Sarah Pearce, convicted in brutal 2000 attack and released last year, is now in jail on drug charges

Sarah Pearce and her supporters battled for years to prove her innocence in an infamous 2000 crime, but settled last spring for a resentencing that put her on probation after serving nearly 12 years in prison.

Now 32, she is charged with violating that probation and possessing methamphetamine.

She was 19 when she was sent to prison, convicted of being one of four assailants who attacked motorist Linda LeBrane on Interstate 84 west of Caldwell 15 years ago. The group commandeered LeBrane’s car, slit her throat, beat her, robbed her, set her car on fire and left her for dead.

On Sunday, Pearce was arrested at a Caldwell apartment complex after a resident reported that an unfamiliar person was going in and out of a neighbor’s apartment, removing items. Caldwell Police Sgt. Joey Hoadley found Pearce standing outside the apartment, according to a probable cause affidavit.

The affidavit reports that Pearce appeared to be under the influence of a stimulant and granted permission for Hoadley to search her. He found a syringe loaded with what appeared to be methamphetamine in her back left jeans pocket, plus cotton pads and a cotton swab “consistent with paraphernalia used by I.V. drug users,” the affidavit states. She also had what appeared to be numerous injection points on the inside of both arms, Hoadley reported.

Pearce denied knowledge of the syringe and said the jeans she was wearing belonged to someone else, the affidavit states. The person she identified as owning the jeans denied the claim. Pearce reportedly told Hoadley she had used meth about two months ago.

She was booked into the Canyon County Jail on felony charges of drug possession and probation violation, plus a misdemeanor paraphernalia charge. She was arraigned Monday and granted a public defender. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for May 19.

Her bond was set at $10,000, and she remained in jail Tuesday evening.

In 2003, Pearce was sentenced to 15 years to life for six felonies in the June 2000 attack. LeBrane testified that Pearce was the ringleader, and although her identification of Pearce was challenged by the Idaho Innocence Project and others, she remained certain even after Pearce’s sentence was amended to time served. Pearce was released from prison in 2014.

At the time of Pearce’s release, 3rd District Judge Juneal Kerrick said the 11 years and 215 days Pearce spent in jail and prison added up to substantially more time than the 10 years fixed that prosecutors offered Pearce — and she declined — during her initial trial.

The case was spotlighted in a “Dateline Mystery” segment in 2014.