BISBEE — The trial for a Benson woman accused of being one of the mid-level members of a methamphetamine trafficking ring that operated in Cochise County, started Tuesday in Superior Court.
Shalmarie Ann Tulk is charged with possession of a dangerous drug for sale; her name was one of 10 shown on a screen in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge James Conlogue as a suspected member of “The Enterprise,” a methamphetamine trafficking organization that local, state and federal investigators say was led by Timothy Henry of Sierra Vista.
The 46-year-old Tulk — whose case is being prosecuted by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office — is one of the first defendants to go to trial. Henry, who was arrested in January 2019 after almost a year-long investigation that involved several law enforcement agencies, has been out on $150,000 bond while he awaits trial.
Last year, authorities said the organization also included 10 other defendants from Pima County. A spokeswoman with the Attorney General’s Office said in early 2019 that the indictments on the 20 defendants from both counties totaled 169 felony counts.
The investigation against Henry in Cochise County was launched in 2018 after an undercover investigator with the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office purchased methamphetamine from Henry, investigators said Tuesday. That’s when agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration became involved.
The DEA began surveilling Henry, and the case against him culminated with a wiretap of his phone, it was revealed Tuesday at Tulk’s trial. He was arrested in January 2019 after his Sierra Vista residence was searched and drugs were found.
Aside from Tulk, eight other defendants were described by investigators as mid-level players in Henry’s Cochise County narcotics operation. Tulk was supposed to be tried with the others in a joint trial, but her attorney filed a motion to have her tried separately. Additionally, the state offered Tulk a plea agreement last fall, but she rejected it, court records show.
The charges in the indictments for both the Pima and Cochise defendants include RICO violations for money laundering and illegally conducting an enterprise involving the transportation, sale, and possession of drugs such as meth, heroin, cocaine, fentanyl, Oxycodone, and marijuana. Other counts in the indictment claim weapons misconduct, tampering with physical evidence, conspiracy, and using wire communications in drug-related transactions.
Four witnesses were called by the prosecution on Tuesday afternoon at the start of Tulk’s trial. Alan Leichty, a law student and intern with the Attorney General’s Office, told the 12-member jury that they should find Tulk guilty because there is recorded evidence of her and another defendant speaking to Henry regarding the purchase of methamphetamine.
That evidence was not presented Tuesday.
“At the end of the trial you will see that Shalmarie Ann Tulk is guilty of the charges,” Leichty told jurors.
But Tulk’s attorney Joseph Ezzo, told jurors that Tulk is a “close, personal friend” of Henry and that he would prove that she was never in possession of methamphetamine and never sold the narcotic.
“This case is about taking someone who is a long, close personal friend of a man who just happened to distribute meth in Cochise County,” Ezzo said. “This is guilt by association. What is the actual evidence against this woman?”
The first three witnesses to take the stand Tuesday — two DEA agents and a Cochise County Sheriff’s detective who is serving on a special task force with the DEA — spoke mostly about Henry. All three testified that they had not found Tulk in possession of methamphetamine nor had they purchased the drug from her in an undercover capacity.
The fourth and last witness, a K-9 deputy with the Sheriff’s Office, testified that he went to Tulk’s Benson house on Jan. 9, 2019, because there was a seizure order for one of her vehicles. The deputy said he found the truck, searched it, but found no drugs. Tulk was arrested later that day at a pharmacy in Benson where she was getting a prescription, but was later released from custody.
The case is expected to go to the jury sometime Thursday, the judge said.