More meth cases swelled the court dockets in Gratiot County earlier this week.

Steven Newell, 43, of Middleton pleaded guilty to operating a meth lab, a 20 year felony, said Gratiot County Prosecutor Keith Kushion.

A plea agreement calls for him to serve 4 to 20 years in prison, if the judge approves, Kushion said.

Newell was arrested on December 11 in Fulton Township at his home.

“He acknowledged that he had been cooking meth in his barn or garage,” Kushion said.

Officers from the Mid Michigan Area Group Narcotics Enforcement Team (MAGNET) had learned of the operation following the arrest of his friend.

She told police where she had gotten the methamphetamine, Kushion said.

Joyce Ann Reist, 43 of Ashley also pleaded guilty to possession of meth, a ten year felony.

She was found to be in possession of meth making components when she was involved in a traffic stop in Ithaca in April, Kushion said.

She  acknowledged that the items in her possession would be used for making meth, he said.

Kushion also reported that three more arrests involving meth were made over the weekend.

Wyatt Cross, 18,  Brett Godfrey, 27, and Matthew Schumann, 22, were all charged with operating a meth lab in Ashley.

MAGNET officers, acting on a tip had put the Woodbridge home under surveillance and shortly before midnight on Sunday, executed a search warrant.

“They were in the process of manufacturing it right when the police arrived,” Kushion said.

The trio was arraigned Monday in Gratiot County District Court.



A police prosecutor used methamphetamine at sex parties, blogged about it, and posted videos of himself injecting the drug on the internet.

Brent William Thompson, 49, worked as a prosecutor in the Auckland District Court while based at Auckland Central Police Station.

He appeared in the Waitakere District Court today for sentencing after pleading guilty to possessing and using methamphetamine and using cannabis.

Judge Heemi Taumanu said Thompson was discovered after anonymous letters were sent to the police minister, the commissioner of police and the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

The letters said Thompson had uploaded videos of himself using drugs to the internet.

Police found blogs Thompson had written describing using the drugs at sex parties in April and May 2013.

Under the title of “Slamming”, Thompson was depicted in videos injecting methamphetamine, once alone and once with another man.

Police found text messages he had sent about buying methamphetamine and they located numerous syringes and a quantity of the drug at his west Auckland house.

Thompson admitted using the drug once a week since January 2013.

He appeared in court in October and pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.

Thompson sought a discharge without conviction, which was opposed by the police.

Police opposed the discharge due to the seriousness of the crime and the lack of supporting evidence in relation to rehabilitation. Police held “grave concerns” in relation to the oversight of rehabilitation.

Defence lawyer Mark Manhire said his client admitted his offending was “hypocrisy”, particularly given his involvement with the Alcohol and Other Drugs Court.

Manhire said Thompson had not used drugs during the day while at work and he never used police computers to further his crimes.

    “He was a talented prosecutor. He was admired by many.”

Thompson had made honest admissions since the moment he was arrested and gone to great lengths to get help with his drug use. He had undertaken psychotherapy and had sought entry into the Higher Ground live-in drug rehabilitation facility. He had also attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings every day for 78 days, Manhire said.

Police submissions to the court referred to the previous cases of Timothy Sarah and Emily Toner, both prosecutors who became involved with drugs.

Sarah, also a prosecutor at Auckland District, sold methamphetamine and accessed the police computer to pass information to his drug associates.

Toner, a Crown prosecutor, shoplifted during a court break and used drugs while her case was going through a Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal.

    Manhire rejected the comparison saying the only common thread was that they were all prosecutors.

Judge Taumanu declined the discharge without conviction but said he had been persuaded that the case was a “tragedy” that did not require a “substantially punitive outcome”.

Thompson was convicted and fined $450.



The 3-year-old son of a burglary suspect is in protective custody after Glendale police found unsecured bloody syringes and methamphetamine during a search of the family’s home, officials said.

Shealene Nicole Lekberg was arrested Dec. 30 on suspicion of child abuse, drug possession and theft, according to court records obtained Tuesday.

Glendale police executing a search warrant at Lekberg’s home in connection with a residential burglary in early November said they found the woman and her young son living in harmful conditions.

Police said they found multiple bloody syringes stored under an unsecured kitchen sink, methamphetamine under the bathroom sink in the master bedroom, and dirty dishes and diapers on the dinner table. Police also found approximately one gram of methamphetamine, according to court documents.

Court records confirm that police also found property known to be taken during the burglary in question. Officials said Lekberg admitted to pawning two watches at the Cash American Superpawn, located a few hundred feet from her residence. Police said a receipt found among her possessions indicated a Fossil watch matching the description of one reported stolen in the burglary had been pawned on Dec 21, 2013.

According to court records, Lekberg admitted to using methamphetamine twice a week but denied knowing the items she pawned were stolen.

Child Protective Services were called and assumed custody of the 3-year-old.



A couple face charges in the Sept. 24 death of their 13-month-old daughter, who authorities say died after being exposed to methadone.

Spencer James Smith, 24, of Clinton is charged with felony child endangerment/death following a months-long investigation.

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He was in the Scott County Jail on Tuesday on $1 million bond after being arrested Monday night at the Residential Correctional Facility in Davenport.

An active warrant was issued Tuesday for Precious Bailey, the 25-year-old mother of the baby. Lauran Haldeman, Bettendorf”s public information officer, said anyone with information concerning Bailey’s whereabouts is asked to call the Bettendorf Police Department at 563-344-4023.

Bailey had been posting status updates on her Facebook account Tuesday afternoon until she deactivated it about 4:30 p.m.

An update a month ago stated that Bailey missed her daughter.

Bettendorf Police Chief Phil Redington confirmed the infant’s name as Marlee Lynn Tracy.

Redington also said Bailey no longer lives at 2625 Hawthorne Drive, Bettendorf, where she was living with her daughter in September.

He said his department worked with Clinton police and medical officials throughout the investigation.

Medical tests revealed the infant ingested an acute dose of methadone, reports state. Additional medical tests revealed the victim also had been exposed to methamphetamine.

According to court records:

The parents took the infant to Mercy Medical Center in Clinton about 6:30 p.m. Sept. 21. The infant was unresponsive and having trouble breathing.

The child was sent to University Hospitals, Iowa City, where she died three days later from complications from ingesting methadone.

Bailey had been prescribed methadone during substance abuse treatment. The methadone was dispensed in single-dose bottles with a safety lid and tamper-proof seal. The methadone was required to be kept in a lock box.

Bailey had been caring for the baby at 2625 Hawthorne Drive, Bettendorf, on Sept. 21 between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Smith had made plans with Bailey to take the infant to Clinton for a visit.

Bailey told police she mixed a dose of methadone in a bottle of Gatorade during her preparations to go to Clinton. She said her daughter normally drank “juice” like Gatorade but would drink only out of a baby bottle or sippy cup if assisted by an adult.

On Sept. 21 between 1 and 3 p.m., Smith and another person picked up Bailey and the infant from the Hawthorne Drive address.

At 3:15 p.m., Bailey and the infant were seen by a witness at a Walgreen’s in Davenport. The witness told police the infant appeared “lethargic” and could hear the child “struggling to breathe.”

Bailey purchased precursors to manufacture methamphetamine at Walgreen’s. The associate later told police that Smith also was inside Walgreen’s.

