Melinda Russell

Russell

An Idaho Falls woman was charged with preparing false evidence after she reportedly falsely confessed to a drug crime to help her friend escape charges. 

According to the probable cause affidavit, an Idaho Falls Police Department detective received a letter on Aug. 26 from Belinda Marie Russell, 33, claiming she was the owner of methamphetamine that a fellow inmate, Sasha Martinez, had been accused of possessing.  

The drugs had been found in Martinez's purse by officers conducting a search warrant on June 22 as part of an investigation into an alleged kidnapping. 

Russell claimed she had been to Martinez's residence the night before the search warrant and had used drugs. She claimed she accidentally left the meth in Martinez's purse. 

According to court records, Russell was in jail after being arrested July 30 for possession of a controlled substance. The affidavit states Russell told her parole officer she started using drugs again July 3 when she moved in with a woman who was addicted to drugs, and after police had already found drugs in Martinez's purse. 

A detective asked Russell about the contradiction, and she then claimed she had started using drugs again in late June. The detective asked her to describe Martinez's house, and Russell reportedly gave an incorrect answer when asked how many stories it was. 

When the detective said he would talk to the Bonneville County Prosecutor's Office about the case, Russell reportedly started crying and said Martinez had asked her to confess to owning the drugs. She clarified that she had offered to take the charge for Martinez before Martinez had asked.

Russell said Martinez told her she was worried about the charge for possession of a controlled substance. Martinez was also reportedly upset that her co-defendants in the kidnapping case, Laura Zamudio and Jorge Balderas, had bonded out, leaving her as the only one serving jail time. Russell said she offered to confess to help Martinez avoid prison. 

Russell told the detective Martinez shared her court records and helped her write the letter falsely confessing to drug possession. She said she did not know the severity of the charges against Martinez, including two counts of first-degree kidnapping, until she read the court records. 

Surveillance footage in the Bonneville County Jail showed Martinez and Russell had spent time together two days before the letter was sent. 

Russell was charged with preparing false evidence, punishable with up to five years in prison. Her bond was set at $15,000.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Oct. 27 in Bonneville District Court. 

Martinez remains in jail on a $75,000 bond. A status conference is scheduled in her case for Oct. 20.