Man at meth lab scene named

SALEM — A felony charge for illegal assembly or possession of chemicals for the manufacture of drugs has been filed against Richard C. Brendlinger Jr., 45, who lived at the Third Street house where a meth lab was discovered by Columbiana County Drug Task Force agents acting on a tip Wednesday.

DTF Director Lt. Brian McLaughlin, of the county Sheriff’s Office, said Thursday that the charge was filed in county Municipal Court against Brendlinger, the man he identified as the male tenant of 1078 E. Third St. when agents showed up Wednesday afternoon and were invited inside. That’s when they found evidence of a suspected methamphetamine lab and made the two adults, a male and female, and two young children, leave the premises.

As of Thursday afternoon, Brendlinger, who was identified as the male adult, had not been served with the arrest warrant.

McLaughlin said there will be many more charges going through grand jury related to the incident, against both the male and female, including related to having the children in the residence being possibly exposed to the chemicals and materials used to make meth. A Children Services investigator responded to the scene and the two young children were placed with relatives and left before the DTF started removing material from the house.

Agents, a sheriff’s deputy, Salem police officers and

Salem firefighters were on the scene from the afternoon into the late evening removing the material which can be volatile and prone to flash fires. By the end of the night, McLaughlin said they ended up with 10 one pot meth labs, including one which was just done cooking. With the one-pot method of making meth, all the chemicals are mixed together in a bottle, such as a 2-liter pop bottle, to cook or ferment, so to speak.

He said they also seized suspected meth oil and meth product, along with 12 acid gas generators. Acid gas generators can be used in the meth making process. All the materials, including camp fuel that was also found in the residence, and meth waste that’s the leftovers from a cook after the product is removed, can be volatile.

DTF agents wore protective suits and air masks while inside and were accompanied by a firefighter armed with a fire extinguisher in case of a flash fire. Firefighters were also outside with a hose at the ready while another agent in protective gear used a substance to neutralize the chemicals.

McLaughlin said the neighborhood was not in any danger, but Salem Police Chief J.T. Panezott did notify neighbors that he came across to let them know what was happening.

A placard condemning the property on East Third Street and declaring it unfit for human habitation was posted by police. The order issued by the Salem city housing inspector prohibits anyone from entering the house until there’s proper testing and a proper cleanup by a professional contractor, per city ordinance regarding clandestine drug labs.

After the DTF and police had left, there was a report of a suspicious female on the property at 11:24 p.m. Wednesday. Officers did not find her there, but she was located at her residence a short distance away and told officers she was supposed to pick up some property from the tenants. She was advised not to return to the property, which is now supposed to be vacant since it’s off limits per the housing inspector order.