An Anchorage man is charged with throwing a tennis ball containing heroin over a jailhouse fence to his wife inside, and while he's now behind bars, the wife bailed out before investigators connected her to the drugs.
Caley Jake Gibbons tossed the ball -- wrapped in duct tape and holding heroin, syringes and chewing tobacco -- over a fence at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in late September, according to a charging document. Alaska State Troopers say Gibbons, 34, heaved the ball for his wife, Rebecca Pendleton. Troopers are looking for Pendleton, 35, after she posted bail and left Hiland in the midst of the ongoing drug investigation.
It was July 23 when Gibbons and Pendleton were both arrested and charged with felony theft for allegedly stealing more than $1,000 worth of merchandise from Nordstrom. They told an officer they took the items for a friend, the charges say. Court records show Gibbons bailed out the next day, but Pendleton remained held at Hiland.
About 7 p.m. Sept. 24, two inmates at Hiland watched a pickup stop on its way out the driveway of the medium-security women's prison in Eagle River. Each woman, in separate reports to corrections officers, said they saw a man got out of the pickup and throw something over the outside fence. But he apparently failed to chuck the package hard enough, because it didn't make it over a second fence, the charges say.
"... The male looked visibly upset when the package didn't make it over both fences," a witness later told the corrections officers, according to the charges.
The man, later identified as Gibbons, drove away.
It's unclear from the charging document when the witnesses reported what they'd seen. Officers found the package the next morning. They called the troopers.
Trooper Curtis Vik drove to Hiland and removed the gray duct tape and plastic that was wrapped around the tennis ball, Vik wrote in the charges. The ball was cut open on one side. There was a condom inside holding chewing tobacco, two small syringes and what Vik verified, using a test kit, as black tar heroin, the charges say. The heroin weighed 1.3 grams, enough for 13 doses of one-tenth of a gram each, he wrote.
A dose of heroin at Hiland goes for about $80, versus $60 on the street, troopers said.
A corrections lieutenant told Vik she listened to Pendleton's phone conversations in which Pendleton first asked her mother, then Gibbons, to bring her contraband. The lieutenant said Gibbons had previously visited Pendleton more than 100 times while Pendleton was jailed. In August, Pendleton was barred from having visitors, because someone coming to see her was caught bringing her contraband. It's unclear from the charges if the contraband was drugs or something else.
Trooper Vik reviewed recordings of several phone calls between Gibbons and Pendleton in which they plotted to get Pendleton the drugs. Gibbons allegedly told her when he was on his way to the prison. In another call, a different woman inmate called Gibbons, who told her "it didn't go the way it was supposed to go," the charges say.
On Sept. 27, Vik drove by the place Gibbons lived with his father and saw a pickup that matched the description of the one the witnesses saw in the driveway at Hiland. Vik applied for search warrants, later executed on Gibbons' phone and home. On Oct. 8, Pendleton bailed out of jail, court records show.
On Wednesday, Oct. 17, the trooper waited at the Sand Lake-area home for Gibbons to arrive. Then, the questions began.
According to the charges, Gibbons said he had just been out driving with Pendleton, but he dropped her off at a mall "because she was afraid something was wrong." Troopers are still looking for her.
Gibbons allegedly admitted to getting the heroin, putting it in the tennis ball and driving to Hiland. But he claimed it was for another woman, named "Jan." He said he waited until an officer watching the prison perimeter walked out of sight, then threw the tape-wrapped ball over the fence, according to the charges.
Gibbons is charged with first- and second-degree promoting contraband, second- and fourth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance, trespassing and violating conditions of an earlier release from jail.
Pendleton is wanted under an arrest warrant.
"The reason why it took this long (to charge Pendleton) was due to the nature of the investigation and the multitude of other investigations that kept investigators busy," said troopers spokeswoman Beth Ipsen on Thursday. "She posted bail and was released. She wasn't charged with this crime until today."
Troopers are asking for help from the public in locating Pendleton. Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to call their local authorities.
Reach Casey Grove at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4589.
By CASEY GROVE