Breaking bad in Bandera
By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor
A routine traffic stop initiated by City of Bandera Deputy Marshal Earl Heidelberg quickly morphed into what could become a major drug bust, according to City Marshal James "Charlie" Hicks. Even more shocking is that the alleged methamphetamine manufacturer is former city businessman, Nathan "Nat" Hay.
All information included in this article was taken from law enforcement reports from the City of Bandera and Bandera County Sheriff's Office.
While heading home at approximately 3:33 am, Monday, March 24, Kerr County Deputy Eric Williams reported a motorist driving recklessly on Highway 173 South. Responding officer Heidelberg stopped a vehicle near FM 1077 for failing to maintain a single lane.
Approaching the 2003 Chevrolet Suburban, Heidelberg noticed a female juvenile at the wheel, who was later confirmed to be 14 years old. According to a report, the girl "appeared nervous" and "was unable to maintain eye contact." Additionally, her eyes were red and pupils constricted, the sheriff's report stated.
At this point, Heidelberg noticed an unconscious male in the backseat of the Suburban. The man was subsequently identified as Hay, 41, owner of the now defunct Bandera Computers, formally on Highway 16 in the city. Additionally, a syringe filled with fluid was found on the backseat next to a center console, according to reports.
At this point, the deputy marshal called BCSO for assistance and Sgt. Joey Hernandez responded. Both officers attempted to wake up Hay. After regaining consciousness, Hay reportedly became agitated and refused to give consent to search the vehicle.
It was ascertained that, at the time of the traffic stop, Hay had apparently been returning from Center Point where he had been in contact with a person whom Hicks described as a "known drug dealer." Hicks arrived on the scene at 4 am.
About the same time, Sgt. Gerald "Jerry" Johnson arrived with a K-9 dog that had been trained to detect the presence of drugs. In short order, the dog alerted to drugs in the vehicle, giving officers probable cause to search the vehicle. "The dog alerted to drugs almost before he was let off the leash," Hicks explained.
Officers discovered a cache in the rear back quarter panel of the Suburban. Inventoried items included a hot plate, a blue bag filled with a clear, crystal-like substance, four glass jars, a substance that resembled marijuana, stove fuel and tubing, among other items. To veteran law enforcement officers, the discovered stash resembled a mobile meth lab.
"Precursors to the manufacture of meth were also discovered in the vehicle, including iodine and ephedrine," Hicks explained. "You need at least three to make a case." Officers also found a mask with a respirator similar to ones used by meth cookers on the former television series "Breaking Bad." According to reports, as the officers continued their search and inventory duties, Hay became increasingly aggressive.
The female juvenile was released into the custody of her mother. The next day, personnel with Child Protective Services opened a separate investigation, Hicks said.
Hay was arrested and charged with manufacture and delivery of over 400 grams of a PG 1 controlled substance, as well as felony possession of chemicals used in the production of methamphetamine. "Further charges are pending," Hicks said.
Bond was placed at $30,000 for manufacture and delivery of more than 400 grams of a PG 1 controlled substance and $20,000 on the second charge. Hay bonded out the day of his arrest.
As owner of Bandera Computers, Hay served as IT consultant for the City of Bandera, working closely with officials, staff and administrators to overhaul their computer system equipment.
In 2011, he recommended that council purchase two new 64-byte computers to replace four older model computers. Additionally, Hay proposed taking parts from the city's oldest computers and combining them to create one working model that would be assigned to an employee at the municipal water treatment.
Hay also proposed re-configuring the city's server to provide better security.
Commenting on the arrest, BCSO Chief Deputy Matt King noted, "I don't want to sound naïve, but you really expect some people to be honest, like locksmiths and people who work on your computer system. Think of all the business information that guy had access to."