August 9, 1987, The Daily News Journal , Sherry Billingsly
“The water isn’t as clear as it used to be”
Living in Murfreesboro makes Rick Egles feel kinda like a fish on dry land. After all, Egles worked 13 years as an officer for the Florida Marine Patrol before moving here with his wife and two daughters to open his own business, enabling himself to work “70 hours for himself as opposed to working 40 hours for someone else.”
Egles, owner of Donut Country on Memorial Blvd., confesses he has yet to make his first donut since buying the business at the first of the year.
“I went to Florida to find a donut maker and brought him back. He hand cuts every donut and is excellent. You can taste it. Maybe I’ll learn next year,” he lamented.
What he does like to do is talk about this days with the Florida Marine Patrol. When you walk into his shop you can find, displayed proudly, one whole wall covered with plaques from his “glory days.”
“I don’t want people to think I’ve been making donuts all my life,” he laughed.
Egles job with the Marine Patrol starter out in resource and safety conservation for the Florida waterways. As the patrol stopped boats to check for safety codes, the became increasingly involved in a problem plaguing Florida’s water ways for a long time now – the problem of narcotics.
He remembered one of his first cases. “I was leaving a side canal where I kept my boat docked when I noticed a boat riding low in the water. So we stopped it to check for safety violations (a common way to stop a suspicious boat). As soon as the men hit the bank they took off running.
“My partner caught the fat one but the skinny one got away. A 13-year-old boy just happened by on his bicycle and loaned it to me to run him down. They called me ’10-speed’ after that,” he laughed.
Rick recalled another hot pursuit that lasted 200 miles.
“Customs radioed contraband was headed out way so we assisted them. We stopped two boats and found nothing, but the third boat ran and we chased. We were going 56 mph on water and still couldn’t catch them. Another boat tried to ram us while we were in the chase. You can see why I am in the donut business”, it interrupted.
“We never caught them.”
Perhaps the most famous case he was involved in was the Patti Hudwick case in 1982. the daughter of a prominent oral surgeon, she was a former Playboy bunny married to an alleged ‘professional hitman.’
Ms. Hudwick was suspected for running drugs to help cover her husband’s legal bills. He was in court accused of contract killing. Due to a legal technicality, he “ended up serving only two years for a firearm felony.”
“We pulled them over to go to the nearest Coast Guard station for a search and we followed them. When they got to the entrance they turned around and ran for open sea. The chase covered 29 miles in hours over 7-foot waves.
“My boat was falling apart and I was getting pretty banged up. A helicopter assisted and fire four blasts in the boat’s engine and finally stopped them. We found 800 pounds of marijuana, Patti’s bail was set up $2 million.
“I worked that case perfect and she still got off,” he sighed. Egles said a Marine Patrol officer is accused of taking a $50,000 bribe in the case.
Egles maintained it was not uncommon to find arms and legs floating in the bay belonging to the smugglers themselves – victims of their own system.
“Generally speaking, they don;t live long. Someone will get greedy and steal some of the drugs of hold out on the money and get whacked.
“It is discouraging. the ones we do catch, which are few, hire laywers and get off on a technicality. The ones that do get prosecuted get out in two years.”
He also feels that shows like ‘Miami Vice’ don’t portray the real picture. He said in contrast, there are few shoot-outs. “Most of the time when they get caught they throw their weapons overboard so it won’t compound the felony,” he explained.
And it is seldom that money is ever swapped on the spot. The cash end of the dope deal is usually handled before hand, according to Egles.
Finding the hidden contraband can also be a challenge. Smugglers often completely disassemble a boat and install hidden compartments.
Egles was awarded the first Florida Marine Patrol medal of honor for rescuing a victim in an explosion on land. But he warned, it was easy to get honored one week and reprimanded the next. One reprimand was ‘advised of a need for a hair cut as your hair was hanging on your ears.’
“You’re always under fire. i was dealing with middle to high-class obnoxious people who would sue you over a ticket and try to take your job. I’ve been sued several times a year. Police don’t have rights. They are vulnerable to everyone and have to answer for everything they do.”
But Florida is changing and Egles decided it was time to leave. “The water is not as clear as it used to be. Used to, you could look down 60 feet and see striped fish,” he said.
“The Marine Patrol is losing a lot of good people. Moral is low because the pay is so low. They didn’t miss me – until I left.”