Meth is a problem in northern Trumbull County, the sheriff says.
By ANGIE SCHMITT
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
BLOOMFIELD — For months, investigators had been watching a home on Cooks Lane, tipped off by large purchases of over-the-counter cold medications.
Thursday, they closed in, with eight to 10 police units from Trumbull County, Ashtabula and Niles. Now, officials say three people have been arrested on charges that they were manufacturing “Red-P” methamphetamine, a potent, rusty-colored form of the dangerous stimulant.
The homeowner, Gretchen Gifford, 35, and her boyfriend, Andover resident David E. Heath Jr., 30, are charged with aggravated drug trafficking and illegal manufacture of drugs as well as child endangering. Gifford’s two young children were also present when police arrived, according to Trumbull County Sheriff Thomas Altiere.
Lance Palshook, 24, of Rome, Ohio, is also charged with possession of chemicals used to manufacture drugs. Police reported Palshook arrived at the scene as the raid was taking place.
“They were buying bulks of Sudafed, cooking it down, which is a main ingredient” in methamphetamines, said Altiere.
Local grocers and pharmacies are required to obtain signatures from customers who buy drugs containing pseudoephedrine and ephedrine, a common ingredient in cold medications which is essential for meth production. Local law enforcement agencies keep close watch on the lists, Altiere said.
“We were following Sudafed. They were buying a lot of it,” the sheriff said. “It took us about six months.”
He said the strain being produced is a variety of the drug, containing iodine, which gives the drug a red tint, and phosphorus. The combination is what gives the drug the nickname “Red-P.” The mix is particularly dangerous to manufacture as well as handle, said Altiere.
“This is a bad type of methaphetamine,” he said. “It’s extremely dangerous.”
Officers investigated and processed the scene for about six hours. Only traces of the drug were found. However, undercover officers have bought the drug at the home in the past, according to Altiere.
HazMat has decontaminated the Cooks Lane home twice since the three were led away in handcuffs about 4:30 p.m. Thursday. The suspects were also forced to undergo chemical decontamination twice, said Altiere.
Bond has been set at $100,000 for Gifford and Heath and $50,000 for Palshook. Preliminary hearings for all three are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Feb. 14 at Newton Falls Municipal Court. They are being housed at the Trumbull County jail.
Methamphetamine trafficking had been on the rise in the county in the past several years, said Altiere.
“In northern Trumbull County, we’ve seen these labs popping up,” he said.