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Two connected to Box Elder double homicide arrested on drug charges

Two women alleged to be connected to the March 28 double-homicide in Box Elder have been arrested on drug charges.

Melody Rose Bernard, who operates the restaurant Ziah's Place and the businesss High Society in Box Elder, and Ashley Jocelyn "Green Eyes" Cortez of California were shared in U.S. District Court Wednesday with possessing with intent and conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and fentanyl.

Court documents say both are connected with the March 18 shootings of Darren Wade Caplette and Thomas "T.R" Yallup.

Three, all from California, have been charged with homicide in that shooting at about 1:30 a.m. March 18 at the D and L Bar.

Angel Castillo and Angelo Sanchez, both 18 at the time of the shooting, and a boy who was 16 at the time of the shooting have been charged with deliberate homicide with the use of a firearm.

The three were identified through video footage where the shooting occurred at about 1:30 a.m. March 18. Their faces were obscured in the video from the bar but their clothing was visible, and Bernard identified the three in the video.

The vehicle used in the shooting belonged to Bernard, a court document said.

Law enforcement gathered information that the three were staying in a Havre hotel, and found the three there. Clothing consistent with what the suspects in the shooting were wearing was found in the room.

The three were taken to the Hill County Sheriff's Office, where they were interviewed by law enforcement. All three declined to speak with law enforcement.

Due to evidence collected at the scene and witness statements, the three were charged with deliberate homicide, a court document said.

Castillo and Sanchez were being held in detention at Chouteau County and the 16-year-old was in the juvenile detention center in Cascade County this week.

A court document said law enforcement had started investigating Bernard since September 2023 after a witness said she was selling narcotics out of Ziah’s.

In November, another witness the document said is a known drug user on Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation told law enforcement Bernard was selling fentanyl pills out of her pizza place.

Law enforcement interviewed other witnesses also said Bernard sold fentanyl and methamphetamine, both out of her businesses and out of her home.

March 11, the document said, law enforcement had a “confidential human source” conduct a controlled purchase of fentanyl from Bernard and another source on Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation.

Another informant told law enforcement March 21 that Bernard was selling large amounts of meth and fentanyl out of her Box Elder residence and business. The informant said Bernard was being sourced by a Mexican male known as “Junior” who was incarcerated in California.

The informant also said a Hispanic woman known as “Green Eyes” was the middle person between Bernard and “Junior,” the document said.

Officers investigating the shooting learned, primarily through video surveillance, that Bernard was present at the shooting and temporarily transported one of the victims after he was shot. She was seen taking on a cell phone before, during and after the shooting, the document said.

March 27, law enforcement reviewed camera footage showing three men who matched the description of the shooters, wearing the same clothing as the shooters seen in video footage, entering Bernard’s residence the day before the shooting. The three also were driving the same vehicle suspected to be used in the shooting that later was recovered.

Law enforcement interviewed Bernard March 28 and she identified the three people in the suspect vehicle as the three who have been charged in the shooting, the document said.She also identified a person listed in her phone as “Green Eyes” to be named Ashley. Bernard said she did not know the woman very well, and the woman would force Bernard to let her stay with her. Bernard also said the woman was part of the drug activity at Rocky Boy and was the daughter of “Junior” and they all are drug dealers out of California, the document said.

When law enforcement found the three charged in the shooting in the Havre hotel, Ashley “Green Eyes” Cortez was with them, the document said.

After executing a search warrant, law enforcement found two handguns, multiple cell phones and suspected narcotics in the hotel room, the document said.

In further investigation, the document said, law enforcement was able to positively identify “Junior” as Martin Topete, an inmate of the Centinela State Prison in California. Law enforcement learned that Topete is incarcerated for a drug-related premeditated murder of a rival gang member in 2015, the document said.

The document said that information found during the investigation led law enforcement to believe Topete had ordered Yallup or Caplette or both to be murderd. Law enforcement also had received information from multiple sources that Hispanic males were in the area of the reservation to “clean house,” which they interpreted as a threat to life, the document said.

Are obtaining a warrant to review data from the phone with the number with which Bernard had conducted a 31-minute phone call before, during and after the shooting was determined to have been in the area of Centinala State Prison for the duration of the warrant, April 14 through May 10, the document said.

A phone known to have been used by Bernard contacted that number 14 times during the period of the warrant, the document said.

Further review of Bernard’s cell phone obtained in the homicide investigation also found an abundance of evidence implicating Bernard in narcotics trafficking, the document said, including a conversation between Bernard and Cortez.

Witnesses told law enforcement that Bernard had continued to traffic narcotics after the March 28 shooting, the document said.

Tuesday, law enforcement executed a search warrant on Bernard’s residence. The document said an agent saw Cortez hiding in a bathroom with water running. After detaining Cortez, the agent saw a large amount of suspected meth and cocaine in the bathtub with the water running, apparently to destroy evidence.

Cortez and Bernard were both located in the house while the search warrant was executed, along with two others not identified in the document, and 64.5 grams of meth confirmed through a TruNarc scanner, about 98 grams of cocaine confirmed through a TruNarc scanner, and about 64 fentanyl pills. Law enforcement also found about $6,400 in cash and a firearm.

Watch for more in Thursday’s edition of Havre Weekly Chronicle.

 

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