Long-sealed city safe holds a surprise: marijuana
By RUSS HENDERSON
Newhouse News Service
Published on: 06/20/08
FAIRHOPE, Ala. — The event was planned and advertised weeks ago: At the new Fairhope Museum of History, officials would open a city safe that had been unused since 1971.
What would be inside? Nothing? Old city records?
This week, a crowd of nearly 30 Fairhopers watched as locksmith Nevitt Baker lifted away its heavy, black door. A musty smell filled the room, and the crowd laughed as news cameras and curious locals closed in on the open safe. One woman rushed her young son out of the museum, saying she didn't want him to see what was inside.
A few called out the obvious — its bottom shelves were filled with marijuana. The vault apparently had last been used by police investigators to stash drug evidence.
"Here is somebody's name, somebody I remember, who would be terribly embarrassed right now," said Donnie Barrett, the museum's director, later Thursday as he examined a label attached to one of several matchboxes filled with dry, 37-year-old dope. "It looks like a whole bunch of dope is what we've found here. I wish it was a little bit more than that."
Why was this evidence left behind or forgotten?
"That's not the sort of historical question we'd wanted to have to ask," Barrett said.
Soon, police Cpl. Brett Murray arrived at the museum to confiscate the old contraband. He said he and his friends had speculated about the safe's contents since they were young, when it was in a building used by the Police Department. But its combination had been lost and its door had been painted shut, he said.
Murray placed the decades-old evidence into a brown paper bag. He said he'd have it placed in the department's current evidence vault for later processing or disposal by investigators.
Among items in the safe were a green diary with a peace symbol drawn on its front, a cup containing a collection of small bags of marijuana, a few rolled joints, several matchboxes and small manila envelopes containing more marijuana with accompanying written materials, some drafted by officers and others by witnesses.
"I'm a little disappointed that we didn't find a lot of history. We found a lot of dope," Barrett said.
(For video, go to http://videos.al.com/mobile-press-register/
PH END HENDERSON
(Russ Henderson is a staff writer for The Press-Register of Mobile, Ala. He can be contacted at rhenderson(at)press-register.com.)