Pair nabbed in Worm Ranch gun thefts

The pair are accused of possessing guns stolen from the Walla Walla Worm Ranch.

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WALLA WALLA -- Police have nabbed two suspects sought for allegedly possessing six guns stolen in a burglary at the Walla Walla Worm Ranch last month.

Carma R. Smith, 33, of 412 N. College Ave., College Place, and Pastor Tapia-Nunez, 23, 527 Edith Ave., were apprehended on arrest warrants Thursday night.

Police said they received a tip shortly before 8 p.m. that Smith was seen driving south on Wilbur Avenue from Alder Street. A patrol officer surmised she may have been headed to the home of a family member in the 1600 block of Pleasant Street.

The vehicle was located there and officers surrounded the residence. Tapia-Nunez tried to escape out a basement window, but was stopped by officers outside, officials said. Both suspects, who weren't armed, were taken into custody without further incident.

They are charged in Superior Court with possessing the six stolen pistols and an amount of suspected methamphetamine in a vehicle Dec. 23. Smith also is charged with unlawfully having the firearms because she was convicted of a felony in 2002 for possessing more than 40 grams of marijuana.

The charges filed Christmas Eve stem from a traffic stop the previous day in the area of North Sixth and Rees Avenue about 7:30 p.m. for a license plate light violation, according to a law enforcement report filed in court.

Police said the city's K-9 officer alerted to the presence of drugs in the Nissan Altima driven by Smith, but neither she nor passenger Tapia-Nunez would consent to a search. The vehicle was seized and a search warrant was obtained, but Smith and Tapia-Nunez had been released for lack of probable cause to hold them at the time.

The search uncovered seven handguns and a rifle. One of the pistols was fully loaded and located between the console and front passenger seat, officials said.

Six of the pistols were confirmed as having been stolen in the burglary Dec. 15 at the Worm Ranch, 1186 Wallula Ave. In all, 25 guns were taken, according to the county Sheriff's Office. Nineteen of the weapons still haven't been located.

Bail for the suspects was set at $50,000 apiece.

At Smith's first appearance in court this morning, her attorney, William McCool, asked that she be released on her own recognizance. He said he's confident most, if not all, of the charges against her eventually will be dismissed.

McCool said Smith had been out of town, but had spoken with him and police, and planned for several days to turn herself in. He advised her to appear in court on her own volition this morning. But she was arrested before she had the opportunity to do so, McCool said.

He added that Smith needs to attend an upcoming funeral for her former brother-in-law and assured Schacht she would not abscond pending the outcome of her case.

But Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Joe Golden reminded Schacht, "She just flat out didn't turn herself in."

Schacht sided with Golden and refused to lower bail or release Smith, at least until he has further information or conditions that are acceptable to the prosecution and law enforcement.

He said if Smith was so concerned about being able to attend the funeral, "The minute she found out there was a warrant (for her arrest), she would have turned herself in."

Terry McConn can be reached at terrymcconn@wwub.com or 526-8319.

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