Man facing drug charges, woman accused of harboring fugitive in Preston Co.

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Two people have been arrested in Preston County after a woman was found to be harboring a fugitive that eluded officers in a police pursuit in February.

Justin Travis, 32, of Terra Alta, has been charged with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and possession with intent to deliver a counterfeit substance. Tonya Helmick, 35, of Masontown has been charged with harboring a felony fugitive.

On February 6, deputies with the Preston County Sheriff’s Department were in the area of the Walmart in Kingwood and observed a vehicle with expired registration. Deputies said the vehicle was parked in a way that led them to believe it may be involved in a shoplifting operation.

A man, who deputies on scene recognized as Justin Travis, then exited Walmart and got into the vehicle. Deputies said they had prior knowledge that Travis did not have a valid driver’s license. Other deputies were stationed at a nearby Ford garage just east of Walmart when Travis passed them in his vehicle heading east. Deputies said they identified Travis as the sole occupant of the vehicle.

Deputies then began to follow Travis and turned on their emergency lights to initiate a traffic stop once Travis activated his turn signal near the entrance of West Point. Travis then began to accelerate his vehicle and drive recklessly through the housing development, according to court documents. Deputies continued to pursue Travis and activated their sirens.

Deputies said Travis then turned onto a dead-end street and traveled in between two houses and nearly struck a parked vehicle. Travis then opened the door of his vehicle as if to indicate he was going to flee on foot, before his vehicle jumped forward toward a downhill wooded area, at which point his door was slammed shut by trees. Deputies then stopped their vehicle and waited for Travis’s vehicle to come to a stop.

Once deputies approached the vehicle with a K-9 they noticed that Travis had fled. Deputies began to track Travis along with a K-9, but did not locate him, according to court documents. Deputies then returned to Travis’s vehicle and located a backpack from the front passenger floorboard.

Deputies said the backpack contained several small plastic bags commonly used for packaging illegal substances and several bags of a white crystal-like substance that tested positive for methamphetamine. Deputies also recovered a wallet that contained Travis’s Social Security Card, electronic scales and several other plastic bags of a white crystal-like substance that tested negative for methamphetamine.

In addition, deputies located a plastic bag containing a wax/soap-like substance, two glass smoking devices commonly used for smoking methamphetamine and several used marijuana bags that appeared to be ordered from online and contained a green and brown leafy residue. Deputies determined from all of the items found in the vehicle that Travis was selling illegal substances.

Deputies continued to search for Travis to serve him multiple felony warrants, according to court documents. On Monday, March 11, Travis fled from law enforcement while Tonya Helmick was a passenger in the vehicle. The next day, March 12, deputies spoke with Helmick and explained that Travis had multiple felony warrants out for his arrest. However, deputies said Helmick was adamant that she did not know where Travis was nor had she spoken too him in “quite some time,” according to court documents.

The following day, on March 13, Helmick was under surveillance when she dropped Travis off at the Kingwood Tractor Supply plaza, deputies said. Helmick then drove to the Kingwood McDonald’s and swapped vehicles to one that was not registered to her, according to deputies. After swapping vehicles, deputies said Helmick returned to Tractor Supply and picked up Travis.

Deputies then attempted to initiate a traffic stop, at which point Helmick accelerated the vehicle at a high speed and made an abrupt left turn onto Pleasant Avenue. As deputies followed the vehicle, they observed it pull behind the Hot Spot and approach Green Acres. Deputies approached the vehicle and advised Helmick to show them her hands and asked where Travis was, as they noticed he was no longer in the vehicle. Helmick told deputies that she did not know what they were talking about and that no one else had been in the vehicle, according to court documents. 

Other deputies on scene immediately located Travis underneath a pickup truck right beside Helmick’s vehicle. Deputies said the prior events made it abundantly clear that Helmick knowingly harbored, concealed, maintained and assisted Travis in his efforts to evade law enforcement.

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