Computer tech nabbed meth mom in Willard

Tuesday , July 22, 2014 - 7:13 PM

Tim Gurrister

WILLARD — A convergence of computer telemetry worthy of a Star Trek episode led to the arrest here in less than 20 minutes of a Montana mother on the run from police for a month.

“There was all kinds of cool technology to this,” said Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Lee Perry of the arrest of Michelle Renee Yallup, 29, at the Flying J truckstop just off I-15 in Willard. “The greatest part is how it came together in less than 20 minutes.”

Since the 9-11 tragedy all 50 states have developed “fusion centers,” as they’re called, with staffs of computer analysts combing databases and sharing info among other fusion centers.

Utah’s is called SIAC, for State Intelligence and Analysis Center, and Montana’s MATIC, for Montana All Threat Intelligence Center.

“It’s a tremendous force multiplier,” said Keith Squires, Utah Public Safety commissioner, who started SIAC in 2008 when he was deputy public safety commissioner.

“The Willard case is a good one to highlight the value of fusion centers to law enforcement. With shotgun blast ATLs over the radio, with all the information generated by law enforcement in a 24-hour period, it can become like white noise to the officers.”

MATIC had been talking to other fusion centers around the West since Yallup was accused of walking out of a Butte-area hospital with her newborn June 17 after she and the infant tested positive for methamphetamine.

The electronic cyber-tumblers fell into place Monday morning after four days of trying.

MATIC had sent SIAC information July 17 that Yallup and the baby were believed to be in northern Utah.

“Who knows how many SIAC tips were run down from Salt Lake City north,” Perry said.

By Monday morning the info had become pinpointed: Yallup was believed to be at Willard Bay, in a 38-year-old motorhome, the info including plate numbers.

A SIAC staffer called the Willard Police Department, Officer Jodi Nix taking the call. She headed out to Willard Bay, but decided to check the Flying J on the way.

SIAC also texted UHP Trooper Josh Carr’s dashboard computer that Yallup was believed to be at the truck stop after Nix had confirmed the plates of Yallup’s motorhome.

SIAC had seen on its monitors -- in Sandy -- that Carr, per his GPS signal, less than half a mile away, was the closest officer to the Flying J.

He and Nix walked up to Yallup’s motorhome together.

“Yallup asked Josh what he was doing,” Perry said. “He said ‘I’m here to ask you questions about what you’re doing.’”

The officers asked her for permission to search the motorhome, and she declined. Then they asked her to step out, which she did. She was placed under arrest when positively identified by MATIC photos supplied by SIAC.

“As they are handcuffing her she starts to cry and says ‘The baby is in the back,’” Perry said.

A search of the motorhome also turned up marijuana and Yallup was booked into the Box Elder County Jail on forthcoming drug counts as well as the child endangerment warrants out of Montana. The baby was checked at a local hospital where she was found to be fine, now in state Child and Family Services custody.

“It’s a more targeted distribution of information, instead of shotgunning a large geographical,” Squires in trumpeting SIAC for the media Monday afternoon. “It’s an overlay that connects the dots between jurisdictions.”

Virtually all of Utah’s 164 law enforcement agencies now have Intelligence liaison officers trained at the SIAC in Sandy. The 12 staffers there regularly work with federal agencies as well.

The U.S. has fusion centers in all 50 states, a total of 77, California, for instance, needing three.

Contact reporter Tim Gurrister at 801-625-4238, Follow him on Twitter at @tgurrister

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