Complaints of a speeding driver drew Benewah County deputies to the Plummer area the evening of Aug. 25.
By the end of the night, the case had expanded to include a rollover accident, an assault on a jail deputy, and a mystery involving more than $70,000 in cash.
According to police reports, Deputies Tim Meagher and Donald Johnson received reports from dispatch about numerous 911 calls in the Plummer area. Residents and motorists complained of a silver SUV with Texas license plates driving at a high rate of speed in the area, weaving through traffic and nearly causing a head-on collision.
The deputies responded to the area expecting a pursuit. However, as they approached they realized that pursuit had already ended: the vehicle had run off the road near Underpass Road, and had flipped on its roof.
A Plummer firefighter, the first to respond to the scene, told deputies that the driver, a woman, was trapped in the vehicle. Deputy Meagher used a window punch to break the glass and free the woman. A local nurse, who had been driving past the wreck, also stopped to assist.
Deputy Meagher began to interview the woman. Instead of gratitude for her rescuers, however, the driver displayed unusual resistance to questioning.
“I asked the female her name to get things started, and the female would not give her name,” he said. “I asked again and the female said no.”
The deputy confirmed that the license plate of the vehicle was the one they had received complaints about, and ran the number through a police database. The vehicle was registered to a Cheryl Minello of Texas. The deputy asked the woman if that was her name.
“She told me no, and then said yes, and started asking how we got there so fast,” the deputy said.
As they were talking, deputies noted that Minello was looking around the scene, taking particular note of where all parties were standing. The deputy interpreted this as the suspect looking for an opportunity to run, and directed Deputy Johnson to move to her other side and block escape.
Through this time, the nurse and local EMTs attempted to help the suspect; however, Minello repeatedly told all parties to leave her alone, allegedly calling them “rapists” and becoming agitated whenever a male would approach her. The EMTs told deputies that she needed to go to the hospital for a check-up, as she had trouble standing and had spit up some blood.
Minello, however, said she would not go without collecting some of the baggage from her vehicle. The deputy saw that the SUV was loaded with bags “from the back of the vehicle to behind the driver’s seat.”
“Minello tried to get back to the vehicle,” Deputy Meagher said. “I stopped her and told her no, we could find her bags and send them up later after the tow truck got on scene and flipped the vehicle back on its wheels. Minello said she wanted the bags, and was not going to the hospital.”
Minello made several attempts to get in the back of the vehicle, but was stopped each time by both deputies and EMTs.
“I told Minello that we were done with this game, and she had two options: that she went to the hospital or I was going to take her to jail,” Deputy Meagher said. “Minello said she ws going to go to the hospital, and started staggering towards the ambulance, looking the whole time for a way to flee from us.”
She made a final attempt to break from the deputies, l but was intercepted by the deputies. She tried to swing her arms to throw them off, but was restrained in handcuffs. EMTs attempted to load her into the ambulance for transport to Benewah Community Hospital, but Minello resisted being strapped down by safety belts.
Minello was instead taken to the hospital’s emergency room in Deputy Meagher and Johnson’s vehicle. She continued to be verbally abusive to the deputies throughout, asking why she was being detained and calling the arrest “unconstitutional.”
At the hospital, an on-duty ER doctor inspected Minello and said she had not apparent life-threatening injuries. However, the woman continued to resist, and the doctor advised against further examination or a blood draw while she was in that state. Deputies agreed, and transported her to the Benewah County Jail.
Minello’s resistance only escalated during her booking. Deputy Meagher was forced to bodily carry her off of the elevator and into the jail. She fought a pat-down search, claiming the male deputies were attempting to rape her. Detention Deputy Devon Goe, a woman, conducted the pat-down search, but she continued to resist and sling profanities at all present.
She was taken into a cell to be dressed down in prison garments, a process to be supervised by Deputy Goe.
Minello continued to resist throughout the dress-down, throwing articles of clothing at Deputy Goe and making various lewd gestures.
The situation escalated quickly when the suspect stopped obeying verbal commands.
“Deputye Goe told Minello to put her hands on the wall several times, when Minello turned around and struck deputy Goe on the left side of the face, knocking her glasses off,” Deputy Meagher said. “Minello was getting ready to strike again when Deputy Johnson grabbed Minello by the arms and torso and took Minello to the ground.
Deputy Goe, Deputy Meagher and Deputy Brandon Vannatter also assisted, restraining her until she agreed to comply with orders. She was taken to the jail’s female cell and was secured for the night.
Deputies charged her with felony battery of a jail officer for the incident, adding to her charges of reckless driving, driving under the influence of alcohol – though no blood draw was possible at the time – and resisting officers.
However, Minello’s case held more surprises for deputies – including one which showed her belligerent behavior into a new, deadly light.
While Minello was transported to Benewah County Jail, Deputy Dustin Pulley remained in Plummer to investigate the crash scene. He collected photographs and began to secure the baggage which Minello had attempted to access.
“Inside the black and white colored bag I located several individually wrapped baggies with several $100 bills in U.S. currency,” Deputy Pulley’s report said. “I would estimate 3-4 plastic baggies with U.S. currency, and a multicolored bag with several more stacks of U.S. currency with denomination amounts attached to the money.”
The bag he inspected contained an estimated $5,000 to $10,000 in cash. Also found in the vehicle were a large number of bank records, as well as a map of Idaho’s forests and Forest Service Roads, a U.S. passport and directions to a location in the Spokane, WA area.
The deputy also found a sobering surprise stored among the mysterious money.
“In the same pocket with the money, I located a Smith and Wesson .38 Special-caliber pistol, loaded,” he said.
Deputy Pulley immediately advised Deputy Meagher what he had found in the back of the vehicle, to which the deputy responded with relief.
“I told Deputy Pulley I was glad we did not let Minello back into the car, because she would have had access to the handgun,” he said.
After leaving the jail, Deputy Meagher returned to the scene of the crash, which had been secured by other deputies, and searched the vehicle with body cameras on. During their search, deputies found that other bags in the vehicle also contained stacks of cash, all wrapped in consumer plastic wrap.
After counting, the total amount of money seized was $72,100 in cash. All money, documents and the weapon were secured as evidence.
Minello is being held in the Benewah County Jail. Bail in her case is set at $100,000.