At 4:12 p.m. another witness saw Smith, Bailey and the infant as they were checking into a hotel in Clinton. That witness also said the victim appeared “lethargic” and was having trouble breathing.

Both Smith and Bailey told police that Bailey stayed with the child in the hotel room while Smith went out to pick up baby supplies.

Bailey told police she discovered the child unresponsive and saw the child’s lips were blue while Smith was away from the hotel room.

Bailey called Smith to report the child’s condition. A record of the phone call could not be found during the investigation. Smith and Bailey did not attempt to call 911.

Smith’s associate sent him a text message requesting him to pick up additional precursors to make methamphetamine.

Smith and Bailey deprived the infant of health care for at least three hours while the victim was showing signs of being in respiratory distress.





A White Bear Lake man and a woman who described herself as homeless have been jailed and charged with felonies allegedly after being found with more than 27 pounds of marijuana near Hudson, Wis.

Vincent M. Benshoof, 31, and Noelle D. Hansen, 21, were charged Monday in St. Croix County Circuit Court with possession with intent to sell more than 10,000 grams of marijuana and possession with intent to sell methamphetamine.

Hansen also has been charged with attempted forgery and possession of methamphetamine.

Hansen and Benshoof remained in the St. Croix County Jail Tuesday afternoon. An attorney listed for Benshoof did not immediately return a message, and an attorney listed for Hansen could not be reached.

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According to the criminal complaint filed in Benshoof’s case:

A St. Croix County sheriff’s deputy responded about 2 a.m. Saturday after an anonymous caller said Hansen was being held against her will by an armed man at the Regency Inn in the town of Hudson.

A deputy requested the location of Hansen’s cellphone, and it was traced to the hotel. She was found alone in the room, where the deputy also allegedly found a syringe with clear liquid inside, a copy machine and what appeared to be counterfeit U.S. bills.

Hansen allegedly told deputies she was visiting friends and was currently homeless.

While deputies were in the hotel room, Benshoof knocked on the door. Behind him was a Chevrolet Impala with the engine still running.

He was searched, and deputies allegedly found a syringe containing what appeared to be a crystal-like substance. Benshoof reportedly told deputies he didn’t know what was happening and was there only to give Hansen a ride.

A search of the vehicle turned up two duffle bags and a backpack containing a total of 27 pounds and 11 ounces of marijuana, according to the complaint. Also reportedly found in the car was about 14 grams of a crystal substance that tested positive for methamphetamine, a syringe and a small digital scale.

Benshoof’s arrest came two weeks after an arrest in which he allegedly was found with psilocybin mushrooms and methamphetamine in Minnetonka.

In that case, an officer on patrol Dec. 28 found Benshoof asleep at the wheel while at a stoplight, according to a Hennepin County criminal complaint dated Dec. 31.

Benshoof appeared to be intoxicated and did not know he was in Minnetonka, the complaint states. A breath test showed he had a blood alcohol content of 0.77.

Methamphetamine, a scale, drug paraphernalia, a small amount of marijuana and safes allegedly were found in Benshoof’s vehicle.

After opening the safes, authorities recovered more than 350 grams of methamphetamine, more than 6 grams of psilocybin mushrooms and about $10,700 in cash, the complaint in that case says.

Benshoof has been charged in Hennepin County with first-degree sale of a controlled substance and fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance.

Benshoof is on probation in Minnesota for a misdemeanor theft conviction in Washington County.

St. Croix County Sheriff John Shilts said the marijuana recovered in Saturday’s arrest had an estimated street value of $60,000 to $80,000.

Cash bonds in both Benshoof’s and Hansen’s St. Croix County cases have been set at $50,000.



PALESTINE, TX – Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) today announced the conclusion of a 20-month narcotics and firearms trafficking investigation. DPS Criminal Investigation Division agents, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, Anderson County District Attorney’s Office, Palestine Police Department, Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force and the U.S. Attorney’s Office – completed a joint investigative operation which led to the indictment of 22 defendants, primarily in Anderson County.

Sixteen defendants have been charged with engaging in organized criminal activity. The charge is a first degree felony, punishable by a maximum sentence of 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Six defendants face federal charges of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine/possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, and possession of firearms.

The initial investigation began in May 2012 with information from the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office about a possible drug trafficking organization operating within Anderson County. This prompted a collaborative effort between local, state and federal agencies, whose undercover agents and investigators were able to purchase narcotics and firearms from the individuals indicted. The case came to a conclusion with the identification and indictment of key members in the alleged drug trafficking organization.

Sealed indictments against these individuals were obtained by the office of Doug Lowe, Anderson County District Attorney on January 2, 2014 from an Anderson County Grand Jury.

This morning at approximately 6:00 AM, the above mentioned agencies, along with DPS SWAT, SRT-1 and Texas Highway Patrol Troopers served warrants at two locations within the city limits of Palestine. As a result of the warrant service, 18 individuals were taken into custody and investigators seized a pistol, methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.

The following individuals were arrested and incarcerated at the Anderson County Jail:

Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine, Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine and Possession of a Firearm While Illegally in the United States:

  • Juan Jesus Morales Gante, (AKA Chuy) 21

Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine, Conspiracy To Distribute Methamphetamine:

  • Marcela Morales Aguilar 38
  • Carrie Elizabeth Clark 32
  • Michael Lance Collins 35
  • Daniel Galacia 29
  • Hilario Escamila Gonzalez Sr 41

Engage in Organized Criminal Activity

  • Timothy Mark Bowling 51
  • Travis Brotherton 57
  • Holly Rene Miller 38
  • Bridget Anita Ferguson 33
  • Larry Lynn Mills 65
  • Gary Wayne Parker Jr 49
  • Amber Nicole Priehs 23
  • Linda Kay Marr Smith 53
  • Randall Keith Speed 30
  • Jerry Wayne Turner 47
  • Gilberto Estrada Vinaja 28
  • Jon Dee Brown 39

These remaining individuals have not been located, anyone with information on their whereabouts is asked to contact Anderson County Crime Stoppers at (903)729-8477:

  • Raul Hernandez Gomez 39
  • Bruce James Hogue 49
  • Brittney Estridge Hawthorne 25
  • Jennifer Nacole Finley 29






LAS VEGAS (KSNV — A registered nurse and her boyfriend pleaded guilty this morning to charges related to an arrest on suspicion of selling prescription medications, methamphetamine and marijuana.

Ursula St. Clair, 38, and Alex Fernandez, 43, were arrested Dec. 26 after a police undercover operation and a search of their apartment and car. They had faced charges of trafficking, possession and selling a controlled substance and conspiracy to violate the Uniform Controlled Substance Act.

The investigation began in early December when police received information that a nurse known as “Miriam” was selling controlled substances and methamphetamine, according to an arrest report.

Metro police arranged three undercover buys of controlled substances in December. In each case, officers exchanged cash for drugs, the report states. The drugs later were tested and found to be methamphetamine, hydrocodone and marijuana.

St. Clair worked as a registered nurse at UMC and St. Rose Hospital. According to the Nevada State Board of Nursing, she has been licensed in the state since 2005.

St. Clair and Fernandez will be sentenced later this month.



NEWPORT, Ky. (WKRC) — Two people are under arrest Tuesday night after police discover a meth lab in a vacant building.

The lab was found on Overton Street in Newport in the late afternoon.


