Game Warden Makes Felony Drug Bust

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY – A Saturday afternoon boat trip on the Neches River turned into a drug bust and a foot chase before a Wells man was taken into custody and charged with a first degree felony.

James Dennis Malnar, 34, was arrested on Saturday, March 10 and charged with the manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance as well as evading arrest or detention. Malnar also had warrants out for his arrest from another county.

According to an affidavit of probable cause, Game Warden Zak Benge was on a routine patrol of the Neches River when he came across “… a Waco brand flat bottom boat with no visible TX numbers and a 7.5 Johnson outboard motor being operated by James Dennis Malnar.”

While the game warden was performing a water safety inspection, Benge noticed Malnar didn’t have a required life jacket on board the vessel.

“I (Benge) asked Malnar for his driver’s license as he was being issued a citation for an unregistered motorboat. While Malnar was in a standing position to retrieve his wallet, I could see the outline of a methamphetamine pipe in his right front pants pocket,” the affidavit reported.

Benge initiated a search of Malnar and discovered two needles in his front left pocket, along with a “… quarter ounce of methamphetamine in a clear plastic baggy inside a cigarette pack.”

The game warden informed Malnar he was going to be placed under arrest and transported to the Houston County Jail.

“Malnar stated he didn’t want to go to jail and began running away from me across the Neches River Bridge at Anderson Crossing. I pursued him on foot for approximately 120 yards. Malnar eventually stopped and then let me take him back into custody for transport to the county jail,” the affidavit stated.

He was and charged with the manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance as well as evading arrest or detention.

The manufacturing/delivery charge is considered as a first degree felony under the Texas law.

According to Section 12.32 of the Texas Penal Code, “An individual adjudged guilty of a felony of the first degree shall be punished by imprisonment in the institutional division for life or for any term of not more than 99 years or less than five years. In addition to imprisonment, an individual adjudged guilty of a felony of the first degree may be punished by a fine not to exceed $10,000.”

Malnar was held on bonds totaling $34,400. Bail was posted and he was released pending trial.

Will Johnson may be reached via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.