Kevin L. Hoover
ARCATA – Grow house raids are becoming near-weekly events in Arcata, but last week’s suburban-street-swarming-with-cops scenario starred a distinctly different druggie endeavor – a meth lab in a cab-over camper in a Stromberg Avenue driveway. A second alleged crank factory was running in a metal shed in the backyard.
On Wednesday, Jan. 27, officers of the Arcata Police Department served a search warrant at 1443 Stromberg Ave. Police had received several complaints from neighbors about the house. According to Interim Police Chief Tom Chapman, other drug-associated activities such as increased thefts and vehicles coming and going had contributed to the general deterioration of the neighborhood.
During a search of the house, officers located two suspected methamphetamine labs as well as other items they say are consistent with the sale and manufacturing of methamphetamine.
There was evidence at the scene to indicate that the individuals had been manufacturing methamphetamine for an extended time.
Arrested at the scene were Cory Brent Holsinger, 34, of Arcata, Terre Joe Dean Odom, 22, of McKinleyville and Neil Murphy Machado, 24, of Arcata. All three were booked and lodged in the Humboldt County Correctional Facility on charges related to the manufacturing and possession for sales of controlled substances, possession of drug paraphernalia and criminal conspiracy. One subject was arrested for an outstanding arrest warrant.
According to Chapman, when officers arrived early that morning to execute the search warrant, the trailer was occupied by the suspects, who were busy brewing a batch of meth. A video security system had been installed in the camper, and the suspects were able to observe officers as they encircled it. Chapman said that might have jeopardized officer safety, but the suspects were arrested without incident.
The meth-manufacturing utilized a “one-pot” method in which large quantities of the nasal decongestant ephedrine (marketed as Sudafed) are processed in two-liter plastic bottles with the addition of drain cleaner and other substances.
The process creates toxic fumes, which had eaten away at the metal shed in the backyard. “You could see corrosion from the chemical process,” Chapman said. A number of chemical-contaminated containers and other toxin-tainted items littered the labs, so a hazardous materials disposal team attached to the state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement was called in from Redding to remove evidence from the site. Items collected will be analyzed in a lab.
The house is owned by Ralph and Joetta Holsinger, Cory’s grandparents. Chapman said the seniors were at the home during the raid, but appeared to have no idea of the drug manufacturing activity going on at the house. He said evidence of drug sales was also discovered on the property.
A neighbor said the suspicious activity was confined to the trailer and yard, and that no meth-related commerce was seen in the house itself.
The house is located next to Cahill Park, through which Arcata Elementary School students pass every morning and afternoon. A steady stream of Humboldt State students living in the neighborhood’s rental homes walked and biked past as officers dismantled the drug labs and laid items out on a tarp in the front yard.
Police also located unusual amounts of personal property at the house. Several new-looking mountain bikes were removed from the backyard, and officers speculated as to whether they were “496” – stolen property. “We’ll run the serial numbers,” Chapman said. “That’s why it’s important that people register their bikes. We can get a stolen bike back to its owner.”
He said more than 20 cell phones were discovered at the house, possibly the reapings from meth-energized thievery. In what Chapman called “a typical cranker scenario,” a meth user might comb the streets, pulling on door handles and “pulling out what’s quick and easy.” Objects are not generally evaluated for their negotiable value at the time, but collected and returned to the methster’s lair.
Chapman said the last methamphetamine lab he remembers in Arcata was one on South I Street about 10 years ago, also located in a house and trailer.