One man was arrested on a warrant, another on a drug charge.  No one was hurt.

The scene was cleaned and cleared in under two hours.

Authorities seized eight pounds of methamphetamine and more than $60,000 during a drug investigation started by a traffic stop, the Pulaski County sheriff’s office said.

Lt. Carl Minden said in a statement that Steve Neugent and Brittany Gay were arrested Sunday after a traffic stop in Sherwood led to the discovery of suspected marijuana in their vehicle.

That led to an undercover drug purchase during which Aguilar Ruben was arrested and found to have crystal methamphetamine and marijuana on his person, according to a police report.

Authorities then obtained a search warrant for 7012 Dahlia Drive, where Jessica Suarez, Marcos Aguirre, Pablo Chavez and Maria Garcia were all arrested Monday.

Police say a search of that residence revealed the eight pounds of methamphetamine. Two children were living in the home with their parents with some of the drugs within their reach, police said.

All seven suspects were booked into the Pulaski County jail.



RALEIGH — A Georgia man was charged Tuesday with possessing 24 pounds, or about 11,000 grams, of methamphetamine, or crystal meth.


According to arrest warrants, Jose Alex Cambron, 18, hid 10 bags of the drug in the space under his pickup truck where a spare tire normally would be kept. Cambron was arrested on the eastbound side of U.S. 264, on the eastern edge of Raleigh, an arrest report states.

Cambron, of Covington, Ga., is charged by Wake County deputies with maintaining a vehicle for the keeping and selling of controlled substances, and two counts of trafficking in methamphetamine.

Cambron is unemployed, according to an arrest report. He was being held Tuesday at the Wake County Detention Center in lieu of $1 million bail.

MESA COUNTY, Colo. - The arrest of an accused drug dealer leads Mesa County Sheriff’s deputies to discover about one pound of methamphetamine in the suspect’s hotel room.

In December the suspect, Justin Hall, sold more than 1/4 ounce of methamphetamine to a confidential informant. The meeting took place at a location in Mesa County and was audio recorded.

On Dec. 20, Hall was later stopped for a traffic infraction and positively identified by his AZ driver’s license. He was taken into custody for methamphetamine distribution charges.

A search warrant was signed for Hall’s hotel room, and deputies found one pound of suspected methamphetamine, as well as multiple baggies and a large amount of cash.




CATOOSA COUNTY, GA (WRCB) – On Monday, Catoosa County Sheriff’s Office deputies conducted a traffic stop on Alabama Highway.
During the traffic stop, deputies searched the vehicle and found approximately 3 ounces of Methamphetamine “ICE”, 8 ounces of marijuana, various prescription pills, multiple tools for the consumption and distribution of narcotics and $600.00 in cash.

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The narcotics were found packaged for resale. The total “street” value of the narcotics is approximately $10,000.
Sara Jane Butcher, 35 and Brian Leon Hampton, 36, both of Summerville, GA and  Nancy Jill Wood, 31 and Christopher David Wood, 30 both of Melo, GA were all charged with Trafficking Methamphetamine, Possession of Methamphetamine, Possession of Marijuana with the intent to distribute, Possession of Marijuana over 1 ounce and Possession of tools for the commission of a crime.
Sara Butcher was also charged with Possession of Schedule II and Schedule IV narcotics and Crossing the guard line with contraband without consent.



LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC (WIS) – Officers with the Lexington County Multi-Agency Narcotics Enforcement Team (NET) on Monday, January 13 seized a methamphetamine laboratory that was being operated at a home on Senterfeit Road near Batesburg, Sheriff James R. Metts said.

The South Carolina Department of Social Services took custody of a 5-year-old girl whom officers found at the home. She was later placed with a relative, the sheriff said.

Officers arrested Joey Dean Cockrell, 35, Paul David Doughten, 41, and Patricia Butler England, 41, all of 312 Senterfeit Road.


At about 9:49 a.m. on Monday, deputies went to the home in order to serve Cockrell with a general sessions court bench warrant that was issued for his arrest after he failed to appear on a charge of manufacturing methamphetamine, Metts said. Deputies saw a clear plastic soda bottle inside the home that was being used as a reaction vessel to manufacture methamphetamine, according to the sheriff.

NET officers executed a search warrant at the home, Metts said. Arrest warrants allege that officers found that Cockrell, Doughten and England possessed methamphetamine and manufactured methamphetamine inside the residence.

Arrest warrants further allege that officers found a pit outside the Senterfeit Road home where waste from a methamphetamine laboratory had been burned, Metts said. In addition, arrest warrants allege that officers also found one EIG .22-caliber revolver at the residence.

Arrest warrants also allege that officers found Xanax, a prescription medication that is used to treat persons who suffer from anxiety and panic disorders, and Hydrocodone, a prescription painkiller, at the home, Metts said.

Officers arrested Cockrell on arrest warrants on charges of  manufacturing methamphetamine, unlawfully manufacturing methamphetamine  in the presence of a child, second-offense unlawfully disposing of waste  from a methamphetamine laboratory, unlawfully altering ephedrine or  pseudoephedrine from its original condition, possessing less than one  gram of methamphetamine, possessing a weapon during the commission of a  violent crime and unlawful possession of a firearm by a person who has  been convicted of a violent crime that is a felony, Metts said. In  addition, officers arrested Cockrell on arrest warrants on two counts of  possessing a controlled substance.

Officers arrested Doughten on  arrest warrants on charges of second-offense manufacturing  methamphetamine, unlawfully manufacturing methamphetamine in the  presence of a child, second-offense unlawfully disposing of waste from a  methamphetamine laboratory, second-offense possessing less than one  gram of methamphetamine, unlawful possession of a firearm by a person  who has been convicted of a violent crime that is a felony, possessing a  weapon during the commission of a violent crime and unlawfully altering  ephedrine or pseudoephedrine from its original condition, Metts said.  In addition, officers arrested Doughten on arrest warrants on two counts  of possessing a controlled substance.

Officers arrested England  on arrest warrants on charges of manufacturing methamphetamine,  unlawfully manufacturing methamphetamine in the presence of a child,  possessing less than one gram of methamphetamine, possessing a weapon  during the commission of a violent crime, unlawful possession of a  firearm by a person who has been convicted of a violent crime that is a  felony, second-offense unlawfully disposing of waste from a  methamphetamine laboratory and unlawfully altering ephedrine or  pseudoephedrine from its original condition, Metts said. In addition,  officers arrested England on arrest warrants on two counts of possessing  a controlled substance.

Cockrell, Doughten and England were being held on Tuesday, January 14 at the Lexington County Detention Center while awaiting bond hearings.

Metts asked anyone with information about illegal drug activity in Lexington County to call the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department at (803) 785-8230 or CrimeStoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC. Citizens also can provide information anonymously by accessing the Crime Tip link on the Sheriff’s Department web site (

NET is comprised of officers from the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department, Batesburg-Leesville Police Department and Lexington Police Department, Metts said. The sheriff and municipal police chiefs implemented NET in 2001 in order to enhance drug enforcement in Lexington County.

