Saturday, November 5, 2005
By Kevin Osborne
Enquirer staff writer
AMELIA – Tina Scro knew her husband’s cooking of ingredients to make methamphetamine in the kitchen of their apartment involved toxic fumes and was potentially explosive.
But she said she was always too wired on the potent drug to care about the risk to their three small children.
When police knocked on the couple’s door one day last year, one ordeal for Tina Scro ended and another began.
She lost custody of her children and went to jail.
“I was shocked and scared, but I was also relieved,” she said. “It had gotten bad. It got to the point where I would be up for days at a time and then sleep for days, and my daughter would have to take care of my sons.”
Months later, after she served 5½ months in jail and another five in a treatment center — and with her husband still in prison on drug charges — Scro, 33, has regained custody, a rarity among parents convicted on meth-related charges.
More children are being removed from their homes and placed in protective custody each year because of the increasing use of meth in rural counties. The children often are shuffled among foster homes and case workers.
The worsening situation forced Clermont County to ask voters for more money next week to handle the influx of children.
Issue 6 on the Tuesday election ballot is a five-year tax levy for Clermont County Children’s Protective Services. It would replace a smaller assessment that expires next year.
The levy would generate about $4.5 million annually for the agency, compared to $3 million raised each year by the current tax issue.
Taxes on a $100,000 house would jump about $11 a year.
The increase is the first sought by officials since the levy began nearly 20 years ago, and is mostly because of the problems caused by illegal drug use, especially methamphetamine use.
“Meth labs are a huge issue for us,” said Anne Arbaugh, the agency’s assistant director. “Fortunately, our sheriff is very proactive in finding and busting meth labs. But those children need to go somewhere, and generally they end up coming into our system.”
The agency investigates allegations of abuse or neglect. It provides temporary foster care for children and offers case worker services to aid troubled families.
Children’s Protective Services had 214 children in custody in January 2003, a number that has increased 50 percent. About 320 children are now under the agency’s care. Of that number, 45 were in custody directly because of meth lab busts, a figure that is growing.
The agency spends about $990,000 annually on services for children in custody because of meth busts, about 15 percent of its child placement budget.
“That’s going to increase because most of them aren’t able to go home, and we get more every year,” Arbaugh said.
Overall, more than 80 percent of the children under the agency’s care are taken from homes where the parents have drug- or alcoholproblems. Last year, 19 infants were taken into custody at birth because of their mothers’ drug use.
A problem on the West Coast for years, meth use and production has spread to America’s heartland, gaining a foothold in rural and suburban areas.
In Clermont County, the sheriff’s office shut down 26 meth labs in 2001. By 2003, that number increased to 40. So far this year, 35 have been detected and closed.
In Hamilton County, the prosecutor’s office had eight meth-related indictments in 2002. The number jumped to 11 the following year, and to 20 in 2004. The county is on pace to exceed that figure this year, a spokeswoman said.
The problem is worse in Warren County, which has more rural areas. Officials there busted two meth labs in 2000. In 2004, they closed nine labs. So far this year, they have busted 23 labs and issued 35 indictments.
“It’s on the rise because it’s cheap,” said Warren County Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel. “That’s why it’s called ‘poor man’s heroin.’ You can collect everything and make it in your neighborhood. You don’t need to go to a drug dealer.”
In fact, Clermont ranks second among Ohio’s 88 counties for meth lab busts, followed by Warren.
(Butler County doesn’t keep meth-related busts and indictments separate from other drug offenses, a prosecutor’s spokeswoman said.)
Manufacturing meth in makeshift laboratories is dangerous. The ingredients can be highly flammable when mixed and create a foul odor.
“It stinks when you cook it and it produces a lot of waste product,” Hutzel said. “It’s easier to conceal that in a rural county.”
There are telltale signs of covert meth-making, officials said.
In one instance, Arbaugh and her case workers toured a meth lab in a shed behind a mobile home where children had been removed.
“They had no running water, no food, no heat and the house was filthy. We walked into their back bedroom and it had surveillance equipment like you wouldn’t believe. Then, we went into the shed and it had more,” she said.
Cans of paint were scattered about and stripes were painted randomly on the shed’s floor: “The smell of the paint masks the smell of the toxic chemicals,” she said.
Children taken from homes where meth is produced typically require more services, Arbaugh said.
First, they must be taken to hospitals for testing. Their clothes and toys frequently must be discarded because of possible contamination. Given how powerful the drug is, many addicts don’t stop using, meaning the children stay in custody longer.
Ohio lawmakers recently changed the law to allow people arrested for producing meth in the presence of kids to be charged with child endangering, a third-degree felony that can add another five years to a prison sentence.
Tina Scro’s case is unusual, Arbaugh said, because many meth addicts give up on reuniting with their children.
Upon conviction, Scro spent nearly a year in jail and the treatment facility. Her husband was sentenced to three years in prison, and the couple is divorcing. Their daughter and two sons spent more than a year in foster care.
Upon her release in November, she stayed at a shelter in Batavia while she looked for housing and work. Her drug conviction meant she no longer was eligible for federal housing assistance, and many apartment complexes wouldn’t accept someone with a drug record.
