Fruita cops: Ex-vet tech stole meds
Drugs found to be diluted; animal cruelty charge filed
A former employee at a Fruita animal clinic was arrested on suspicion of stealing and diluting workplace pharmaceutical supplies, some of which were later given to animals during medical procedures.
Nicole Maves, 28, of Fruita was booked Thursday into the Mesa County Jail on suspicion of felony cruelty to animals, third-degree burglary and theft of between $1,000 and $20,000.
According to an arrest affidavit, Fruita police opened an investigation after Maves’ former boss at Desert Springs Vet Clinic, 922 Frontage Road in Fruita, reported on April 27 that he believed Maves had stolen various controlled narcotics from the clinic.
Maves, a non-certified vet tech, had worked there nearly 19 months before she was fired in April.
The affidavit said a Fruita officer who inspected the clinic’s supply of drugs found seals were broken on two boxes of morphine. Needle puncture marks were noted on the rubber coverings of two bottles.
Two co-workers told police Maves’ behavior at work had raised red flags over the past year; one said she found Maves unconscious and unresponsive “several times.”
“They both talked about Maves coming to work and ‘acting normal,’ but within an hour she would be glassy eyed, slurring her words and sometimes unable to walk without staggering,” the affidavit said.
A former roommate described watching Maves inject herself with morphine, while replacing the liquid with saline solution. The roommate said Maves on one occasion asked for blue food coloring, saying she needed it to make diluted morphine appear “the correct color.”
“Maves told (the roommate) it wouldn’t hurt the animals because she would give them another drug,” the affidavit said.
A co-worker, however, recalled recent complications during surgery.
“She said she made the comment several times that ‘it seemed like the medicine is watered down because none of the dogs will go to sleep,’ ” the affidavit said.
Instead, she said they had to use gas on “numerous” dogs to get them to sleep, a riskier alternative, according to the affidavit.
Maves’ boss told police he suspected she tampered with the office’s supply of pentobarbital, a barbiturate that was used at the clinic to euthanize horses.
On April 21, he said he needed more than twice the normal dose in order to successfully put down a horse that had been brought to the clinic.
The horse died only after he tapped a supply of pentobartital that he kept in his work truck.
“Maves did not have access to the drugs in his vet truck,” the affidavit reads.
The value of the missing or diluted drugs was just over $2,000.
Maves denied any wrongdoing in a May 7 interview with Fruita police.
Prosecutors are expected to file formal charges in Maves’ case Friday in District Judge Thomas Deister’s courtroom.