The use of crystal methamphetamine by street-involved youth is linked to an increased risk of injecting drugs, with crystal methamphetamine being the drug most commonly used at the time of first injection, found a study published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Amphetamine-type drugs, including crystal methamphetamine, are second only to cannabis in popularity. Injection rates of crystal methamphetamine have increased substantially among adult drug users in some Canadian centres such as Vancouver, BC. Overall use of crystal methamphetamine by street-involved youth aged 15-24 in Canada also increased,from 2.5% in 1999 to 9.5% in 2005.

To understand whether crystal methamphetamine use is linked to first-time drug injection in youth, researchers from the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, University of British Columbia and the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, Vancouver, looked at data from the At-Risk Youth Study of street-involved youth aged 14-26 in Vancouver. There were 991 youth who completed a questionnaire on drug use, with 395 (40%) reporting using crystal methamphetamine and 390 (39%) injecting drugs at the start of the study. The researchers focused on the 395 youth who had not injected drugs at the start of the study. They found that 64 (16%) of these young people reported injecting drugs for the first time during the study period (October 2005 to December 2010). The average age for first-time use of crystal methamphetamine was 14 years in youth who later became intravenous drug users.

“Within a sample of street-involved youth in a Canadian setting, recent noninjection use of crystal methamphetamine was independently associated with an increased risk of subsequent initiation of injection drug use,” write Dr. Evan Wood and Dan Werb, BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, with coauthors. “Within a subsample of first-time injection drug users, crystal methamphetamine was most commonly reported as the drug used during initiation events.”

Although youth described varied locations for first-time drug injection, 39% reported injecting drugs in public places, many in Vancouver’s downtown eastside neighbourhood. Participants reported injecting for the first time with other people present, including friends (57%), family members (13%) and acquaintances (10%).

“Addressing the impact of crystal methamphetamine use in increasing the risk of injection initiation among injection-naive street-involved youth represents an urgent public health priority,” write the authors.

They call for further research to develop evidence-based interventions to prevent drug injection that consider the complexities of using crystal methamphetamine with other drugs.



Three individuals were arrested and booked into Santa Clara County Jall the wee hours of Monday, Dec. 30, 2013 after being found in possession of methamphetamine and its accompanying smoking pipe, according to a police report.

The trio was taken into custody at 2:44 a.m. by Los Gatos Monte Sereno police after being contacted while sitting in a vehicle parked in the lot of a closed commercial building on University Avenue, the police report said.


One subject was found in possession of methamphetamine and a methamphetamine pipe and the other two were arrested for being under the influence of a controlled substance, the report stated.

One of the arrestees was a 21-year-old woman and the other two were men ages 25 and 26, the report stated.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Reality in the illegal drug world is mimicking fiction.

Kevin Abar, assistant special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New Mexico, says distributors are selling methamphetamine tinted blue in the Four Corners region.

That mirrors AMC’s hit drama “Breaking Bad,” which depicted an Albuquerque-based meth operation that cooked up the drug with a blue hue.

Abar says tinting meth blue is a way for distributors to advertise and brand their product.

But he says the blue meth being sold makes people sick. He says it has been cut with chemicals to make it blue and is not the “pure” product portrayed on “Breaking Bad.”

Abar says agents also have stumbled upon red-colored meth.

“Breaking Bad” last year ended its popular run after five seasons.




MILLARD — Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department arrested three men on charges related to the manufacturing of methamphetamine after discovering a lab in a shed.

On Jan. 3, patrol deputies Sgt. Sherman Gaspard and Deputy Kyle McGill went to 1094 River Rd. in Picayune to serve a warrant to Amos Wayne Earnest, 42, said Maj. Donnie Saucier of the sheriff’s department.

Saucier said upon arriving at the residence, deputies witnessed Amos walking into a shed on the property. When deputies approached him, Amos attempted to give a false name, Saucier said.

“They were able to determine his true identity was Amos Earnest, at which time he fled on foot and was apprehended a short distance away,” Saucier said.

Once he was apprehended, contained and placed under arrest for his warrant, “deputies detected an odor, that based on experience, was a meth lab,” Saucier said.

Saucier said narcotics investigators were contacted and a search warrant was obtained  for the property and the structures on the property.

“As a result of the search warrant, deputies and investigators discovered an active meth lab on the property, along with several precursor chemicals,” Saucier said.

Through the investigation, it was determined that Dean A. Earnest, 24, the son of Amos, also of the River Road address and Gauge Hannon Normand, 19, of 5182 Mississippi Highway 43 North in Carriere, were involved in manufacturing methamphetamines and destruction of evidence earlier in the day.

Enough evidence was gathered, Saucier said, to charge Dean and Amos with manufacturing a controlled substance, possession of precursor chemicals, generating hazardous waste and conspiracy to manufacture a controlled substance.

Saucier said Normand was charged with conspiracy to manufacture a controlled substance.


MUNCIE — An early-morning house fire near downtown Muncie eventually led to the discovery of a methamphetamine lab, as well as two subjects believed to have been manufacturing the drug.

The fire was reported about 5 a.m. Monday at 310 N. Elm St., a two-story yellow house where electrical cords were seen running from its windows to the house next door.

Brian Lee Graham, 33

Rob Mead, chief fire investigator with the Muncie Fire Department, said the cause of the fire remained under investigation Monday evening. Firefighters were originally on the scene for about an hour, he said.

Trooper Nate Raney with the Indiana State Police said the property’s owner — who is renting out the residence — then went to clean up some of the fire damage when he saw some possible drug-related items that “piqued his interest.” Muncie police were called to the scene and confirmed those items were a meth lab, Raney said.

The ISP Meth Suppression Unit was called to the home about 2:30 p.m. and was waiting to receive a warrant to enter and search the residence when Muncie police officers received information that the residents living at 310 N. Elm St. were hiding in an attic area next door at 404 E. Gilbert St.

Upon searching that residence, Raney said they found Rhea L. Szarka, 38, and Brian Lee Graham, 33, both hiding in a “hidden attic access” area, where more meth materials were found.

Szarka was questioned by police and then taken to jail. She is preliminarily charged with conspiracy to manufacture meth, possession of meth precursors and maintaing a common nuisance.

Graham, meanwhile, was taken from the scene to an Indianapolis hospital with injuries suffered in the fire earlier in the day, Raney said. He was yet to be charged as of 9 p.m. Monday, but an ISP media release indicated “the investigation is ongoing, and further charges could be filed.”

Police also found a meth lab behind the residence at 410 E. Gilbert. Raney said there was no immediate reason to believe that residence was connected to other meth-related activities, however.

“Anybody could’ve thrown it back there,” he said.

According to court records, Graham has convictions that include illegal consumption of alcohol (twice), possession of marijuana, furnishing alcohol to a minor, failure to stop after an accident, criminal conversion, receiving stolen property, conspiracy to commit robbery and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Local court records reflect no recent charges or convictions for Szarka, who is formerly of Springfield, Ohio.




ROSWELL, Ga. – A Roswell man’s unattended car landed him in jail on drug charges Dec. 29.

While doing a routine check of the Studio Six apartments on Old Dogwood Road at 4 a.m., police came across a Lexus parked in the middle of the road with no occupants. A search of the car allegedly turned up some crystal meth and a glass pipe. Police found the owner nearby, Hunter Davies Johnson, 30, of Oak Knoll Way, Roswell, and arrested him for possession of methamphetamine and drug-related paraphernalia.



