Country singer Carlene Carter and her boyfriend, Howie Epstein of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, were arrested in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Tuesday night when New Mexico State Police said they discovered nearly three grams of heroin and “a large amount of drug paraphernalia” in their vehicle, a 2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee stolen from a Santa Fe dealership in March.
According to published reports, Carter was driving the vehicle on Interstate 25 when she was pulled over for speeding by officer James Bergman around 9:20 p.m. Bergman said in a criminal court complaint filed in Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court that he checked the vehicle’s registration and discovered it was reported stolen from the dealership on March 15. Police said a search of the SUV turned up 2.9 grams of black-tar heroin and drug paraphernalia.
Carter was booked into the Bernalillo County Detention Center on felony charges, including receiving or transferring a stolen vehicle and possession of a controlled substance. Epstein, bassist for Petty’s group and Carter’s companion for more than a decade, was charged with receiving or transferring a stolen vehicle.
According to Bergman’s criminal complaint, Carter admitted that the drugs and paraphernalia, found in a bag that also contained Carter’s clothing, belonged to her and were strictly “for personal use.”
Carter, 45, is the stepdaughter of Johnny Cash and the daughter of June Carter Cash and ’50s country star Carl Smith. Her grandmother is the late Mother Maybelle Carter of the Carter Family, known as “the first family of country music.” Carlene Carter is best known for the top five country hits “I Fell in Love,” “Come on Back” and “Every Little Thing.” She was the first to record “Unbreakable Heart,” a top 30 hit last year for Jessica Andrews.
Carter and Epstein, who listed a Tesuque, New Mexico, address, were released Wednesday morning after posting bond. Charges against them were dismissed “without prejudice,” meaning they could be refiled later. “We’re awaiting a completed case to come in from the state police,” Deputy District Attorney Richard Bowman is quoted as saying in the Albuquerque Journal. “When a completed case comes in, we’ll review it.”
According to the criminal complaint, Carter told Bergman the couple was traveling to Albuquerque International Sunport so Epstein could catch a flight to Pennsylvania. The Heartbreakers played Wednesday night in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and are scheduled to play Thursday (June 28) in Camden, New Jersey.
Carter could not be reached for comment, and a spokesperson for the Cash family said the family was unavailable. Epstein’s publicist had no comment on the incident.
Carter was also arrested late last week after she failed to appear in court on a bad check charge, a Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department spokesman told the Santa Fe New Mexican. She was released after posting a $400 bond.