Parents accused in drug case Police: Pot, tools found all over home

Ruplinger

Two young parents “probably should have lived in the ’60s” and they have a “hippie mentality,” their attorney said Thursday, but they’re trying to learn from their mistakes after police found nearly a pound of marijuana and drug-dealing equipment in the West Ashley townhome they share with their infant daughter.

Katherine Wood and Robert Ruplinger, both 22, each face charges of possession and intent to distribute marijuana near St. Andrews Elementary School and unlawful conduct toward a child.

The Charleston Police Department raided their Windermere Boulevard apartment on Sept. 5 and found pot stashed in a freezer, under a coffee table and inside the couple’s bedroom closet, according to affidavits.

Investigators also uncovered $875 in cash and tools used to ready the drug for sale: four scales, plastic bags and a device that seals the packages.

Officers reported smelling marijuana throughout the apartment, including in their 9-month-old daughter’s bedroom on the second floor.

The child also had access to the full and empty carbon-dioxide cartridges scattered throughout the house that are often used to “obtain a euphoric high,” affidavits stated. The gas cylinders’ intended use is powering miniature race cars or air guns.

Daniel Prenner of Charleston, the duo’s attorney, said Wood hadn’t been using the drugs and has been nursing the child since she was born in November. A urine test proved that, he said, though a hair sample hadn’t been analyzed.

Ruplinger, on the other the hand, needs treatment, he added.

Prenner said the couple would have fit in during the 1960s, a decade stereotyped for its drug culture, or in Colorado and California, states where voters have cleared marijuana for medical use.

“I know that she’s doing right by this child, except for this huge, huge lapse of judgment,” Prenner said during a bond hearing Thursday afternoon. “They have sort of a hippie mentality — too much concerts — but she doesn’t use drugs.”

The attorney presented a 10-minute argument, pleading with Magistrate Linda Lombard to set a lenient bail amount. It’s in their child’s best interest, he reasoned, that they get out of jail and get back to doting on their child, who is in a family member’s care.

He mentioned how detectives were led to their home.

Earlier on the day of the raid, officers and a postal inspector placed a package containing 7.5 pounds of marijuana onto a porch of a home near Logan and Broad streets in downtown Charleston.

Ruplinger came along in a Volkswagen station wagon and picked up the box, according to an incident report.

Inside his car, officers also found 6 grams of a white powder, about 65 prescription pills used to treat anxiety disorders and more than $1,000 in cash, the report stated. Ruplinger also faces three counts of possession of a schedule IV controlled substance.

Officials wouldn’t explain the undercover operation further.

Five hours later, the police served a search warrant at the couple’s apartment, where they found the 151/3 ounces of pot.

Though he acknowledged that the child was exposed to a house with drugs, Prenner said the girl’s bedroom was nearly immune to a “breach.”

“There’s marijuana floating all over the apartment,” Lombard countered. “The odor’s all over the place.”

The couple had been “enabled,” Prenner said, by Wood’s parents, who pay the $1,600 rent for their apartment. He added that Wood’s extended family is widely respected: Her father has worked as an editor at The Wall Street Journal and at the Voice of America, and her grandmother as a federal judge.

And in addition to the marijuana, the family’s cupboards are stocked with food — including Fig Newtons — and Wood is a semester away from graduating with a culinary degree from Trident Technical College, the attorney said. She wants to support her baby, he added.

“The question is whether this is going to be a wake-up call, judge,” Prenner said. “It’s a serious issue, but she’s beginning to understand that.”

Lombard said, “Oh, good Lord,” and set Wood’s bail at $25,000 and Ruplinger’s at $75,000.

After the hearing, Prenner had no further comment.

Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.