Reporter Jason Whong’s recent, comprehensive watchdog report on the reemergence of methamphetamine as an undeniable threat to local communities across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions does a great service.

state police officer wearing protective clothing carries a plastic bag

It may not be the most encouraging reading, but we ignore it at our own risk — no matter how unsettling.

For the past few years, I’ve been noting the dramatic rise in meth-related arrests and other incidents across the region. I’ve said over and over that it seems like we could give a meth-bust-of-the-month award around here. In fact, early last year, on the very day in April that the state Senate was voting on one piece of legislation I sponsor to further outlaw meth labs, police and firefighters in Elmira were on the scene of a suspected lab in the city. During one week alone in mid-June in Chemung County, there were three meth lab discoveries.

This newspaper’s December report bears it out: 17 meth lab incidents in New York in 2009, 35 in 2010, 46 in 2011 — followed by a huge jump to 147 in 2012.

There was a time, a few years ago, when the question was this one: Is meth making a comeback? That’s not even the right question anymore. Any number of local law enforcement officers will say “yes,” for a variety of reasons. It’s getting easier to manufacture the drug. Tough economic times spark a rise in overall criminal behavior, and making and selling meth can be profitable. Crackdowns on crime in large cities such as Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse drive more and more criminals, including drug dealers, toward smaller cities, towns and villages.

The question now is: What’s our response?

It was just six years ago, in early 2005 at the start of my first term in the Legislature, when a State Investigations Commission report identified the Southern Tier as a potential hotbed of meth-related criminal activity. Many of us will recall that the report was dropped on the region’s doorstep a little over a year after the killings of two Bradford County sheriff’s deputies — Michael A. VanKuren and Christopher M. Burgert — during a meth-related arrest.

It all served to heighten our area’s already-growing fears over meth’s proliferation and it led to a strong, bipartisan legislative effort that produced New York’s first comprehensive strategy to combat the manufacture and sale of meth. The 2005 law put in place tough new criminal penalties to outlaw clandestine labs, promoted greater community awareness and education, and sought to address the environmental hazards associated with meth labs.

It was one of New York’s landmark anti-drug laws, but it’s clear that we can’t sit back against meth or any other highly addictive drug and illegal drug trafficking. The effort requires constant attention. It may require new laws. I’m currently sponsoring or co-sponsoring legislation to further outlaw the operation of clandestine meth labs and the sale of meth, as well as to enhance the ability of local police and district attorneys to track and prosecute violations of restrictions on over-the-counter sales of cold medications that are key ingredients used in cooking meth.

And as explored in detail by this newspaper’s report, I’ll also be pushing legislation in 2014 to require sellers of homes that were previously the site of an illegal meth lab — and therefore contaminated with the hazardous chemicals left behind by meth labs — to disclose this information to potential home-buyers.

The first line of defense, as always, is simply about reigniting local awareness and education. One of the reasons we were so successful six years ago was because it literally became a crusade among law officers, district attorneys, legislators, news reporters, first responders, educators and concerned citizens to help defend our communities. A steady drumbeat of public awareness is still effective. Some of this past year’s arrests came about because watchful citizens didn’t hesitate to alert local law enforcement to suspicious activity. “If you see something, say something” applies to meth too.

To those caught in the terrible spiral of drug abuse and addiction, we need to let them know that there are ways out and treatment is available.

Maybe most critical of all is the consistent message we keep sending to our young people about the dangers of substance abuse, in all its forms. The dangers and endless pitfalls associated with illegal drugs should never be taken lightly or dismissed out of hand. Too often the abuse of one drug leads to the abuse of another, more addictive, dangerous and destructive substance.

Remember what we learned the first time around: Once a culture of meth invades a region, it sinks deep roots and rapidly spirals out of control. The drug’s proliferation promises equally escalating costs to local systems of health care and social services, more violent crime, higher numbers of drug-endangered children, more and more hazardous waste sites dotting our communities, and increasing risks for local law enforcement officers and first responders.

That’s all still true. Those familiar with meth’s devastation are quick to share this advice: Do everything within your power to drive meth manufacturers and dealers out of your communities.

We need to heed that advice all over again. It starts with understanding that we can’t underestimate the danger.




Buyers, renters left in dark on former meth-making in their new home

  • Unlike 23 other states, no laws exist in New York or Pennsylvania requiring property owners to disclose to buyers or tenants that a methamphetamine manufacturing lab had operated in a property.
    • No published list of former meth labs is available from New York or Pennsylvania. A federal listing of former drug labs is available but largely incomplete, and does not specify which drug was made.
    • No state laws or guidelines exist in New York or Pennsylvania for decontaminating former meth labs in residences. The federal government has guidelines, but no standards.
    • Because local governments in New York and Pennsylvania have no state guidance for meth lab cleanups in homes, local code enforcement officials sometimes address it in their own ways.

N.Y., Pa. meth tally

From 2004 to 2012 in New York, 415 meth lab incidents, including labs, dump sites, and chemical and glassware seizures were reported by or to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Pennsylvania had 529 such reports for that period.

NY Pa.
2012 147 96
2011 46 10
2010 35 39
2009 17 43
2008 20 24
2007 13 18
2006 42 63
2005 26 100
2004 69 136

When you buy or rent a residence, the current owner is required to disclose information, including the presence of hazards such as lead paint or asbestos.

But in New York and Pennsylvania, the same owner does not have to tell you the property is a former methamphetamine manufacturing lab, where a concoction of dangerous chemicals might have been mixed in the bathtub or spilled on the floor in the process of producing the addictive and illegal drug.

In 23 other states, the concern over the health of people moving into former meth labs is so great that some form of disclosure is required for buyers or renters.

Twenty-five states — but not New York or Pennsylvania — also have standards or guidelines for how former meth labs should be decontaminated. Those standards often require significant effort before the building can be occupied again.

Meth addicts or pushers make meth by mixing and cooking household chemicals and drugs in a dangerously messy process.

When law enforcement authorities raid a lab, they often wear “moon suit” protective gear to protect their health from exposure to those chemicals. About five pounds of toxic waste is generated as a byproduct for every pound of meth manufactured, and that waste often is disposed of haphazardly, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Laws, regulations or guidelines about cleaning up meth labs in other states often result in the removal of carpets and furniture, and demolition of contaminated wood and walls to protect future residents of the building.

But in New York and Pennsylvania, the extent of decontamination, if any, is left up to the owners.

The lack of oversight hasn’t gone completely unnoticed in New York. The state Commission on Investigation eight years ago recommended that the state consider a remediation standard.

Yet, legislators or their representatives from New York and Pennsylvania contacted for this story thought police were cleaning up properties when they shut down meth labs, or that some part of government already handled cleanup, only to discover that wasn’t the case. They say they intend to introduce legislation that would require full cleanup of former meth labs.

“Regulation-wise, I would think there’s something out there,” said Nick Troutman, aide to Pennsylvania state Sen. Gene Yaw, after mentioning a state law that requires someone convicted of making meth to pay for the costs of cleanup.

A day later, after finding no regulations, guidelines or procedures that said how meth labs should be fully decontaminated, Troutman said Yaw would likely help introduce a bill to address it this legislative session.

New York State Sen. Tom O’Mara, a Republican/Conservative from Big Flats who has championed other legislation to fight meth-making, pledged to examine remediation oversight, after he was alerted to the problem when this report was prepared.

