratically. Cotreau pulled over the van and, when he began to approach the vehicle, it began to drive away slowly, the report said.
Cotreau said he ran back to his cruiser and called another officer for backup. The van stopped after travelling 15 feet, he said.
Cotreau approached the van a second time and recognized the passenger as Ryan Messina, 24, of 235 River St. Police had a warrant for Messina’s arrest. He had also been arrested by Cotreau in August. Messina was shying away from Cotreau, appearing to be hiding his identity, police said.
Cotreau spoke to the driver of the van who identified herself as Paige Lamontagne, 22, of 235 River St., police said. Lamontagne said she was driving erratically because it was raining and she had a hard time seeing the road. Cotreau continued to speak to Lamontagne, but she appeared nervous, police said.
Cotreau then went to the passenger’s side of the van and spoke to Messina, who also appeared to be nervous, the officer said. Cotreau alerted Messina that he had a warrant for his arrest. Cotreau arrested him and brought him back into the cruiser. When searching Messina, police seized $3,160 in cash from his pants pockets, according to the report.
While arresting him, Cotreau also noticed a black safe in a back seat of the van, the report said. When asked about the safe, both Messina and Lamontagne initially stated they did not own it and did not know what it was there for, the report said.
Cotreau then searched the car and found a key loop with three keys on it in the pocket of one the car doors. The police report said Lamontagne then admitted to police that Messina owned the safe, while Messina continued to maintain that he did not know who owned it.
Police said they also found several prescription pills in sandwich bags in various locations in the van. Lamontagne and Messina both said they did not know who the pills belonged to, according to police.
Based on the pills and money, police determined they had cause to open the safe with the keys they found. The keys matched the safe and police opened it to find two bags of heroin and $382 in cash, the report said. Police arrested Lamontagne, and Messina pleaded with officers to let Lamontagne go because the heroin belonged to him and she had a baby at home, the report said.
Police weighed the heroin and the total was 15.3 grams, just over the 14 grams required for a suspect to be charged with drug trafficking.
Messina and Lamontagne were both arraigned yesterday in Haverhill District Court on charges of trafficking of heroin and possession of a Class E substance. Messina was ordered held on $5,000 bail, while Lamontagne was held on $1,000 bail.