Brewster County Sheriff’s Office seizes 2,000 pounds of marijuana in Terlingua

On Sunday, the Brewster County Sheriff’s Office seized nearly 2,000 pounds of marijuana concealed in a horse trailer at the Motor Inn in Terlingua. Photo courtesy of the Brewster County Sheriff’s Office.

TERLINGUA — On Sunday morning, the Brewster County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) responded to a call about a truck and horse trailer that had been parked for several days at the Motor Inn in Study Butte. BCSO’s South County deputies responded quickly and discovered around 2,000 pounds of marijuana partially concealed beneath bales of alfalfa. 

Shortly thereafter, the BCSO pulled over a vehicle circling the scene. Around noon, officials apprehended Axel Manuel Olivas of Odessa and a male Mexican national who had the key to the truck that had allegedly been spotted pulling the horse trailer, according to the sheriff’s office.

Olivas was transported to the Brewster County Jail, where he is being held on a third-degree felony human smuggling charge. Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson explained that additional charges may be pressed against Olivas after a pending investigation. So far, Olivas is facing a single state charge, but he could also face federal charges.

It was not immediately clear whether the Mexican national, who authorities say lacked documentation allowing entry to the U.S., would face charges, but was turned over to Customs and Border Protection. CBP did not return requests for comment on the matter by press time.

It was also not immediately clear whether either of the men had retained legal representation. Attempts to identify and reach defense attorneys in the case were unsuccessful as of press time.

The seizure was the most significant drug bust executed by the department this year — Dodson said that the majority of smuggling arrests carried out by his department were human trafficking. “It’s a lot easier to smuggle humans,” he said. 

The seized marijuana will be turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for destruction. Typically, the sheriff’s office will hold seized narcotics just long enough to collect samples for their own investigation.

This arrangement between the DEA and the BCSO is relatively new — Dodson said that previously the sheriff’s department had been responsible for destroying its own seizures. 

Without the DEA’s high-powered incinerators, the process was long and unwieldy. Dodson described a few do-it-yourself narcotics disposals as “disastrous,” though he felt that physics was more to blame than the efforts of his department. “[Marijuana] doesn’t burn like you think it would,” he said. “When it’s compacted, no air gets in there and it’s miserable.”

For now, all agencies involved in the case are preparing for the next phase of the investigation. Dodson wasn’t holding his breath for everything to wrap up quickly. “It doesn’t happen overnight — it could be a couple of months,” he said. 

The interior of the seized trailer. Photo courtesy of the Brewster County Sheriff’s Office.