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Custody battle takes bizarre twist

WINTON – A custody battle between an estranged husband-and-wife took a bizarre twist here last week when a third party was arrested for planting illegal drugs in a vehicle parked at the Hertford County Courthouse.

Patricia Kay Baggett, age 34 of Bertie Avenue, Windsor, stands charged with breaking and entering of a motor vehicle, possession of cocaine, and delivering cocaine. She was held in lieu of a $10,000 secured bond leading up to her initial appearance May 18 in Hertford County Criminal District Court.

In another twist to the case, Jason Russell Knox, 39, of Carlyle Askew Lane, Ahoskie, was arrested May 16 by the Ahoskie Police on warrants alleging conspiracy to sell or deliver a Schedule II controlled substance and felony conspiracy. Those warrants, issued by the Hertford County Sheriff’s Office, also included one for felony obstruction of justice.

The twist comes in the fact that the alleged victim in this case is the wife of Mr. Knox. Additionally, Baggett was seen with Mr. Knox inside the courtroom on May 15, the date of a custody hearing scheduled between Jason and Stephanie Knox.

Surveillance cameras in the parking lot of the Hertford County Courthouse also showed Baggett and Mr. Knox walking around Stephanie Knox’s van.

The investigation began shortly after 10 a.m. on May 15 when the Hertford County Sheriff’s Office received an anonymous call, saying there was a white van (stating the license plate number) in the courthouse parking lot with a white powdery substance packaged in a plastic baggie and wrapped in what appeared to be a plastic cigarette box wrapper on the front seat of that vehicle. The caller advised the driver of that van had gone inside the courthouse.

HCSO Deputy John Timberlake responded to the courthouse parking lot and located the van, which upon his check of the license plate revealed it was registered to Jason and Stephanie Knox. It was at that time he observed the white powdery substance in plain view on the front seat.

Now with other HCSO deputies involved, Jason and Stephanie Knox were summoned to meet Timberlake in the courthouse lobby. From there they were escorted to the van in the parking lot. There, Jason Knox alleged the van was no longer his as the judge had awarded it as the personal property of Mrs. Knox.

“When we got to the vehicle, I seized the white powdery substance on the passenger seat and explained to Stephanie Knox that I believed it to be cocaine,” Timberlake wrote in his report. “She told me that Jason had to have planted it there because they are currently in a custody battle.”

She further informed Timberlake that Jason Knox had a key to the van and had refused to give it to her earlier.

“(Mrs. Knox) also stated that Jason had told her that if she ever left him he would plant drugs in her car,” Timberlake’s report revealed.

At that point, Timberlake asked Jason Knox if he still had a key to the vehicle. He stated he did not.

“Deputy Bryant Cooke then went with Jason to his car to see if he had a key to the van,” read Timberlake’s report. “Jason got to his car before Deputy Cooke and grabbed a key from the console area and tried to put it in the back of the car. Deputy Cooke then grabbed that key and both of them returned to the van. Jason then stated he forgot he had a key to the van.”

Further investigation revealed there was another female with Jason Knox in the courtroom (later identified as Baggett).

“While talking to Ms. Baggett, she admitted taking the (van) key, unlocking it and placing some clothes in the vehicle,” Timberlake said in the report.

At that point, HCSO Investigator Chase Oliver gained Jason Knox’s consent to look inside his car. Oliver noted the presence of three packs of cigarettes, two with the outer plastic wrapper still in place while the wrapper was missing on the third pack. The box with the missing wrapper was located in the passenger’s seat.

“When Investigator Oliver asked whose pack of cigarettes was in the passenger’s seat, Ms. Baggett admitted it was hers. I then placed Patricia Baggett under arrest,” Timberlake said.

Later in the report, Timberlake noted that the video showing Jason Knox walking around the van, the use of a key he gave Baggett to gain access to the van, and the statement he made claiming he did not possess such a key led to the two conspiracy charges against Mr. Knox.

Additionally, the felony obstruction charge alleges that Mr. Knox had the cocaine planted in his estranged wife’s vehicle in an attempt to gain an advantage in the ongoing custody battle.

Mr. Knox, who was held in lieu of a $10,000 secured bond on those charges, made his first appearance May 18 in Hertford County Criminal District Court.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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