By Shayla Menville, The Morehead News, Ky.
April 25 — What began as a promising job interview has turned into a living nightmare for Sarah Walling and her husband, Dennis “Pepper” Walling.
Sarah says Dennis had found an opening for a security position with AirServ International RAM. The company allegedly offered to fly Dennis to Ecuador to interview for the position.
“He was only supposed to be gone from April 1 until April 8,” said Sarah. “I told him I didn’t have a good feeling about it before he got on the airplane.”
On April 21, Dennis was scheduled to fly back to the U.S. when drug dogs targeted his suitcase at the airport and he was arrested.
Sarah said that for the time Dennis was in Ecuador he was provided money for food and hotel rooms but that he also was shifted from hotel to hotel, waiting on the promised interview.
She said that the suitcase was given to him by the representative of AirServ who had also supplied him with living expenses after Dennis’ personal suitcase had broken during the trip.
The new suitcase was found to be lined with three kilograms of cocaine, holding a street value in the millions.
Dennis contacted his wife while still at the airport.
“I got the call around 4:41 a.m.,” said Sarah. “We do have an attorney in Ecuador, Manuel Rizzo.”
She added that her husband had a pre-trial hearing within 24 hours of being arrested but that he will not be able to see a judge again until May 21.
“We have been told he could be facing up to 16 years in prison or as few as two to four,” said Sarah. “I know he did not do this. He is completely against drugs and has worked his entire life to help save people.”
Dennis Walling is a firefighter with the Morehead Volunteer Fire Department and also has been involved with the Montgomery County Fire Department and Rowan County EMS.
“Everything seemed legitimate but when he got there so many things just didn’t add up and now AirServ will not respond or give us any information,” said Sarah.
She has been in contact with the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador, and has worked to have her husband moved to Centro Rehabilitation, a prison hospital.
“He is not well. He has Type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, high blood pressure and recently had surgery on his leg,” she said.
Sarah has to send $10 per day to an account so that her husband is able to have food and medication while in custody.
“I was able to talk to him since he has been moved and he has still not received medication. He is insulin dependent,” said Sarah. “In America you are innocent until proven guilty but in Ecuador you are guilty until proven innocent.”
She is hoping the speed at which she retained an attorney and the evidence she feels she has been gathered will help clear her husband of the charges.
“Most of all we need prayers,” she said Thursday. “So many people are praying and we are thankful for some of the things that have happened regarding the situation but it is very hard,” said Sarah. “I have to tell our sons that their daddy won’t be home and I keep thinking he is just going to be home when I get there.”
She said she will not stop until Dennis is safely back in the U. S.
“We’ve been calling and working for him since we got the call. He is not a drug trafficker and this is unreal,” said Sarah. “It is something you see on television, read in a book, or watch in a movie…you never for one second think that it could happen in your life.”
The Morehead News contacted the U. S. State Department about the Walling case and received this statement from an official source:
“The Department of State is aware of the arrest of U.S. citizen Dennis Walling on April 20 in Quito, Ecuador. The U.S. Embassy in Quito is providing consular assistance to Mr. Walling and has urged Ecuadorean officials to provide appropriate medical care as long as he is in their custody.”
Shayla Menville can be reached at [email protected] or by telephone at 784-4116.
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