“It’s a good angle, and an angle I really hadn’t looked into up to this point,” O’Mara said. “I’ll be looking at how I can move this forward,” he said, noting that he would support a bill that had been held up in a Senate committee.

After meth became illegal in 1970, the drug faded from national popularity until its re-emergence in the western U.S. and Hawaii in the 1980s, according to a 2005 Department of Justice report. The drug’s popularity grew in the 1990s in the West and Northwest, and by 2000, it began to show up in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.

Toxic chemicals

Health experts know that exposure to some of the chemicals used to make meth can cause health problems, but little research has been done on the impact of living in a former meth lab on the new owners or tenants.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists 53 chemicals associated with meth production, but many of the chemicals can be used as substitutes for each other. A lab can use multiple ways to make meth, so chemicals leftover after meth is manufactured, and the resulting toxic byproducts, can vary.

The toxic cocktail can include:

• Coleman fuel, which is flammable, can irritate the skin, and can cause dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, drowsiness and loss of coordination. Chronic exposure to the fuel can damage sensory and nerve cells, kidneys and the liver.

• Lithium, taken from batteries and used in meth production, reacts to moisture and corrodes any tissue it contacts. Inhalation of lithium fumes can irritate or damage the upper respiratory tract.

• Sodium hydroxide, also known as lye or caustic soda, is corrosive and poisonous. Depending on its concentration, inhalation can cause mild irritation or severe damage to the upper respiratory tract. Meth makers convert the sodium hydroxide to sodium, which can cause chemical and heat burns if it reacts with skin moisture, mucus membranes or eyes.

• Meth production also requires the use of solvents, such as benzene, acetone, normal hexane or toluene. Prolonged exposure to high concentrations of acetone can cause death. Chronic exposure to benzene can cause anemia or leukemia. Chronic inhalation of normal hexane can cause peripheral nerve disorders and central nervous system damage. Exposure to toluene while pregnant can affect fetal development.

Once police have left a meth lab with the dangerous chemicals and wastes they’ve collected, it’s not clear what is left behind — the only way to know for sure is to test.

Because meth can be made using common household items, with easy access to recipes and with a basic knowledge of chemistry, it lends itself to production in small towns, where other illicit drugs may not be readily available.

That was the case in 2011 in the Town of Dix, a small community of around 3,800 people just south of Watkins Glen State Park in Schuyler County.

John Barton, 33, who was recently sentenced in U.S. District Court in Rochester for his role in a meth lab there, told the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration that he made the meth at a shed behind his rented home, where he also slept. At the time, it was called the largest meth bust in the Southern Tier.

Barton said it usually took him about two hours to cook meth, and he kept all the lab equipment in the shed. He would use two boxes of pseudoephedrine – legally used for nasal congestion — for each batch. A batch would last Barton from one to two weeks.

In his manufacturing process, Barton used anhydrous ammonia to extract the pseudoephedrine from the tablets before adding “hydrochloro smoke” to the mixture.

“Boom! It’s not rocket science,” Barton told a DEA agent.

People would bring Barton boxes of over-the-counter drugs and later return to pick up some meth, he said.

Barton also told the agent he would give a friend the waste left over from cooking meth, and the friend discarded the waste in the trash.

Contaminated crime scenes

Although the place where meth is made usually is referred to as a lab, the typical site looks more like the kitchen of an incredibly messy cook than an industrial chemistry lab.

Brion Peters, 55, and Gary Varlan, 54, two men convicted in the May 2011 meth lab fire in the Town of Baldwin that killed Kanisha Wood, 20, of Elmira, testified at Peters’ trial that part of their meth-making process included heating a fuel solution in plastic pitchers. The process also involved taking the lithium out of batteries, according to testimony at the trial.

The fatal fire started when Peters picked up one of the plastic pitchers from a wood stove. The pitcher had become so hot that it stretched out “like bubble gum” and leaked the highly flammable fuel onto the floor, according to testimony from Brian Yontz, of Elmira, at Peters’ trial.

When police raid a meth lab, they send in specially trained people wearing protective clothing and breathing equipment to remove and dispose of the chemicals, toxic waste and lab equipment found inside. In New York, the state police Contaminated Crime Scene Emergency Response Team usually goes to the scene.

Meth lab responders generally have 40 to 80 hours of hazardous-materials training, while members of the state police team also have attended 40 hours of meth-specific training led by the DEA in Quantico, Va., said state police Sgt. Doug Wildermuth.

Photos and video used in media reports from the police response could give the impression that the house is cleaned up once police have left the scene. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the building and surrounding land are safe.

“Even when all the chemicals and toxic waste are removed from a methamphetamine lab, the problems of cleaning, or remediating, the chemical residues and contaminated surfaces remain,” the New York State Commission of Investigation wrote in the 2005 report to the governor and legislature about meth use and meth making.

Little has been done since the commission concluded that the state should study standards for decontaminating former labs.

Cleanup regulations

Federal law does not require the cleanup of former meth labs. In 2007, Congress directed the EPA to come up with guidelines, but not regulations on the subject.

Current cleanup standards in 25 states require or suggest that meth exposure be reduced to levels ranging from from 0.05 to 1.5 micrograms of meth per 100 square centimeters, about 15 square inches, of surface area sampled. A microgram is one one-millionth of a gram, and there are roughly 28 grams in an ounce. The cleanup standard assumes that removing meth also removes harmful chemicals and wastes, according to the EPA’s guidelines, last updated in March. Connecticut, New Hampshire and West Virginia, for example, have published guidelines that specify a cleanup target of 0.1 micrograms.

In West Virginia, testing for other chemicals may be required by the state. The state law also provides rules for a cleanup, which is the responsibility of the property owner.

“In New York, it is generally up to local health departments to determine what remediation is required,” the state commission wrote in its 2005 report. Local code enforcement departments also play a role by deciding whether former meth lab structures are fit to be occupied.

In both states, the government agencies that regulate the environment have no regulations specifically about cleaning up meth labs, although both have rules about hazardous materials that apply to the removal of the chemicals and wastes.

Although the New York commission wrote in 2005 that remediation standards fall on local health departments, that responsibility has mostly been passed to code enforcement in Chemung, Broome, Tompkins, Tioga and other counties.

Local code enforcement officers “have little or no guidance in what they should be doing” when working with meth labs, said Michael S. Smith, director of the Chemung County Office of Fire and Emergency Management.

“I don’t know that we necessarily have the scientific resources that would be required to develop a policy, and really, why would you want 57 separate remediation policies for the state?” Smith said, referring to the 57 counties in New York that aren’t part of New York City.

Rocco Picarazzi, director of code enforcement for the City of Elmira, said that after police have left the scene of a meth lab, his department posts notices on the property, forbidding occupancy, until they determine how serious any safety threat might be.

“When we feel it’s safe, we open it back up, but we can require air monitoring from an outside agency. We can, if it’s real bad, because that stuff can get in the carpets,” Picarazzi said.

Smith said there are a number of unanswered questions confronting code enforcement agencies, including figuring out how contaminated a site is, how best to clean it, whether it should be demolished and how to dispose of contaminated parts of the building.

“There is no arbiter of the level of contamination that has occurred. The local code guy doesn’t necessarily know how long has this been going on, what have they been using, how sloppy was their (meth-making) process,” Smith said.

