On April 17, 2017, around 7 AM, a YCSO K9 deputy stopped a 2014 white Toyota Corolla for an equipment violation east on I40 in Ash Fork, Arizona. The driver was identified as 29-year-old Matthew Sturges from Oklahoma. He had two passengers in the vehicle, 19-year-old Savanna Taylor from Oklahoma and 58-year-old Michael Knesel from California. During a conversation with the occupants, all were extremely nervous and provided seemingly deceptive answers to simple questions that passengers travelling together should commonly know. Based on the deputy’s training and experience, he believed the vehicle likely contained drugs and/or other contraband and requested consent to search. Sturges declined and denied there were any guns or drugs in the vehicle.
Because of the deputy’s reasonable suspicion drugs may be contained within the vehicle, he deployed his certified K9 partner Vader for a free air search of the exterior. During the walk along the driver’s side of the Toyota, K9 Vader displayed trained alert signals to the deputy indicating the odor of drugs. At this time, Sturges admitted he had a handgun hidden under the front seat but continued to deny any drugs would be found in their car.
When searching the vehicle to locate the source of the odor, deputies recovered the handgun and found marijuana and meth on the floorboard along with a plastic baggie of meth in a backpack lying on the rear seat. Inside another container, deputies located forged US currency in $100 denominations and other bills that were ‘washed’ in preparation to print higher denomination counterfeits. In the trunk of the vehicle, deputies found 8 separately packaged baggies of methamphetamine inside a suitcase – about ½ pound. A computer printer was also discovered and likely used as part of the counterfeiting operation.
The total weight of meth seized was nearly 9 ounces.
Taylor claimed ownership of the small amount of meth and marijuana found in the front passenger compartment. Knesel admitted to possessing the meth in the backpack along with the counterfeit currency and associated equipment. Sturges admitted to a possessing a small amount of meth and the handgun. All 3 denied any connection to the ½ pound of meth located in the trunk.
The 3 suspects were booked at the Camp Verde Detention Center.
Taylor’s charges include Possession of Dangerous Drugs, Transportation of Dangerous Drugs, Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia and Promoting Prison Contraband (drug pipe found on her person during search). She remains in-custody on a $10,000 bond.
Knesel’s charges include Possession of Dangerous Drugs, Transportation of Dangerous Drugs, Possess Forged Instrument, Possession of Forgery Equipment, and Criminal Possession of a Forgery Device. He remains in-custody on a $75,000 bond.
Sturges has charges which include Possession of Dangerous Drugs, Transportation of Dangerous Drugs, Misconduct Involving Weapons, Prohibited Possessor, and Possession of Deadly Weapon during Commission of a Felony. He remains in custody on a $40,000 bond.
Citizens can contact the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office with information or questions at 928-771-3260 or the YCSO website: www.ycsoaz.gov