AZ DPS
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PRESS RELEASES

Suspect accused of killing motorist while fleeing from DPS Officer was in possession of over 150 lbs of Marijuana in his vehicle.

Marijuana valued at nearly $85,000 U.S. Dollars

Wednesday, November 17, 2010 -

On November 11.2010, at about 6:47 am, a DPS canine officer stopped a 2009 Pontiac passenger vehicle driven by Joel O. Morando 25, of Tucson, for violation of following too close westbound on Interstate 10 in the Picacho Peak area.

During the traffic stop, the DPS canine officer conducted an exterior walk and sniff of the vehicle with his narcotics canine, when the canine alerted to the trunk of the vehicle. While waiting for back-up units to arrive, Morando ran to his vehicle, fleeing from the officer and drove his vehicle through the median and proceeded eastbound on Interstate 10, with the DPS officer in pursuit at a high rate of speed.

About 30 miles after the pursuit started, Morando’s vehicle struck a 2007 Toyota pickup, which was traveling eastbound on interstate 10. The collision caused both vehicles to run off the roadway and onto the eastbound frontage road. Both vehicles rolled over, and both came to rest on the west side of the frontage road. During the collision, the driver of the pickup truck, Ronald W. Papanikolas, 31, from Magna, Utah, was ejected onto the frontage road, and died as a result of his injuries. Morando was not ejected from his vehicle, only suffering minor injuries, and was taken into custody by DPS officers.

During the collision scene investigation, marijuana was found inside Morondo’s vehicle. DPS investigators located six bundles of marijuana in the vehicle, totaling 153 pounds. Bulk value of the marijuana is estimated at $84,150 U.S. Dollars.

Joel Morando was booked into the Pima County Jail on the following charges:

1. ARS 13-1105.A2 First degree murder

2. ARS 13-1201.A Felony endangerment

3. ARS 13-1602 Criminal damage

4. ARS 13-3405 A2 Possession of marijuana for sale

5. ARS 13-3405 A4 Transportation of marijuana for sale

6. ARS 13-3405 A1 Possession of marijuana

- End -

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