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Two charged after meth found in truck, trash can

Two individuals arrested for alleged possession of methamphetamine made their first court appearance on Wednesday in Mower County District Court.

Peter Jay Engen, 42

Peter Jay Engen, 42, and Elizabeth Sue Strain, 42, both of Preston, have been charged with felony first-degree drugs – sale of 17 grams or more of cocaine or methamphetamine – and felony first-degree drugs – possess 50 grams or more of cocaine or methamphetamine.

According to the court complaint, on Oct. 19 a Minnesota State Trooper was parked in his squad vehicle on the side of Highway 16 in Grand Meadow when he observed a 1994 GMC Sierra traveling west at about 5:25 p.m. As the truck passed, he recognized the driver as Engen, who had a “revoked” driver’s license. He began to follow the GMC to initiate a traffic stop and Engen quickly turned into the Shell gas station and pulled up to the gas pumps. Engen began to exit the vehicle and watched the patrol car as it pulled into the parking lot.

Engen started walking toward the doors of the gas station and the trooper called him over to the squad car. Engen complied, but first stopped at the passenger side window and reached inside while speaking to his female passenger, later identified as Strain. The trooper advised that he knew Engen did not have a valid driver’s license. He observed that Engen avoided eye contact and appeared very nervous.

The trooper made contact with Strain to get the insurance information for the GMC and noted that she immediately lit a cigarette and her hands and voice were shaky as she looked for the vehicle insurance. While at the window of the GMC, the trooper observed

Elizabeth Sue Strain, 42

several torch lighters, commonly used for smoking drugs, on the front seat. He advised Strain that he needed to confirm that her driver’s license was valid and to wait in the truck.

The trooper then prepared a traffic citation for Engen and advised him that he was free to leave. He then asked Engen if he had anything illegal in the GMC and Engen said, “Not that I know of.” The trooper then asked Strain if there was anything illegal in the vehicle and she said, “No, not that I know of.” The trooper noted that they were both very anxious when he spoke with them and he advised Strain that he intended to walk his police canine around the GMC. The trooper detained Engen for officer safety and then Strain left the truck and rapidly walked into the gas station. Engen was placed in a squad car and the trooper then went into the gas station to find Strain.

The clerk advised that Strain walked toward the bathroom. The trooper began walking toward the bathroom and was met by Strain, who was speaking frantically and saying that she came into the store to “stay warm.” The trooper detained Strain and then retrieved his police canine to conduct a vehicle sniff. The canine soon alerted to the presence of drugs in the GMC’s glove compartment area.

An investigator arrived on scene and advised the trooper that she located narcotics in the garbage can of the men’s bathroom (approximately 40 grams of methamphetamine). She said that the clerk reported that Strain had entered the men’s bathroom. The trooper later received surveillance video of Strain entering the men’s bathroom.

The trooper arrested Engen and Strain for drug possession. When asked if he had anything illegal on him, Engen said he had a marijuana pipe and a small amount of marijuana in his pocket.

The trooper then searched the GMC and located a cigarette carton in the glove compartment. He located a plastic bag that contained approximately 13 grams of methamphetamine in the cigarette carton.

A review of Engen’s criminal history shows prior convictions for aiding/abetting motor vehicle theft, assault, terroristic threats, theft, offering forged checks, receiving stolen property, drug possession and violating an order for protection.

Both will appear in court again on Oct. 29.