AKRON, Ohio - A call to check on the well-being of a 4-year-old girl lead police to discover a unique drug operation, which they say is unlike anything that’s been seen before in Ohio.
Akron police dispatchers received a call from the sheriff's office in Horry County, South Carolina concerned about a girl living in the house at Silvercrest Avenue.
Akron Police Lt. Brian Simcox said a Kenmore patrol officer was dispatched to the home, but Simcox was not far away so he responded as well.
"There was a strong odor of marijuana that you could smell in the driveway as you were walking up to the house so we spoke to her about that and she basically said get a search warrant if you want to come in, so we did," Simcox said.
Once inside the house, Simcox said they discovered almost 80 marijuana plants and about 20 pounds of marijuana.
"We started to find chemicals that none of our meth lab people had ever seen before and that we weren't familiar with and as we got deeper and deeper into it, we realized we did have a THC extraction lab," Simcox said.
Simcox said the labs are used to extract and purify THC oil, also known as butane honey oil, from the marijuana plant to create an extremely potent concentration.
"The THC extraction labs, the butane honey oil labs, are very, very dangerous because of the butane that they use for the houses could explode and it creates a huge danger for kids because that’s a very low-lying, heavier-than-air gas that goes to the floor," Simcox said.
But that was just the beginning.
"We started seeing rounded-bottom flasks with a red solid and a red liquid in it. We were a little concerned about that on a heating mantle. Then we started to see chemicals that we had heard of, but we really didn’t know what they were so we got out," Simcox said.
Akron police called on a chemist from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation to try and help them identify the different chemicals.
"Honestly, we were thinking probably an ecstasy lab, an MDMA lab. Again it’s something that our BCI agents have trained our clandestine lab people on, but because we weren’t sure we called our regional BCI chemist and agent and asked him to come out," Simcox said.
"As we were finding chemicals and our guys were in full (protective gear), you know, full air and everything because of the unknown dangers, we would bring it out and he would look at it and he would have contacts with other people from NES and BCI and his supervisors to figure out what kind of a lab we were dealing with," he added.
Simcox said police also confiscated numerous electronic cigarettes with hash oil residue.
They found evidence of very potent phenyl-2-propanone and sassafras root bark, something Simcox said they have never seen here before. It’s used in the manufacture of ecstasy.
Also confiscated were jars of mold spores and psilocybin mushrooms, which are hallucinogens.
"At some point during the night, we were concerned about them making weapons or bombs here. We were one or two chemicals away from having all of the elements and chemicals needed to make explosives," Simcox said.
"You're starting to get into some of these exotic labs that many of us had never seen before, our BCI agent last night said that as far as he knows this type of lab would be the first one we have seen in the state," he continued.
Officers who entered the house without protective gear were advised to go to a hospital to have themselves checked afterwards.
Simcox said investigators also confiscated ledger books that appear to show transactions.
Authorities arrested Samantha Nolan, 25, who claimed to have been house-sitting, and issued arrest warrants for Matthew Mullaney, 32, and Conor McCaffrey, 27.
Simcox said they face multiple felony charges that include illegal manufacturing of THC, Illegal manufacturing of ecstasy, possession of marijuana, illegal assembly of chemicals, possession of criminal tools and possession of hash oil.
Neighbors said there was a lot of traffic in and out of the house, but they never suspected anything like what investigators found.
The 4-year-old girl who had been staying at the house was not there when police arrived.
Mike Clifford said the girl frequently came to his house and the homes of other neighbors to visit and play.
"Having a kid in the house that’s bad, it concerns me. I have a 4-year- old boy here that was playing with the little girl," Clifford said.
Investigators said they still have a lot of work to do to determine exactly what they found in the house and that the number of charges could grow.