Kari Cruz-Gaona booking photo, June 17, 2020. Courtesy of the Marathon County Sheriff's Department

By Shereen Siewert

A 36-year-old Schofield woman who appeared to be nodding off while driving in Rib Mountain is facing her fifth intoxicated driving charge after police found fentanyl in her vehicle.

At 8:45 a.m. on June 16, an officer stopped at a traffic light while northbound on Rib Mountain Drive saw a driver of a drywall van in the next lane who appeared to be “on the nod,” according to court documents.

The driver, later identified as Kari A. Cruz-Gaona, was not sleeping but her head was slumping forward, police said.

“She had tried to raise her head up and her eyes went shut again, and her head went forward,” court documents state. “As the light turned green, (Cruz-Gaona) accelerated and as she approached Cloverland, the driver’s head was again slumped forward and she appeared to be on the nod.”

A patrol unit stopped the van on Thomas Street at River Drive.

A K-9 officer alerted on Cruz-Gaona’s vehicle and police discovered a container with two syringes loaded with what Cruz-Gaona identified as heroin, which she admitted purchasing the day before.

Liquid in the syringes tested positive for fentayl, police said. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent.

Cruz-Gaona is now facing fifth-offense charges of operating while intoxicated. Under Wisconsin law, drugged and alcohol-related driving offenses are charged in the same way. The charges, filed June 17, also include possession of narcotics, operating while revoked and bail jumping.

In a separate case, Cruz-Gaona also faces charges filed in February of operating with a revoked license. Court records show she was on probation at the time of her most recent arrest.

During a June 17 initial appearance, Marathon County Circuit Judge Greg Strasser ordered a $1,000 cash bond for Cruz-Gaona, who is due in court Wednesday for a preliminary hearing.