Police bust alleged meth lab in apartment

Conewango Township police arrested three people Wednesday morning in connection with a meth lab bust.

Police reported that, after an investigation in conjunction with Warren County Adult Probation and Warren County Children and Youth Services, “there were several items of contraband, drug paraphernalia and a suspected methamphetamine laboratory” found and seized at the Riverview Terrace property at 74 Allegheny Drive at approximately 10:30 a.m.

Makia Niccole Haines, 25, of 74 Allegheny Drive; Matthew Allen Esterbrook, 28, Warren; and George Edward Heatherdale, 47, formerly of Brockway, were arrested for their involvement.

A press release from Conewango Township police said that the department had received “several reports of a meth lab at Haines’ residence.”

Asked about the nature of the reports, Conewango Township Police Chief Jason Peters said that he couldn’t offer clarity on that point “at this time. This is a continuing investigation.”

Haines had a three-year-old child at her residence and was also under the supervision of probation.

“Upon contact with the residence, an unknown male had exited the rear of the residence and when confronted by officers he retreated back into the residence and fled to the second story of the apartment,” according to the press release.

Police said that Haines’ violation of probation supervision allowed authorities to enter the residence.

“Haines was found within the residence along with the 3-year-old child,” said police. “Esterbrook and Heatherdale, following a brief failure to respond to officers’ request to exit the second story, were detained along with Haines. Officers cleared the residence for safety and found no other occupants.”

The meth lab evidence was found as the residence was cleared.

“Officers exited the residence with those in detention and contacted the Clandestine Laboratory Response Team from the Pennsylvania State Police. Conewango Township Police then obtained a search warrant for the residence (and) notified the Warren Co. Housing Authority and Warren Co. EMA,” the press release stated.

“No active ‘cooking’ was observed and no active threat was apparent,” police stated. “Police then proceeded with collection of the meth lab and filing charges on those present in the residence.”

And charges are numerous.

Online court records show that Haines and Esterbrook were both charged with one count each of operating a methamphetamine lab, conspiracy operating a methamphetamine lab, possessing red phosphorus, etc. with intent to manufacture controlled substances, manufacture, delivery or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver, hinder apprehension prosecution harbor or conceal and endangering the welfare of children parent, guardian, other commits offense. All of those charges are felonies. Police said that several of the felony counts were raised to a higher grade “due to the proximity of a playground” to the apartment.

Both Haines and Esterbrook also face one misdemeanor count of corruption of minors as well as 15 counts of recklessly endangering another person “relative to the 15 other occupants of the housing attached to 74 Allegheny Dr,” according to police.

Haines and Esterbrook were arraigned Wednesday night by District Justice Laura Bauer. Records show that they were unable to post bail, which was set at $100,000, and were subsequently placed in the Warren County Jail.

Peters said that the child was placed with family.

According to police, Heatherdale “had an active felony warrant for his arrest as he is on Pa. state parole and had absconded from their supervision. Heatherdale was taken to the Warren County Jail on a detainer from State Parole.”

Police said he was to be arraigned on Thursday “on charges related with the meth lab, possession of a controlled substance, endangering the welfare of children, reckless endangerment, etc.”

Tonya Mitchell-Weston, Housing Authority executive director, said on Thursday, “Our response is we have a zero tolerance policy and we’re grateful that we have the (Conewango Township police) substation on site (and are) grateful that they responded as quickly as they did.”

She explained that through education on drug awareness and drug use that they “hope to be able to prevent this from happening again.” However, she acknowledged, “Some folks… are just determined to break the law.”

Mitchell-Weston also said that the housing authority has a policy through the federal department of Housing and Urban Development regarding methamphetamine use which includes a “lifetime ban from publicly assisted housing. So she will never be able to apply for assisted housing again.”

Conewango Township Police were assisted at the scene by the Warren County Sheriff’s Department and the Warren County detective.