Man accused of hiding heroin to face trial

An Altoona man police said had 10 grams of heroin stuffed into his pants will face trial.

Devon N. Rochester, 38, of 230 Fourth Ave. also offered to work for police after his arrest on the 17th Street exit ramp of Interstate 99, where he and David Robenholt, 23, of Tyrone were detained after a traffic stop the afternoon of Jan. 16, Altoona police Cpl. Christopher Moser testified Tuesday.

Rochester and Robenholt, both wearing orange Blair County Prison jumpsuits, were in Tyrone District Court for their preliminary hearing on felony conspiracy and drug charges. Their respective lawyers were attempting to poke holes in the Blair County Drug Task Force’s assertion that Robenholt drove Rochester to Baltimore that day to bring back capsules filled with about 10 grams worth of heroin.

While Robenholt, the driver, refused to talk to police, Moser testified that Rochester wrote out a hand-written confession, something Rochester’s attorney Douglas Keating attempted to cast doubt on through questions that suggested Rochester was high when he wrote it.

In his statement to police, Rochester wrote that he paid Robenholt to make the trip to pick up drugs to use and to sell to pay his bills.

When Keating pressed Moser as to what led up to Rochester’s statement, one Rochester clearly wanted to distance himself from in court Tuesday, Moser revealed Rochester not only admitted he brought in heroin from his hometown of Baltimore to make money, but he would help police if he could avoid going to jail.

“To be frank, your client was being cooperative at that point,” Moser said. “He wanted to be released from custody and and make controlled purchases on people.”

Moser said Rochester told officers he had worked for state narcotics agents in the past, a fact police then verified, but instead of offering up information, Rochester would only divulge street names and said he would supply real names the next day.

Keating also took issue with police stopping the men and requested a copy of the sealed search warrant police had in hand before the stop. Assistant District Attorney Pete Weeks obliged, as required by the rules of procedure, but Magisterial District Judge Fred Miller directed both Keating and Robenholt’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Ed Ferguson, that any questioning about the sealed warrant’s affidavit of probable cause was clearly out of bounds and beyond the purpose of the hearing.

Ferguson’s questioning centered on the fact his client was the driver of the car, one that after a search yielded no drugs. No drugs was found on Robenholt, only Rochester, Moser said, leaving Rochester’s statement to police as the key piece of evidence tying Robenholt to the conspiracy.

Miller found police had enough evidence to send the case on to Blair County Court. Rochester and Robenholt remain jailed in lieu of $85,000 and $75,000 cash bail, respectively.