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Theft probe leads police to meth lab

Roman Gokhman

The investigation of a June museum heist recently led Grass Valley police to an underground methamphetamine lab in downtown, authorities said Monday.

Police discovered the illegal lab Thursday afternoon while searching the apartment building, on the 400 block of Neal Street, in connection with a June 29 burglary of a museum at St. Joseph’s Cultural Center.

“An observant citizen had seen a few of the items (mostly antiques) being sold at an auction,” Grass Valley police Capt. Greg Hart said Monday.

That person, who was aware of the burglary, told police about finding the stolen goods. St. Joseph’s organizers were notified and confirmed that the property belonged to the museum, located on South Church Street.

“We worked the case backward,” Hart said.

Auction employees told police officers where the antiques came from, and Thursday, police searched the Neal Street apartment.

In addition to more of the museum’s property, officers found evidence of a methamphetamine lab, more than one pound of marijuana and a large amount of property that is believed to have been stolen from somewhere else, Hart said.

Police arrested residents Joseph Grondona McCarty, 30, and Sonja Marlene Gentry, 36. McCarty was booked on suspicion of manufacturing a controlled substance, burglary, possession of stolen property, grand theft and removing a serial number off of a bicycle that he was riding.

Gentry was taken into custody on suspicion of possession of more than one ounce of marijuana and manufacturing a controlled substance.

A third resident, Dustin Mitchell, 32, turned himself in to authorities Sunday. He was booked on suspicion of possession of more than one ounce of marijuana and possession of materials to manufacture a controlled substance, Hart said.

The alleged lab, which was located in the basement and crawl space underneath the residence, was cleaned up Friday by California Department of Justice officials out of Sacramento and members of the Nevada County Sheriff’s Narcotics Task Force.

DOJ investigators determined some chemicals had been spilled on the floor of the basement, according to the Nevada County Department of Environmental Health, but the spill was reportedly isolated in the basement.

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