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Posted by W von Papinešu on April 23, 2003 at 21:04:43:
DAILY NEWS (Los Angeles, California) 22 April 03 Deputy discovers rattler atop drugs - Suspect accused of murder attempt (Greg Botonis)
Lancaster: A sheriff's deputy searching a car after questioning its driver said he found drugs and something more alarming -- a rattlesnake -- in a plastic Tupperware container.
The car's driver has been charged with attempted murder after officials decided the snake, an especially venomous local variety known as a Mojave green, was there to guard the drugs.
"I don't see any reason you would put the third most deadly snake in the world in a container with your dope unless you were trying to hurt or kill someone and protect your dope," said Deputy District Attorney Haden Zacky.
Catrino Meza, described as a 29-year-old transient, pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Lancaster Superior Court to charges of attempted murder on a peace officer, possession of a booby trap and possession of methamphetamines.
The snake has been sent to a Los Angeles Museum of Natural History researcher studying venoms.
Authorities said Meza had borrowed a vehicle listed on computer records as the property of a person wanted on an arrest warrant. A deputy spotted the vehicle in the Lancaster Metrolink station parking lot at about about 9 a.m. Friday and then talked with Meza. The deputy found out Meza was not the vehicle owner but was on probation for spousal assault, officials said.
The deputy said he asked to search the vehicle and was granted permission, officials said.
Sheriff's Sgt. Jay Bluff said the deputy repeatedly asked Meza if there was anything that would harm him inside the vehicle, and the deputy said Meza repeatedly answered no. The deputy said he found small amounts of methamphetamine in different places in the car, then discovered a black Tupperware container in the rear.
When he popped open the container lid, the deputy said he saw the rattlesnake sitting atop packages of methamphetamine and quickly snapped the lid back on.
"The Mojave green coiled and was ready to strike," Zacky said. "He (Meza) knew it was in the car, and he never said anything."
Zacky said Meza has been bitten himself several times by poisonous snakes.
"The suspect has been bitten before and received four different types of antivenin in order to survive, so he knows how dangerous that snake is," Zacky said.