A Youngsville man was bound over for court on seven of eight drug-related charges by District Magistrate Laura Bauer on Wednesday morning following a preliminary hearing.
Matthew Alan Esterbrook, 2150 Murray Hill Rd., Youngsville, was charged with a first-degree felony of operating a methamphetamine laboratory and illegal dumping of methamphetamine waste, a first-degree felony of conspiracy to commit same, an ungraded felony of possession of liquefied ammonia gas, precursors and chemicals; an ungraded felony of possession with intent to manufacture or deliver, a third-degree felony of endangering the welfare of children, a first-degree misdemeanor of corruption of minors and 18 counts of a second-degree misdemeanor of recklessly endangering another person.
Conewango Township Chief of Police Jason Peters testified that he received a call from a Pennsylvania State parole officer and Warren County Children and Youth Services that there was a methamphetamine laboratory at 74 Allegheny Village.
He also said that Warren County Adult Probation had requested assistance in making contact with Makia Haines, who lives at that address, after she failed to show up for a probation meeting.
After questioning by Warren County District Attorney Rob Greene, Peters said no one answered the door at that residence on March 26, and he and Lt. Randy Carlson of the township police department went around back and observed a male on the back porch. He said the male then re-entered the apartment, locked a sliding glass door and ran upstairs.
Peters said the law allows probation to enter the residence of someone on probation if no one answers the door and if it can be determined that someone is actually inside.
He said that upon entering, they called out Haines, who came downstairs with a three-year-old child, then two males Esterbrook and George Edward Heatherdale also came downstairs.
After the individuals came down, Peters said said the officers cleared the rest of the apartment to insure safety and make sure no one else was present.
He testified that he found glass jars, filters and discolored water in the first bedroom at the top of the steps, a likely meth lab, and a backpack containing a medical identification card belonging to Esterbrook and various items for a meth lab.
Greene asked Peters if he had training about meth labs, and Peters said he had participated in a MERIT program to recognize the labs.
He said that he obtained a search warrant to secure the residence and contacted the state police CLRT (Clandestine Recovery Team).
When Greene asked about residents in the other apartments in the building, Peters said there were 18.
Greene asked, "Were the 18 endangered?"
"Absolutely," Peters replied.
He explained the chemicals and gases were dangerous, and could cause an explosion.
He testified that there was a playground approximately 60 feet from the apartment's back door, and in addition to the three-year old child, there were nine other minors living in the building.
Esterbrook's lawyer, Todd Woodin, then cross-examined Peters.
"Did probation make a specific request for you to assist them?" he asked.
"Yes," Peters replied.
Woodin asked how he knew about the lab, and Peters said a state parolee told parole officer Paul Gray and that Warren County Children and Youth had received an anonymous tip on its Child Line.
When asked how they gained access to the apartment, Peters said that they had contacted the Warren County Housing Authority, and a maintenance man was there with a key to avoid damaging the door.
Woodin asked him if finding Haines completed the mission he was asked to perform by probation, and Peters said, "No."
Woodin asked Peters if he had a specific purpose for going upstairs, and Peters replied, "To see if anyone else was up there."
"Did probation ask you to go upstairs?" Woodin asked.
"No, they did not," Peters answered.
Asked about what he found upstairs, Peters said that he found lab paraphernalia in one room and other drug paraphernalia in another. He said he believed the state police CLRT team took custody of 49 items.
When asked if he had received any test results from the state police, Peters said no.
Woodin then asked about statements made by Esterbrook, and he replied that Esterbrook said, "I do what I do in that room, and nobody else comes in," although Peters testified that Esterbrook told another officer he was only visiting his girlfriend (Haines) and denied any meth involvement. Peters said that Esterbrook claimed Haines was using bath salts and was "speeding."
Peters noted that the statements were recorded on audio and video at the state police barracks.
Woodin asked him if Brett Bailor, a forensic scientist with the CLRT, identified certain items taken into custody were related to the manufacture of meth, and Peters said yes.
Woodin then closed, saying that the commonwealth had not made its case for count five, hindering the apprehension of Heatherdale.
"They were simply in the same place at the same time, in a place that was not (Esterbrook's) residence," he said.
He also said, "There is no evidence whatsoever that a child was corrupted."
Greene countered that they definitely were concealing Heatherdale, and added, "The three-year-old was there all the time this was going on." He said both arguments were prima facie, meaning that the matter appears to be evident from the facts.
Bauer then bound Easterbrook over for court on all charges except count five.