By JOY HAMPTON
Patricia Eslinger is 67 years old and facing two felony counts.
August 13 at 1:30 p.m. Eslinger is scheduled to appear before Judge Dwayne Steidley for reading of a pre-sentencing investigation. She will, according to court documents, enter a plea of guilty and be sentenced on charges of drug trafficking and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
April 20 Eslinger’s home at 16125 Redbud Drive in rural Catoosa was raided by the 12th District Drug Task Force. She surrendered to the Rogers County Sheriff’s office May 8 and was formally charged May 10.
Her case has been called the largest drug bust in Rogers County.
A grandmotherly figure, Eslinger claims she is an unsuspecting victim who rented her home to Jose Ramos, 39, and Sergio Orozco Lopez, 44, and did not know there were 65 pounds or more of marijuana with a potential street value of $104,000 stored in her detached garage.
Authorities said that a pistol, two rifles, and ammunition were found in her home.
“It’s not safe to live out in the county and not have a hand gun,” said Eslinger.
Following her arrest, Eslinger said she served one year and one week in Rogers County jail as a trustee and was released following a heart attack. She said she is still recuperating.
Though Ramos and Lopez were arrested, charges were never filed against Lopez and the case against Ramos was dismissed July 10, 2006.
“I’d like the same kind of justice they gave to Mr. Ramos,” said Eslinger.
Ray Hasselman, First Assistant District Attorney has other ideas.
“The state’s position is that as far as Rogers County is concerned, she was the linchpin in this case,” said Hasselman. The ADA said he cannot comment on the details of the case, but that a different picture than the one Eslinger paints will be presented at the sentencing hearing.
“I will go over the presentence investigation report in some detail as to the facts (at the sentencing),” said Hasselman. “I have no idea what Judge Steidley will do. Our position will be that she deserves a DOC sentence.”
Hasselman did not comment on why charges were not filed on Lopez. He said the case against Ramos was based on speculation and hearsay, and that charges could not be pursued.
“At the time (of the arrest), it was believed we would have what I refer to as a confidential informant that we might be able to use to link Ramos with the facts of this case,” said Hasselman. “It turned out that wasn’t possible, so the case against Ramos was dismissed.
The district attorney’s office confirmed that Ramos is a Mexican citizen and that there is “no evidence of legal status,” but they could not confirm whether he was an illegal immigrant.
“In our opinion and the chief investigator on this case which would be Darris Hester, we did not have usable evidence that would link [Ramos] to the crime so that we could get a conviction,” said Hasselman. “We probably could not even get by a preliminary hearing.”
What has happened to Ramos since the charges were dismissed is unclear.
A reading of Oklahoma statutes and the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Act indicates Eslinger could face fines between $25,000 and $100,000 and possibly be sentenced to anywhere from two years to life based on the charges against her.
By JOY HAMPTON