Chris White, a spokesman for the state Department of Labor, which regulates professional asbestos abatement, referred questions about meth lab regulations to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

State DEC spokeswoman Linda Vera said meth lab remediation of homes is under the jurisdiction of local or state departments of health, though the DEC does get involved with the identification and proper disposal of chemicals used to make meth, but “soils, surface waters and groundwater are seldom impacted” by meth labs, she said.

Meth-making evolves

Meth manufacturing has been on the rise in New York since that report eight years ago. In Pennsylvania, production slowed down, but it has picked back up again.

According to the DEA, there were 147 meth lab-related incidents (including seizures of labs, chemicals and glassware, and the finding of dump sites) in New York in 2012, a record high. In Pennsylvania, there were 96 incidents, well short of 2004’s record of 136, according to the data.

DEA data keeping track of meth labs since 2004 show the labs on a downward trend after Congress passed the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005, which made it much more difficult for buyers to get larger quantities of the over-the-counter medicine, such as pseudoephedrine, used to make meth.

Since then, meth-making has evolved. While it’s harder to get the ingredients for a large batch of meth, it’s relatively easy to make it in smaller batches.

Sgt. Wildermuth said 90 percent of meth labs he goes to these days in New York use a small-batch method of production called the “one-pot” or “shake-and-bake” method.

Today, disclosing a property’s meth history falls to owners or realty agents, who decide whether they want to say anything about illegal drugs produced on the site.

“I don’t believe you can (morally) rent a place to someone without telling them that, hey, this was here,” said Gary Fredericks, who is the property owners’ agent for 200 Harmon St. in Elmira, where police in April found a meth lab in the downstairs apartment.

“I think you would be morally wrong, especially if there were children, who, because of their lower weight, would be more susceptible.”

The property owners lost $2,800 over roughly 60 days by not being able to rent the downstairs apartment, and in money spent to hire cleaners to shampoo the carpets and furniture inside, scrub each wall and dispose of contaminated items, Fredericks said.

Potential property buyers or renters who want to research the history of a residence to check for meth-making can’t do so easily in either New York or Pennsylvania.

On the Internet, buyers or renters might find the property on an incomplete federal list of drug labs or a New York list not designed for that purpose. (Pennsylvania has no such list on the Internet.) With more digging, the property may be found in news reports at libraries or by making open-records requests to local governments.

The DEA publishes a national “clandestine lab” registry, but it doesn’t guarantee the accuracy of the data there, in part because most of the data don’t come from the DEA. Much of it comes from local and state law enforcement agencies, who don’t have to tell the DEA of drug lab finds. Some of the agencies’ records contain incomplete information and different addresses for identical incident reports.

Frederick Faucett, 55, of Elmira, who lives with his wife and mother-in-law on the second-floor apartment of a house on the city’s Northside, was unaware that a 2004 meth lab bust put his address on the DEA’s list until a reporter told him.

There are two apartments there, but the list didn’t include an apartment in the address.

Elmira police records show that meth was being made in an unattached garage north of the home by someone who lived in the upstairs apartment. Faucett, who has lived at the home for about three years, doesn’t have access to the garage.

A few states have registries of former meth labs. In some places, the lists are maintained by local governments rather than states.

In Tennessee, a database of all meth seizures is maintained by the state Methamphetamine Task Force, which had 15,684 seizures recorded as of June, spokesman Jim Derry said. Aside from address information, the database keeps track of which agency responded, which officer wrote the report, the officer’s phone number, the date the property was quarantined (if it was at all) and the date when the cleanup was approved.

Proposed laws

New York State Sen. Tim Kennedy, a Buffalo Democrat, in January proposed legislation to require written disclosure of a property’s status as a former meth lab and establish guidelines for cleanup or demolition of former meth labs.

“When homebuyers and renters are kept in the dark about meth contamination, serious health problems can take entire families by surprise, and the costly remediation bills for cleanup often lead to serious financial hardships,” Kennedy said in a statement when he introduced the bill. “Our proposal will protect homeowners and renters by ensuring sellers and landlords fully disclose a property’s status as a former meth lab prior to purchase or lease-signing.”

The bill also would establish a state-sponsored listing of properties deemed contaminated, and requires that people who remove their own personal property from meth labs either clean or dispose of them according to rules to be established by the state.

Kennedy’s bill was referred to the state Senate Judiciary Committee in March, but it never came up for a vote, said John Mackowiak, Kennedy’s spokesman. Kennedy plans to re-introduce the bill in the next legislative session, he said.

State Sen. O’Mara said he had been in touch with Kennedy’s staff about the legislation. “I’m sure I’ll be working with him on trying to move that forward,” O’Mara said. “I think a statewide standard would be appropriate for something of this significance.”

In Pennsylvania, Sen. John Rafferty, a Republican who represents Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties, proposed legislation in 2011 that would require sellers and landlords to disclose meth contamination to buyers and renters, and set standards for remediation. That bill was sent to the Senate appropriations committee, and didn’t make it out before the end of the session, according to Senate records.


Four Georgia residents have been jailed after police say they found 4-1/2 pounds of meth, hidden in laundry detergent boxes.

Greenville police say they stopped a vehicle this morning at Stantonsburg Road and Arlington Boulevard for a traffic violation.  A K-9 alerted on the smell of narcotics in the vehicle, and a search turned up the meth in the two Tide boxes.


It’s estimated the meth has a street value of $130,000.

Jorge Matiled-Gonzalez, April Gonzalez and Tabitha Najarro-Urbano were charged with numerous conspiracy and trafficking charges and put in the Pitt County Detention Center under a $1,000,000.00 secured bond.  Rene Eduardo-Valencia was also charged with numerous conspiracy and trafficking charges and jailed on a $3,000,000.00 secured bond.

This is the second large drug seizure so far this month in Greenville where the contraband was found hidden.    On January 3rd, police seized 5 kilos of cocaine that was concealed in a car battery.



Rodney Belden was at the bottom.

A stroke cost him the ability to work, partially paralyzing the left side of his body. He applied for disability three times through the state of Illinois. Each time he was denied.

Unable to provide for his family and feeling down about himself, Belden went back to an old friend for a pick-me-up.


He started using methamphetamine again, and reacquainting himself with it cost him dearly.

Arrested at a campground during a raid by the West Central Illinois Task Force in March, Belden pleaded guilty in May to unlawful meth manufacturing and unlawful possession of meth. He could have received up to 30 years in prison, but he was sentenced to 12 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections by Judge Scott Walden.

In an interview room inside the Adams County Jail the day before being sent to prison on May 8, Belden, 43, talked about the road meth took him down.

“Meth is evil. It comes as your best friend,” Belden said as tears started to fill his eyes and his voice cracked.

“It builds you up. It makes you feel good about yourself. At the same time, it’s taking your life away, little by little. It has no bounds. It can get ahold of anybody at any time. Your priorities go completely opposite. All you care about is the drug and being high.”

That carelessness cost Belden his freedom and — for at least a few years — his family. Not only did Belden get back into the meth habit, but he said he also drew his wife, Melissa, into his addiction. She also was arrested on meth charges in the same campground raid. She avoided prison, instead receiving 36 months of probation in July after pleading guilty to unlawful participation in meth manufacturing June 4.

Because of his past, Belden knew he was bound for prison when he entered a guilty plea.

