The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 27, 2012

Geneva police, deputies find meth lab hideaway

Star Beacon

GENEVA TOWNSHIP — Geneva police officers and Ashtabula County sheriff’s deputies arrested three people and discovered a meth lab hideaway just off Sexton Road early Monday morning after a woman got her car stuck on a dirt path.

A sheriff’s deputy noticed a suspicious vehicle turn off the main road and into the woods just after midnight and followed, Geneva police reports show.

Officers found that Donna Hutzell, 32, of Roaming Shores was driving down the little path at Sexton Road and Route 84 with her three small children just after midnight when her car got stuck. Friends Michael D. Spears, 34, of Ashtabula and Jeffrey Reeder, 44, of Geneva, had come to help her, Geneva Police Sgt. Joseph Webb said.

“We found out (Reeder) had several outstanding warrants, so he was taken into custody,” Webb said.

During a search of Reeder, Webb said officers found a small plastic case containing a magnet and small coin bags with white powder.

“(Reeder) said he was only helping Hutzell out because she called him when she got stuck on the road,” Webb said.

Spears was also handcuffed and searched. Officers found a pocketknife in Spears’ pocket, police reports show.

But as the officers began to walk the suspects back to the cruisers, they noticed a picnic table in the wooded brush just off the dirt path.

“We went to check it out and found a wooden structure, like for hunting,” Webb said. “But looking farther into the woods, we also found a hunting-type cabin.”

The cabin, made from treated wood, included a large room and a loft space, police reports show.

A search of the cabin uncovered a backpack and a “cut-down, bolt-action shotgun,” Webb said.

“The firearm was not rusted and had not been in the weather very long,” Webb said.

A search of the back pack uncovered a Coleman fuel canister, a bag of hydroxide, batteries, and filters — all commonly used in the production of methamphetamine — a small scale, assorted tools, clothing and a pair of rubber boots.

The officers returned to the dirt path and arrested Hutzell, who continued to tell officers that she was simply turning around on the path when she slid down the hill and got stuck, police reports show.

Webb said Hutzell’s story is improbable.

“The car was a good 50 yards from the roadway and the driveway, and the path was just visible from the side of the roadway,” he said.

Webb also noted that the path was so obscure, officers on their way to back up the scene initially missed the path and had to backtrack to find it.

Hutzell’s children, ages not available, were released from the scene to the custody of their grandmother, police reports show.

Hutzell was wanted bench warrants for failure to appear in both Eastern and Western county courts for a traffic violations in April, May and July, court records show.

Reeder was wanted on warrants for failure to appear on drug charges, court records show.

After a suppression hearing in January, Spears is scheduled to go to trial in March on felony charges of illegal assembly of possession of chemicals for the manufacture of drugs and possession of drugs for charges filed earlier this year, court records show.