The son and daughter-in-law of former Clark County Commissioner Yvonne Atkinson Gates were arrested on felony child endangerment charges Tuesday after marijuana and unkempt conditions were discovered in their Southern Highlands home, Las Vegas police said.
Online records for the Clark County Detention Center indicated that Brian Patrick Atkinson Turner, 25, and Kathryn O’Gara, 26, also were each booked on charges of contributory neglect and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia. Police said they also planned to pursue marijuana possession charges against the couple.
The charges were unrelated to an ongoing Las Vegas police investigation into whether Atkinson Gates laundered thousands of dollars in campaign contributions through the couple during the 2004 campaign, authorities said.
Tuesday’s arrests were prompted by a driver who noticed a black Mercedes sedan driving erratically in the Southern Highlands area with a small child moving unrestrained in the car, said officer Bill Cassell, a Las Vegas police spokesman.
The driver called police about 1:30 p.m. and followed the Mercedes, which stopped at a gas station and a fast food restaurant before pulling into the garage of 11799 Hugana Place, he said.
When police arrived at the five-bedroom, 3,134-square-foot house, they started knocking on its doors to check the child’s welfare, Cassell said.
From outside the house, they heard a child crying.
"Not a normal cry," Cassell said. "It sounded like it was in distress."
When the officers found an unlocked door, they entered the house, Cassell said. Inside they found the child, a stash of marijuana and unkempt conditions, Cassell said.
Police also found a loaded handgun in the Mercedes, he said.
The officers called Child Protective Services, which removed the child from the home, and narcotics detectives, who removed what appeared to be equipment used to grow marijuana plants. The detectives confiscated about six sun lamps, seven boxes of pots for plants, a six-foot section of ventilation hose and two metal canisters of carbon dioxide.
The equipment was cataloged and was to be taken by an environmental clean-up company to be destroyed, police said.
"Come on. Let’s go to jail already," Atkinson Turner, in handcuffs, yelled to officers from the back of a patrol car.
He had been arrested twice before on drug-related charges, but they were later dismissed.
O’Gara, also handcuffed, sat quietly in another patrol car. The couple had a child in October 2004 and have been married since March 2005.
They have been under police scrutiny for $407,343 Atkinson Gates paid them and their company, Advibe, from her 2004 campaign fund.
The payments represent more than half the $749,000 war chest Atkinson Gates spent coasting to a landslide victory and a fourth term on what is considered Nevada’s most powerful elected board.
The investigation focused on whether some of that money was returned to Atkinson Gates, who resigned from the commission in January after 14 years on the board.
She quit, she said, to spend more time with her family and on her home-building business.
Neighbors in the gated community off Southern Highlands Parkway said they knew little about the couple. They had lived in the house for only a few months and kept to themselves, neighbors said.