Belden said his drug use started in his early 20s. He used marijuana and tried LSD and cocaine. He said he quit doing drugs cold turkey until being introduced to meth for the first time in 1997. It was around that time that he had lost his job as a supervisor at Jack’s Discount Store.

Belden’s meth use started innocently enough at a friend’s house.

“I just stood there for a little bit, picked up a straw and did it,” he said.

From his first snort, Belden was hooked.

“It wasn’t very long after that when I got into my addiction,” he said.

Belden said he was heavily into the drug. He was spending $100 daily and doing a gram a day when he was caught the first time on meth-related charges in 2005. He was sentenced to 4½ years in prison for illegally possessing anhydrous ammonia. He also got three years on a meth possession charge. Those sentences ran concurrently.

Belden wasn’t out of prison long when he was picked up on another meth charge in 2008. He was caught operating a lab in a garage behind a residence between Spring and Oak, near the Quincy University campus. He pleaded guilty to meth possession and was sentenced to the Adams County Drug Court program. He graduated in May 2010.

Belden suffered a mild stroke in November 2011 and was hospitalized for 10 days. Belden could no longer work in the press department of a local manufacturing company.

The effects of the stroke aren’t evident when listening to Belden speak, but they are when he walks.

“My self-worth just went to nothing,” he said. “I couldn’t do the work that I liked to do. I don’t know if there was a potential for other jobs. I couldn’t be on my feet for a long period of time, and I had limited use of my arm and hand.”

The only way for him to get to feeling like his old self, he believed, was going back to making and using meth.

“For me, (meth) helped me get my self-esteem back,” he said. “It’s weird how that drug is. It made me think that I could function almost like I did before the stroke. After a while, the feeling went away.”

The drug caused a riff between Belden and his wife. They got into a fight, and he moved out of their residence on Quincy’s northwest side. He stayed at a friend’s camper at Whispering Oaks Campground near Mendon.

He was back to doing a half gram of meth a day. His wife was arrested in early February, and he found out about her charges a few days afterward.

“I knew eventually that if I kept going that I would get caught,” he said. “But it didn’t matter. I was so far back into my addiction. I knew they were coming to get me.”

Officers with the West Central Illinois Task Force found him at the campground March 4. His bond was set at $75,000, and he needed 10 percent of that to get out of jail. Neither he nor his family had the money to post bond, so Belden knew he wasn’t going anywhere. He was in the Adams County Jail for only two months before agreeing to a plea offer made by the state’s attorney’s office.

During the May jail interview, Belden said all he had to look forward to was his next meal and letters from his wife. His time in the county jail, he said, wasn’t easy, especially when he heard other inmates talk about going back to doing drugs when they got out.

If he could sound a warning for anyone thinking about doing meth, Belden would advise against getting involved in the drug.

“Don’t do it,” Belden said, sobbing. “It is evil. You will think it’s your best friend, but it’s going to turn your life over at the same time. You won’t see it until it’s too late.

“It’s not worth it. It gives you energy. It gives you a false self-esteem and makes you feel good about yourself. It’s false. It’s just a show. When you come off that high, you are back in the same spot that you started.”

Belden now is in the same spot that he was six years ago, riding out a prison sentence. According to the Illinois Department of Corrections, the earliest Belden could be released from prison is March 4, 2019.

When he gets out, Belden doesn’t have any plans to go back to his old ways.

“This is definitely a wake-up call,” he said. “The other times should have been. I don’t know why they weren’t.”




(PressZoom) – Hong Kong Customs smashed a cross-boundary drug trafficking attempt, and seized about one kilogramme of Methamphetamine, with an estimated market value of $0.66 million, in an incoming vehicle at the Shenzhen Bay Control Point. A 38-year-old man was arrested.

Customs officers intercepted an incoming private car arriving from Shenzhen for vehicle search on January 10. With the help of a Customs Drug Detector Dog and the use of an ion-scanner, three packets of Methamphetamine, weighing about one kilogramme in total, were found under and at the back of the rear passenger seats. The man who drove the vehicle was arrested at the scene.

The arrestee, who claimed to be a driver, will be charged with one count of trafficking in a dangerous drug and will appear at the Tuen Mun Magistrates’ Court tomorrow (January 13).

Under the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance, drug trafficking is a serious offence. The maximum penalty is up to life imprisonment and a fine of $5 million



On January 12th, 2014 at approximately 8:25 p.m. members of the Mid-Iowa Narcotics Enforcement Task Force with the assistance of the Knoxville Police Department and Marion County Sheriff’s Office executed a drug search warrant at 1207 Gebhardt St #3 in Knoxville where illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia were seized.


As a result of the search warrant 2 individuals were taken to the Marion County Jail on drug charges awaiting initial appearances.  Nora Pettyjohn age 47 of Knoxville charged with possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine less than 5 grams, 12 counts of possession of a prescription drug without a prescription, possession of schedule IV controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and maintaining a drug house. Jimmy Kendall age 51 of Knoxville charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver less than 5 grams, possession of schedule IV controlled substance, 14 counts of possession of a prescription drug without a prescription, maintaining a drug house and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine less than 5 grams is a class “C” felony, possession of schedule IV controlled substance is an aggravated misdemeanor, possession of prescription drugs without a prescription is an aggravated misdemeanor,  maintaining a drug house an aggravated misdemeanor, and possession of drug paraphernalia a simple misdemeanor.

The Knoxville Police Department K-9 drug detecting dog was also on scene to assist in executing the search warrant and searching of the property.

The Mid-Iowa Narcotics Enforcement Task Force is based in Des Moines and currently has 16 central Iowa agencies participating in the task force including the Jasper and Marion County Sheriff’s Offices, Knoxville, Newton, and Pella Police Departments.




The time is now to take a good hard look at the methamphetamine problem in our community. As a physician working consistently in acute care for the last 12 years, I can say without any doubt that the problem has exploded out of control with enormous health costs and human tragedy. All around us, the souls of our neighbors and our neighbors’ children are being destroyed permanently. All of us have learned to look away — to avert our gaze — from the hollow and broken people that intimidate us and frighten our kids. The death of Father Eric Freed, and the countless acts of violence that occur everyday, should be enough to get the public inspired to take action. The devastation we spend millions to manage in the hospitals should be enough to inspire a community into greater efforts. The faces of neglected and mistreated children and the relentless crying of methamphetamine addicted infants cared for in our hospitals, then returned to their broken families, should be enough to at least consider looking for new solutions.

The first step in addressing any problem is to admit it’s a problem and turn on the lights! There is an engaged group using the structure of Facebook to generate light, share ideas, and research fresh thinking. I invite you to join the conversation on Facebook: Humboldt Meth Abuse Awareness Project (

We will also be meeting on Jan. 23 at the Humboldt Area Foundation at 3:30 p.m. and we hope to fill the space to overflowing. Our intention is simply to bring grassroots energy to the topic of methamphetamine abuse in Humboldt County, request renewed interest in studying the problem, and to explore the successes and failures of other communities throughout the country.

One thing is for sure — nobody has THE answer because there is no one answer. We ask that people come prepared to listen rather than pontificate. We ask that blaming and scapegoating be avoided, and we are committed to hearing the quietest voices among us. It’s time to turn on the lights, folks.

Dr. Michael D. Fratkin, M.D., is a specialist in palliative medicine and resides in Kneeland.