RW woman caught with stolen vehicle while agate hunting

Posted 6/14/22

By Sarah Nigbor TOWN OF HARTLAND – A Red Wing woman could be facing up to six years in prison and/or fines up to $10,000 after allegedly “borrowing” a vehicle from a friend’s landlord. She …

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RW woman caught with stolen vehicle while agate hunting

Posted

By Sarah Nigbor

TOWN OF HARTLAND – A Red Wing woman could be facing up to six years in prison and/or fines up to $10,000 after allegedly “borrowing” a vehicle from a friend’s landlord. She was caught when the vehicle owner’s son saw his dad’s vehicle parked in an odd place – especially odd since his dad was gone on vacation.

Nicole Margaret Benda, 41, posted a $20,000 signature bond May 31 on felony possession of methamphetamine, felony possession of narcotic drugs, felony bail jumping (two counts), drive or operate vehicle without consent – abandon vehicle (as party to a crime), resisting or obstructing an officer and possess drug paraphernalia. She is scheduled to next appear in Pierce County Circuit Court at 1:45 p.m. June 14 for a status conference.

According to the complaint: Deputies responded at 7:15 a.m. to the area of County Road EE and 617th Street in the town of Hartland for a suspicious activity complaint. The complainant had seen his father’s vehicle near that area, which he thought odd since his dad was on vacation and to his knowledge, hadn’t given anyone permission to drive the vehicle. He saw a woman he estimated to be 50 wearing a black hat and New York Yankees jersey walk away from the vehicle toward Isabelle Creek.

When he called his dad, his dad told him he hadn’t given anyone permission to drive the vehicle, which was supposed to be parked at one of his rental properties.

When police arrived, they found the suspect, later identified as Benda, in Isabelle Creek with another woman where they were apparently hunting for agates. Benda told police the vehicle’s owner had given her permission to use the vehicle.

The other woman told police she’d met Benda at the Woodshed Bar, where she’s a bartender. Benda stopped into the Harbor Bar Campground over the weekend where the woman was staying and they agreed to go agate hunting in the morning. The woman said she thought the vehicle they’d used belonged to Benda.

Benda said her car had broken down and an acquaintance of hers had told her he had a vehicle she could use, but needed it returned by that Tuesday. She told police Lucas Edward Armstrong, 46, had dropped the vehicle off for her to drive between 4 and 5 p.m. May 28.

The vehicle’s owner told police the vehicle had been parked at his rental property, where Armstrong lives, and the last time he saw it was May 10. He had given no one permission to use it.

When police searched the vehicle, they found multiple drug paraphernalia items that tested positive for marijuana, methamphetamine and cocaine. They also found a pill bottle containing amphetamine narcotics and multiple empty and full intoxicating beverage containers.

Armstrong later told police he didn’t know who had the vehicle, but believed someone from the Woodshed or Harbor Bar had taken it from where it was stored on the property. However, the vehicle owner’s son showed police multiple texts he’d received from Armstrong that morning, telling him he’d asked someone to bring the vehicle to a car wash to clean it as a “surprise.” However, no car washes are located in Esdaile.