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Latrobe couple ordered to trial

| Monday, Aug. 26, 2013, 11:26 p.m.

A Latrobe couple who were placed under surveillance because of a confrontation with a city councilman were ordered to stand trial on drug charges Monday.

Bruce Thompkins, 43, and Michelle Muck, 32, both of 518 Weldon St. were held for trial by Unity District Judge Michael Mahady following a preliminary hearing at which police officers testified they seized heroin, cash and drug paraphernalia from their home.

Latrobe Officer Michael Wigand testified that he had set up surveillance on the house at least three times in April after Councilman Robert “Stuffy” Forish, the couple's neighbor, allegedly threatened Thompkins with a gun during an argument.

Charges of simple assault and reckless endangerment filed against Forish were dropped.

Thompkins and Muck were arrested on May 5 when investigators seized 95 stamp bags of heroin, $680 and drug paraphernalia from their home. Muck allegedly sold six stamp bags to a confidential informant on May 4.

During the surveillance, police allege, the couple were seen coming and going from the home and then having brief meetings with known drug users in the parking lots of various businesses in Latrobe.

Patricia Elliott, Muck's defense attorney, asked Wigand how police determined the couple intended to sell the drugs, arguing that because Muck entered a detox program after her arrest, the amount of heroin indicates it could have been for personal use.

“There's nothing illegal about getting in your vehicle and leaving your address, correct?” she asked Wigand.

Wigand said he believed the amount, including 45 bags marked as “Joker” and 50 marked as “Sucker Punch,” and paraphernalia seized, including a digital scale and metal grinder, indicated the drugs were being sold.

Thompkins' attorney, Greg Cecchetti, reviewed the list of evidence seized, including the cash, grinder, a pipe with drug residue, a cellphone and charger.

Cecchetti asked Wigand whether any other items — owe sheets, address books or firearms — were taken as evidence. Wigand indicated nothing was taken.

Wigand told Cecchetti neither the money nor the pipe was analyzed for illegal substances by police.

Assistant District Attorney Judith Petrush submitted a forensics lab report for the stamp bags, which confirmed they contained heroin.

Wigand testified that mail addressed to Thompkins listed the Weldon Street address, and the couple had a 2002 Ford Explorer registered in both their names to the same Latrobe home.

During the search, Officer Joseph Angus was bitten on the foot by a pit bull before police shot the dog, police said.

Muck said after the hearing that she was not given a chance to properly restrain the dog before police entered the home.

“They didn't have to shoot my dog. His crate was six feet behind me,” she said, adding that the dog was defending his family.

“They killed a 10-year-old family member,” Muck said.

Thompkins is charged with manufacture of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. Muck is charged with manufacture or possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Thompkins and Muck are each free on $25,000 bond.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or sfederoff@tribweb.com.

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