Initially, Scro was allowed supervised visits with the children for two hours each week, which progressed to unsupervised visits once she got a car. In August, she regained custody of the kids, but still must check in with her probation officer and a case worker.
After finding work at a factory, she settled into an apartment in Amelia with her kids. Her daughter, now age 6, is in kindergarten; her sons, ages 3 and 4, attend day care while she works.
Despite the stress of rebuilding relationships with her children and trying to make a living, Scro isn’t tempted to revive her meth habit.
“After this last time, I’m just done,” she said. “It’s not because of the trouble. I got three kids that need me, and when I stop to think about what I put them through and what could’ve happened, it’s more real. I’m just done with it.”
Use and production of methamphetamine is a major cause of child abuse and neglect, say law enforcement officials and child welfare agencies. Two recent nationwide surveys that compiled results from 500 counties in 45 states found:
40% of counties reported an increase in out-of-home placements for children.
59% reported that the nature of meth addiction has made family reunification more difficult.
69% reported having to develop additional training and special protocols for welfare workers who deal with children exposed to meth.
Source: National Association. of Counties
Street meth is commonly known by the nicknames “speed” and “chalk.” A common offshoot, methamphetamine hydrochloride, is crystalline and often called “crystal,” “ice” or “glass” because of its appearance.
The drug can be smoked, snorted or injected intravenously. Depending on the dosage, the effects can last up to a few days at a time.
Studies have shown that prolonged use can cause heart failure, brain damage, stroke and psychological disturbances including paranoia and hallucinations.
For each pound of meth produced, 5 to 7 pounds of toxic by-products remain that must be disposed of.
The Clermont County Narcotics Unit and the Drug Abuse Resistance Task Force (DART – Hamilton County) conducted a joint investigation into the manufacturing and distribution of significant amounts of Psilocybin Mushrooms throughout Southwestern Ohio.
During the investigation, Agents became aware of a Clandestine Psilocybin Laboratory in Clermont County and that the substance was about to be relocated for the purpose of distribution.
On 08-23-2013, Agents from the Clermont County Narcotics Unit and the Drug Abuse Resistance Task Force executed a search warrant at 1317 Nicholas Drive in Miami Township Clermont County. As a result of the search warrant, Agents seized a sophisticated clandestine Psilocybin Mushroom laboratory. Inside the laboratory, agents recovered 503 pounds of materials containing Psilocybin, a hallucinogenic which is classified as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance. The seized Psilocybin has a street value of $805,000.
Aaron Gasper, age 26, was arrested and incarcerated at the Clermont County Jail. Gasper was charged with one count of Illegal Manufacture of Drugs which is a Felony of the first degree. Additional charges and suspects will be submitted to the Clermont County Grand Jury at a later date. This is the largest seizure of Psilocybin in Clermont County.
On 4/25/13 the Clermont County Sheriff’s Office recovered a Bobcat Excavator valued at around $40,000.00 that had been reported stolen from a Clermont County cemetery on 3/26/11.
The recovery took place at Reynolds Lawn Service, 1880 S.R. 125 Amelia, Ohio, Batavia Township. Additional items were recovered on the Reynolds property that had been reported stolen from several jurisdictions. These jurisdictions included Union Township, Pierce Township, Amelia and Anderson Township in Hamilton County.
This resulted in a number of search warrants and assistance from the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles and the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). As a result, nearly $95,000.00 in stolen property was recovered. All the thefts had been reported in early to mid 2011. This investigation was presented to the Clermont County Grand Jury on 6/4/13.
As a result, Teddy M. Reynolds, 51 years old, was indicted as follows:
-9 counts of Receiving Stolen Property, felony of the fifth degree.
-6 counts Tampering with Identification numbers to conceal Identification of vehicle or part, felony of the fifth degree.
-7 counts of Tampering with evidence,felony of the third degree.
-1 count of Insurance Fraud, felony of the fourth degree.
Monroe Township. On Tuesday 01/29/13 at 8:14 pm the Clermont County Communication Center received a 911 call in reference to a stabbing that occurred at 2143 Berry Road in Monroe Township, Clermont County. Sheriff Patrol Units responded and discovered a male subject on the front porch of the residence with multiple lacerations to his neck. A witness on the scene advised that the male had been stabbed by an assailant who had fled the scene on foot. A K-9 unit from the Clermont County Sheriff’s Office began a track for the suspect while EMS personnel from Monroe Township responded to render aid to the victim. The victim was transported by Air Care to University Hospital where he was taken into surgery for his injuries. The victim was identified as Nathan Hayes, age 27, also a resident of Monroe Township. Hayes remains in “stable” condition at University Hospital.
Investigators and the Crime Scene Unit from the Clermont County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene. The assailant who fled on foot, was identified as Samual Kennell, age 23. Road Patrol units continued patrols of the area and located Kennell on foot approximately two miles from the scene. Kennell was taken into custody without incident by Clermont County Sheriff’s Office personnel.
