The houses are not new, but mostly well kept, on Balph Avenue between South Jefferson and Moravia streets.

The street borders New Castle’s Sheep Hill neighborhood and South New Castle Borough. Flowers are abloom in most of the yards and the neighborhood is quiet on weekday afternoons, except for an occasional barking dog.

One may never have suspected there was an alleged methamphetamine lab in a one-story house with the potential to cause a fire or explosion that could rock the neighborhood.

But New Castle and Shenango Township police worked together on an anonymous tip they say turned up strong evidence of a meth production lab at 12 W. Balph Ave.

The house was occupied by Wendy Lee Carey, who turned 37 Monday, and Nicholas Andrew Stewart, 31.

Both were arrested.

Initially, police set up surveillance and sifted through garbage set out for pickup.

They said they found telltale clues: coffee filters with methamphetamine residue, bottles containing solvents and acid, drain cleaner, charcoal lighter fluid, lithium battery pieces, numerous empty packages from over-the-counter ephedrine and pseudoephedrine cold medicine.

There also were multiple pieces of mail showing Carey and Stewart as occupants of the house, which, according to the county assessor’s office, is owned by Bryan Scheidemantle.

When police entered, they found Carey with three children — 17, 16 and 9. Lawrence County Children and Youth Services was summoned, and the children were turned over to family members, New Castle Police Chief Bobby Salem said Wednesday.

He praised members of the two departments.

“The officers did an excellent job.”

He pointed out the discovery led to a second suspected methamphetamine laboratory at 113 1/2 Atlantic Ave. in the city’s Mahoningtown neighborhood, occupied by Scott Shoaff, 38. The house’s owner is listed on county records as Kathleen Capenos.

Shoaff also was arrested.

Salem said investigators believe the two alleged operations are related.

Neither Salem nor Lawrence County District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa would say how long the alleged labs had existed at either location. They said the investigation is ongoing.

Police also went through garbage at the Atlantic Avenue site, turning up similar items.

Three more children — ages 9, 3 and an infant — were in that house, Salem said, and also were turned over to children and youth services, then family.

According to Salem, police got the tip on the Balph Avenue house around 4 a.m. Tuesday. After finding evidence in the garbage, they contacted Andy Petyak. A special investigator in the district attorney’s office, he is trained in meth lab investigations and recognized on federal and state levels as an expert.

The operation was not active when police arrived, meaning there was no cooking of meth under way, Salem said. But investigators wearing protective gear took precautions and secured the scene as firetrucks and ambulances surrounded the area.

According to a police, Petyak activated the federal Drug Enforcement Administration’s clandestine lab team and they joined members of the District Attorney’s Drug Task Force in executing a search warrant around 11 a.m. They confiscated the materials they suspect were used in the manufacture of methamphetamines, according to court records.

Lamancusa also said clues at the Balph Avenue house led police to the Atlantic Avenue site.

Meanwhile, DEA investigators spoke with a confidential source they said told them he has either picked up or dropped off garbage at Shoaff’s house three times.

The informant told police where Shoaff lived and said he had an arrangement with Shoaff to be paid in methamphetamine in exchange for disposing of Shoaff’s garbage, so he could avoid the city’s $2 per bag fee for collection.

The informant said his most recent pickup was Sunday and Shoaff had paid him with two red and white capsules of methamphetamine, according to police.

Upon receiving that information, members of the DEA, the drug task force and its special investigations unit surrounded Shoaff’s house.

Officers encountered a 9-year-old girl who said her mother was with Shoaff and they would be back shortly.

Police said they saw garbage bags similar to those at the Balph Avenue house and within a few minutes, Shoaff and a woman arrived. He gave them consent to search, but officers also had obtained a search warrant from the county’s President Judge Dominick Motto.

They reported finding about 50 blister packs of pseudoephedrine cold medicine and empty boxes, eight cut-open lithium batteries and packaging, two funnels and cutting tools, plastic bottles, four clear bottles with white and black solid residue that was suspected lithium strips and ammonium nitrate, two unlabeled white plastic bottles of lye and drain cleaner.

They also found coffee filters containing solid white residue, pop bottles containing suspected hydrochloric acid, 100 percent lye household drain cleaner crystals, three ice packs cut open with the ammonium nitrate drained out and taped shut, a spoon containing a white chunky residue on it, a camera case containing empty ice packs and lye drain crystals, and a 24-ounce bottle containing solid substances.

“They did some aggressive surveillance techniques,” Lamancusa said, noting the entire search took six hours.

Meth lab suspects facing felonies

Suspects in an alleged meth lab operation at their 12 Balph Ave. home are facing felony charges.

Wendy Lee Carey, 37, and Nicholas Andrew Stewart, 31, are charged with:

•Four counts of possession of red phosphorus with intent to manufacture a controlled substance

•Methamphetamine production for possessing 15 packages of ephedrine/pseudoephedrine with intent to manufacture methamphetamine

•Three counts of criminal conspiracy for operating a methamphetamine lab, improper storage and disposal of waste and manufacturing a controlled substance

•Two counts of operating a methamphetamine lab

•Illegally storing and disposing of chemical waste

•Manufacture of a controlled substance

•Manufacturing methamphetamine in the presence of a child

•Three counts of endangering the welfare of children

•Risking catastrophe

•Three counts of recklessly endangering another person.

Scott Shoaff, 38, of 113 1/2 Atlantic Ave., is charged with:

•Two counts of possession of red phosphorus with intent to manufacture a controlled substance

•Violation of rules for depositing, storing and disposing of chemical waste

•Manufacture, delivery or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance

•Risking a catastrophe

•Three counts of endangering the welfare of children

•Manufacturing methamphetamine in the presence of a child

•Recklessly endangering another person

•Three counts of conspiracy related to operating a methamphetamine lab, handling chemical waste and manufacturing drugs.

All three remain in the Lawrence County jail on bonds of $100,000 each, pending preliminary hearings Wednesday.

(Contact reporter Debbie Wachter by calling (724) 654-6651, extension 631, or e-mail her at dwachter@ncnewsonline.com.)

 

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