By Mary Spicer
Whether you describe the method as “the one-pot system” or “shake-and-bake,” the methamphetamine labs that suddenly seem to be springing up left and right in the greater Meadville area are definitely not the large, rural meth labs of yore.
It’s all a matter of scale.
In the mini meth labs of today, a 2-liter soda bottle replaces a whole room full of nasty-looking containers giving off foul odors and noxious fumes — a dramatic downsizing that has made the entire process of manufacturing meth extremely portable while slashing to a tiny fraction the quantity of raw materials required for a production run.
“It boils down to the new system that they’re using — and the accessibility of the items needed to make it,” Assistant Chief Tom Liscinski of Meadville Police Department told the Tribune Friday afternoon as paperwork was being prepared for the second arraignment on meth manufacturing-related charges within Meadville’s city limits in less than seven weeks. Two additional meth lab-related arrests have been made in surrounding townships since April 30.
“The ease of obtaining the necessary materials and the ease of making it, even as compared to five years ago, is completely different,” Liscinski said. “You don’t have to manufacture methamphetamine out in the country anymore. It’s so portable that you can do it in a car. You can do it walking down the street.”
Friday afternoon, Louis William LaMonde Jr., 28, and Devanie Marie Coudriet, 32, both of 560 Smith St., Meadville, were arraigned before Meadville Area Magisterial District Judge William Chisholm on felony charges of possessing psedoephedrine, lye, ammonium nitrate and lithium to be used in the manufacture of methamphetamine; conspiring to manufacture methamphetamine; and conspiring to possess precursors and chemicals, all on or around the dates of May 1 through June 14 of this year; and illegal dumping of methamphetamine waste on or about June 12 by depositing a methamphetamine precursor into the garbage can at the Smith Street address.
If convicted on all charges, each defendant faces a maximum of 47 years in jail and fines totaling $240,000. None of the charges carry a mandatory sentence.
LaMonde was committed to Crawford County jail in lieu of $50,000 bail. Coudriet was committed to the Crawford County jail in lieu of $10,000 bail.
According to Meadville Police Department, information that a possible meth lab was being operated from the Smith Street residence was received on June 7 from Conneaut Lake Police Department. A joint investigation was then conducted by Meadville and Conneaut Lake police and agents from the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Drug Task Force.
As a result of the joint investigation, a search warrant was applied for and obtained.
Friday at 10 a.m., the search warrant was executed by Meadville police, the drug task force and Pennsylvania State Police Clandestine Lab Response Team. Meadville Central Fire Department, Meadville Ambulance Service and Crawford County Office of Emergency Services were on standby at the location.
LaMonde and Coudriet were arrested and taken into custody and three young children were removed from the residence and turned over to Crawford County Children and Youth Services, according to Meadville police.
Jay Palmer, owner of the tenant-occupied residence, was present for the preliminary hearing but declined to comment on the arrests.
Friday was the fourth meth bust in Crawford County in the last seven weeks.
- April 30, a small explosion and fire resulted in Cambridge Springs resident Melvin Shane Beachy, 37, being arrested on felony drug, arson and risking catastrophe charges filed by Pennsylvania State Police at Meadville for allegedly running a clandestine methamphetamine lab at a residence at 101 Echnoz Ave. in West Mead Township.
Beachy, whose preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 28 before Magisterial District Judge Rita Marwood, is lodged in Crawford County jail in lieu of $75,000 bail.
- May 6, Walter James Eckart, 30, of 774 Utica Road, Utica; Karen A. Triscas, 34, of 440 Willow St., Meadville; and Kandy R. McGlothren, 31, of 13118 Conneaut Lake Road, Conneaut Lake, were arraigned on charges connected with allegedly manufacturing methamphetamine in an apartment in the Fairmont/Fairview housing complex in Meadville. Preliminary hearings are scheduled for June 26; Eckart, Triscas and McGlothren were committed to Crawford County jail in lieu of $50,000, $25,000 and $15,000 bail, respectively.
- May 8, Meadville resident Joshua Lee Klingensmith, 24, was arrested and charged with operating a methamphetamine lab at a trailer home at 9662 Kennedy Hill Road in Union Township. After waiving his right to a preliminary hearing, Klingensmith, who was committed to Crawford County jail in lieu of $50,000 bail, is scheduled to go to trial in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas.
You can help
While the laboratories required to manufacture the drug known as “meth” have grown considerably smaller in recent years, the risk of explosion that has been a fact of life for operators of such labs since their earliest days remains.
In the wake of the fourth arrest in the greater Meadville area since late April in connection with operating a methamphetamine laboratory, Meadville Police Department Assistant Chief Tom Liscinski is calling on area residents to keep an eye out for discarded lab-related trash.
Two-liter soda bottles with residue inside, discarded batteries and discarded cold packs — the kind that get cold when they’re squeezed — are all products or components of the meth manufacturing process. For every one pound of meth manufactured, for example, six pounds of toxic waste are produced.
Liscinski invites anyone spotting unusual behavior that’s a cause for concern to give the department a call at 724-6100. “That’s what we’re here for — to check things out,” he said. “If something’s deemed to be suspicious, we’d rather check it out and find nothing than find out two months down the road that someone spotted something that could have stopped something tragic from happening.”
Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.