Kennel was transported to the Clermont County Jail and charged with one count of Felonious Assault, a felony of the second degree. Kennell will appear in Clermont County Municipal Court on 1-30-13 at 10 am for a bond hearing.
This case will be reviewed by the Prosecutor’s Office and scheduled for presentation to the Clermont County Grand Jury.
Clermont County. Two Clermont County men have been indicted by the Clermont County Grand Jury for their involvement in a series of convenience store breaking and entering offenses. Jeff Morris, M-W- 43, and Craig Holt M-W-33, have each been indicted for 4 counts of breaking and entering, fifth degree felonies.
Throughout September and into October, a number of local convenience stores in Clermont and Hamilton County were forcibly entered with large amounts of cigarettes and tobacco products taken.
Areas impacted were: Jackson Twp.- US 50, Ohio Twp.- SR 132, Monroe Twp.- SR 232, and Anderson Twp. Hamilton County- SR 32.
Clermont County Sheriff’s Deputies have taken breaking & entering reports from stores in Jackson, Ohio, and Monroe Townships. Property taken included large amounts of cigarettes, with a total value over $16,000, only some of which has been recovered.
The investigation is continuing to determine if other stores are involved. Both arrested subjects are confined in the Clermont County Jail.
-Sheriff A.J. Rodenberg-
Batavia Twp. Two Batavia Township men have been arrested by Clermont County Sheriff’s Deputies for copper thefts and breaking and entering at IRG Batavia LLC located at 4300 Batavia Rd. in Batavia Township.
Throughout September into the first two weeks of October, the IRG Batavia LLC. power plant experienced a significant increase of copper wire thefts from inside of the building.
Michael W. Freeman, age 40, and his nephew Anthony Shaffer, age 24, were arrested in the early morning hours of 10-23-12, during a covert operation conducted by Clermont County Sheriff’s Deputies on the property of IRG Batavia LLC. Both Freeman and Shaffer were charged with Breaking and entering, felonies of the fifth degree. In addition, Freeman was charged with possession of criminal tools, a felony of the fifth degree. Reports of property loss resulting from the thefts at IRG Batavia LLC have exceeded $100,000.
Investigators will review reports from surrounding townships to see if there may be additional cases in which Freeman and Shaffer are involved. Both subjects are incarcerated at the Clermont County Jail.
-Sheriff A.J. Rodenberg-
Monroe Twp. On Tuesday October 23, 2012, at 9:06pm, Clermont County Sheriff’s Deputies were dispatched to the area of Crane Schoolhouse Rd. and SR 222, Monroe Twp. for a fight in progress. While units were en route, emergency dispatch received additional information that one of the individuals involved in the fight had been stabbed and was at SR 125 and Bantam Rd. Deputies responded to that scene & found Matthew Gerde, M-W-31 in the parking lot of the Bantam Church located at 3112 S. Bantam Rd. Gerde had a large laceration on his chest and what appeared to be a puncture wound on his back. Bethel Tate EMS responded and transported Gerde to Bethel Middle School where they were met by Aircare. Gerde was flown to University Hospital where he was treated for non life-threatening injuries.
The investigation revealed that Gerde had driven to 2367 Crane Schoolhouse Rd. Bethel Ohio and confronted an individual who allegedly stole medication from his mother. An altercation ensued and a male later identified as Scott Benjamin, M-W-35, assaulted Gerde with a single bladed knife which was recovered in a field near the scene of the altercation.
Scott Benjamin, 297 SR 222, Felicity OH.45103 was charged with Felonious Assault- felony 2nd degree, and Tampering with evidence- felony 3rd degree.
-Sheriff A.J. Rodenberg-
Clermont County, Ohio: A.J. “Tim” Rodenberg is pleased to announce the upcoming launch of the County’s 24-foot Relentless Rescue Boat. This 2011 all aluminum boat was manufactured by Metal Shark Aluminum Boat Company in Jeanerette, Louisiana. Metal Shark is the Federal Government’s boat contractor for the Coast Guard and the United States military.
The boat’s launching will be in New Richmond OH on Thursday July 12th at 10 a.m. The boat, valued at $123,071, is manufactured to military specifications and will be used on the Ohio River and East Fork Lake. Sheriff Rodenberg stated, “Our office received this equipment through a federal port authority grant and there was no cost to Clermont County government.”
The Clermont County Sheriff’s Office is a member of a collaboration of law enforcement and fire departments that makes up Task Force One, a rescue and dive team that covers Brown, Clermont, Butler, Warren, Hamilton, Clinton, Highland, and Adams Counties. Sheriff Rodenberg said, “Clermont County’s participation in a multi-jurisdiction, regional team involves sharing resources and personnel to serve our residents to an extent that would be cost prohibitive if funded individually.” The Clermont County Sheriff’s Office joined Task Force One when Sheriff Rodenberg entered office in 1997.
Clermont County has had its share of water related emergencies to include river flooding, and numerous incidents on East Fork Lake. The Sheriff believes the newly acquired boat will be instrumental in keeping the residents and the waterways of Clermont and other nearby counties safe