New Castle News

Police Reports

September 27, 2013

Charges withdrawn in meth lab case, refiling pending

NEW CASTLE — Charges against four adults accused of operating a methamphetamine lab have been withdrawn and are being refiled.

That is according to paperwork filed Thursday in Lawrence County Central Court.

Diane Shaffer, an assistant district attorney, said there was some needed evidence that was not available in court Thursday for the suspects’ preliminary hearings. The defense attorneys did not want to grant a continuance, so the charges were withdrawn and were to be refiled Thursday afternoon, she said.

The charges had not been refiled by 4 p.m. when the courts closed, but New Castle Police Chief Bobby Salem said his officers were working on it and would be filing the paperwork with an on-call district judge last night.

Meanwhile, the four inmates would remain incarcerated, he said.

Brian Covert, Lawrence County jail warden, said at 3:55 p.m. Thursday that the inmates were still in jail and he would need a judge’s order to release them.

On Sept. 18, New Castle police discovered a suspected meth lab while answering a loitering call at the Brinton Hill housing project.

Five people in the apartment were arrested when officers allegedly found evidence of chemicals typically used to cook meth. About 10 apartments were temporarily evacuated while officers removed the items.

Arrested were Adam Brett Jacobs, 21, of Hollow Road; Jeffrey A. Shelpman, 25, of West Washington Street; Richard Baynes, 20, of Lauglin, Nev.; Victoria Grace Pappas-Pappakostas, 21, of Cloverlane Drive; and a 17-year-old girl.

The four adults had been scheduled for preliminary hearings Thursday.

They will face a new arraignment when charges are refiled and a new preliminary hearing date will be scheduled.

If the charges are not refiled immediately, the suspects will have to be released.

Attorney Robert T. Barletta, who is defending Pappas-Pappakostas, said he didn’t believe the prosecution had enough evidence to proceed. There were no lab results and there were problems with the searches, he said. In addition, he continued, there were problems in the affidavits of probable cause and the affidavit for the search warrant.

“They have no field tests done on anything and no lab results,” Barletta said, adding, “you can’t charge someone for having Gatorade.”

He explained it was mentioned in the affidavit there had been several bottles containing unknown liquids, including Gatorade and Sprite bottles with clear liquid that was suspected lighter fluid, but it had not been tested.

He said all four defense attorneys objected to a continuance. In addition to Barletta, they are Joseph Kearney, representing Shelpman, John Bongivengo representing Jacobs and William Panella representing Baynes.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

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