BEVERLY — A Salem woman is facing charges of trafficking in methamphetamine after Beverly police say they found nearly 1 1/2 ounces of the drug — and a price list — in her handbag while she was parked outside a CVS store Monday evening.
Chelsea Horton, 31, of 43 Dow St., pleaded not guilty to that charge, which carries a mandatory minimum 3 1/2 years in prison, as well as to charges of driving after license suspension and possession of cocaine, during her arraignment Tuesday in Salem District Court.
Horton, who was already facing assault and battery and driving after license suspension charges from prior incidents, was ordered held without bail after Judge Carol-Ann Fraser revoked her release in those earlier cases. She set bail at $20,000 on the methamphetamine charges.
Methamphetamine, a potent stimulant, has been turning up more frequently in Massachusetts over the past year, public health officials have reported.
Prosecutor Matt Schreiber, who had asked for $50,000 bail, said a Beverly officer spotted a car running in the parking lot of the CVS at the intersection of Rantoul and Elliott streets at around 11 p.m.
He "ran" the plate and saw that the same plate had been checked roughly 40 times recently, an unusual number.
He also recognized the name on the registration, and remembered seeing a Salem News police log entry reporting that a woman named Chelsea Horton had recently been charged with driving after license suspension.
Horton, sitting in the driver's seat, denied that she was the driver, saying she was waiting for someone to pick her up, Schreiber told the judge.
When the officer went to get her purse so she could show him her identification, he noticed bags inside, including a bag of pills and a container that contained bags of crystals that looked like methamphetamine, weighing a total of about 40 grams.
The officer also found a small amount of cocaine, and some foil and a small propane torch, which police say is often used to smoke meth. He also spotted a price list, $810 in cash and two pink phones.
Schreiber noted Horton's lengthy record both in Massachusetts and out of state, and multiple past defaults and probation violations.
Horton's attorney, Thomas Gately, said his client denies that the drugs belong to her and denies driving the car.
He asked the judge to release her on a GPS bracelet and $2,000 cash bail, saying that she is a mother of four, ranging in age from 4 to 16, who has been working as a debt collector.
It was not immediately clear whether Horton has custody of the children.
After Gately's argument, Horton, who was crying, spoke up. "I wasn't driving," she said. "I want you to know I did heed your warning and I didn't drive."
Fraser offered to recommend that Horton be held in the Middleton Jail's detox unit.
Horton could be heard yelling and crying as she was led back to the courthouse lockup.
She's due back in court March 10.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis.