Meth lab busted near school
and Alex Wagner
Hartmut Schwarz is used to hearing his business’s neighbors in downtown Grass Valley fight among themselves and with the many visitors. It is relatively common to see police respond to the home on Colfax Avenue during the loud arguments, he said.
“This kind of stuff was routine,” Schwarz said. “This family is an embarrassment to the neighborhood. I’ve been suspicious (of what goes on there) for years.”
Tuesday, Schwarz’s suspicions were apparently confirmed, when, at 11:15 p.m., the Nevada County Sheriff’s Narcotics Task Force searched the house and busted up what authorities described as a small methamphetamine operation less than a block from Hennessy Elementary School.
Investigators arrested tenants Jason Smith, 39, and his girlfriend, Desiree Medina, 22, on charges of manufacturing meth. Medina, who investigators said is seven months pregnant, was also arrested on suspicion of child endangerment.
Mark Kalar, 56, of Cedar Ridge, was arrested on suspicion of manufacturing meth. Howard Coffin, 51; and Brian Dall, 34, both of Grass Valley, were arrested on charges of manufacturing meth and resisting arrest. Both Coffin and Dall tried to escape through a back window when the officers went in with a warrant, Sheriff’s Lt. Tom Carrington said.
The sheriff’s office investigation into illegal drug activity at the home began several months ago after someone tipped off authorities.
The home is located across the street from Prosperity Lanes bowling alley and is close to Hennessy School. Smith’s mother lives next door.
Contacted by The Union Wednesday morning, a woman who answered the door at the residence of Smith’s mother declined to comment, saying she did not know anything.
Schwarz, whose business is located near the alleged meth lab, said cars would routinely pull up in front of Smith’s home for 30 minutes at a time and then drive away. Upon learning of Smith’s arrest and meth-related charges, he said that he was “not surprised.”
“There was always a lot of traffic around his house,” Schwarz said. “They’ve had a lot of problems with domestic violence and abuse.”
Sheriff’s Lt. Carrington also said Smith had a criminal history related to domestic violence.
Investigators began watching the home at 9 p.m. Tuesday. Two hours later, five narcotics task force members and four Grass Valley police officers raided the house.
Carrington described the lab as small to medium in size, with a production of 2 ounces per batch.
“They’ve got a really strong chemical odor smell coming out of the house,” Carrington said.
Carrington said some of the defendants could soon face an additional charge of selling meth within 1,000 feet of a school. Smith’s home is just feet away from a crossing to Hennessy School.
“I am very concerned about the allegation because it is so close to the school and in an area where many children would be in the vicinity,” Hennessy Principal Margaret E. Eli said.
Eli said many of her students walk by that house every day but are unaware of any crimes happening there. That is why she will not make a special announcement to the school about the sheriff’s investigation and arrests, she said.
“Everyone in the community is aware of how methamphetamine use affects children,” she said, “whether they use it or their parents use it.”
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