Woman says deputies lied to get a warrant, then sexually assaulted her

NEWTON, NC (WBTV) - A Catawba County woman says she has been the victim of harassment from the county's sheriff's office, who, records show, have executed multiple search warrants at her home in less than a year.

Bobbie Jo Dugger reached out to WBTV out of frustration and fear after deputies with the Catawba County Sheriff's Office searched her home three times between October and March.

It's not clear what drew the attention of deputies to Dugger's home on a shady lot in rural Catawba County in the first place. What is clear is that once it caught her attention, they kept coming back.

Dugger said the police attention began in early October, when deputies showed up at her house asking to search for drugs. She let them in, without a warrant, she said, because she didn't feel like she had anything to hide.

Dugger said deputies didn't find any drugs. There are no records of Dugger being arrested as a result of the visit.

But, records show, that didn't stop deputies with the Catawba County Sheriff's Office's narcotics unit from coming back.

She said deputies appeared at her house on October 17 asking to search her home; like their first visit, Dugger said they didn't have a warrant.

After she denied their requests to search her home, Dugger said, deputies returned several hours later with a warrant.

The warrant allowed them to search her home. A probable cause affidavit attached to the warrant says deputies conducted a controlled drug by with a confidential information in which the information purchased meth at the home.

But details included in the affidavit—including the address where the supposed controlled buy took place—are not consistent with Dugger. Instead, the affidavit appears to mirror that of a separate search warrant from an unrelated case that had been executed days earlier.

In addition to giving an address for the controlled buy that wasn't Dugger's home, the affidavit also gave the wrong description for her home. It contained a number of paragraphs that mirror each other word for word.

"It certainly looks suspicious," Charlotte attorney Tim Emry, who is not involved in this case, told WBTV after reviewing the October 17 warrant to search Dugger's home and the warrant that had been executed days earlier in the unrelated case.

"It causes a reasonable person to question whether or not there ever was any probable cause to execute a search warrant on this particular address," Emry said.

But Dugger said the worst part of the incident wasn't the fact that she thought deputies lied to get the warrant. Instead, she said  the worst came when a deputy dressed in all black and wearing a ski mask led her to a back room in her home, made her strip and conducted a cavity search.

"Everybody is like 'why did you do it?'' Dugger said. "You try to listen. When a cop tells you to do something you don't argue with them, you just do it."

"If I'd have known my rights, maybe I'd have known better," she reflected.

Dugger tried to file a sexual assault complaint with the Catawba County Sheriff's Office regarding the strip cavity search.

But, she said, deputies have refused to investigate her claim unless she sits for an interview; something she said deputies have told her would involve her locked in an interview room with a deputy for hours at a time.

Dugger said she has requested to be able to bring a friend or pastor to the interview but was told she could not. She said such an interview would be traumatic.

Because she has refused to sit for the interview, the Sheriff's Office has said it cannot investigate.

"Following a report by Ms. Dugger alleging an illegal search, a Sheriff's Office Investigator contacted her and scheduled an appointment to speak with her," Sheriff Coy Reid said in a written statement in response to a request for comment from WBTV.

"Ms. Dugger failed to show up for that appointment. The investigator called Ms. Dugger a number of times but she failed to return any of the calls," Reid said. "The investigator again, and in person, explained to Ms. Dugger the need to meet with her to get more information. Ms. Dugger refused to meet with him. To date Ms. Dugger has refused to cooperate with this investigation.

Read: Click here to read the full statement from Sheriff Coy Reid

But the search warrant saga didn't stop in October.

Deputies returned to Dugger's home in late March, after they found a golf cart that had been reported stolen at her home. Dugger said she paid cash for the golf cart from two men who deputies arrested for stealing the golf cart.

Instead of collected the golf cart, returning it to its rightful owner and closing the case, records show deputies obtained a warrant to search Dugger's home for items related to the stolen golf cart, including "nuts" and "bolts".

During a search of her home, deputies seized an in-home video recording system that captured deputies' actions during the October and March home searches.

The search warrant did not authorize deputies to seize video recording equipment.

"The search warrant mentioned, literally, nuts and bolts or anything related to the operation of the golf cart," Emry, the attorney, said. "Video equipment is nowhere near that."

Records show Dugger was charged with multiple crimes as a result of that search, including charges related to the theft of the golf cart, even though court records show other men were also charged with crimes related to the golf cart theft.

Deputies also levied felony drug charges against Dugger, records show. Dugger denies having drugs in her home. Instead, she said, the search and charges were in retaliation for the sexual assault complaint.

"(They) took me in the bathroom back there, same bathroom where the assault was, and tells me that if I would drop by case this would all go away," Dugger said.

Dugger said a deputy left a drug test kit behind at her home after they executed the warrant, which, Dugger said, showed a substance tested for drugs by deputies came back negative.

Dugger's charges are pending in court.

Because of that, Reid, the Sheriff, refused to discuss more of Dugger's case.

"All search warrants related to her cases were approved by a judicial official prior to being executed," Reid said. "As criminal charges are currently pending against Ms. Dugger, it would be inappropriate to provide further comment about her criminal cases."

Both Emry, the attorney not involved in this case, and Dugger, say the deputies' actions point to a pattern of harassment.

"It certainly raises questions and it certainly warrants further investigation and examination as to exactly what's going on," Emry said. "Is this some sort of systemic behavior going on in the sheriff's department? Is this behavior that is unique to a couple of officers? Is there some sort of innocent explanation for all of this?"

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