By Margie Wuebker
Five suspects charged in connection with the discovery of a marijuana grow room and a clandestine marijuana lab made initial appearances Friday in Mercer County Common Pleas Court.
Taken into custody Friday morning and brought before Judge Jeffrey Ingraham were:
´ Edwin T. Garland, 46, 14044 Ohio 49, New Weston, illegal assembly or possession of chemicals for the manufacture of drugs, a third-degree felony, and breaking and entering, a fifth-degree felony.
´ John T. Sturgis, 28, 1507 Pine Road, Celina, illegal manufacture of drugs, a second-degree felony.
´ Sylvia Payne, 19, also of the Pine Road address, illegal manufacture of drugs. They were released on recognizance bonds pending arraignment hearings later this month.
Also appearing were two men arrested Wednesday within hours of an attempted theft of anhydrous ammonia at Mercer Landmark, located southwest of Coldwater at 3911 St. Henry-Burkettsville Road. Anhydrous ammonia, a toxic chemical commonly used for agricultural purposes, also is a prime ingredient in the production of methamphetamine.
Robert P. Westgerdes, 35, 592 Cummins Road, Fort Recovery, and Douglas Frericks, 30, 405 Benner Road, Fort Recovery, both face charges of illegal manufacture of drugs, illegal assembly or possession of chemicals for the manufacture of drugs and breaking and entering, second- through fifth-degree felonies.
A search of the Westgerdes property Wednesday turned up a marijuana grow room with nearly 100 small plants and precursors needed for making methamphetamine. Westgerdes also faces misdemeanor charges of theft, criminal trespass and illegal cultivation of marijuana.
Additional information obtained during that investigation led to the home of Sturgis and Payne on Pine Road, where the county's second clandestine lab was found in an outbuilding. Randomly placed weapons, including at least one assault rifle, and stashes of ammunition were found inside the home.
John T. Sturgis is reportedly the brother of 42-year-old Timothy Sturgis, who was sentenced to three years in prison April 29 on a charge of possessing methamphetamine. He also received a 12-month concurrent sentence for carrying a concealed weapon described as a .44-caliber semiautomatic handgun.
Payne is reportedly the girlfriend of John Sturgis.
The case was presented to a Mercer County grand jury, which handed down indictments against the five during a scheduled Thursday session.
Investigators acquired considerable new information regarding clandestine operations here in Mercer County in recent days. Those details could lead to additional arrests in the future, according to Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey.
The five individuals were not the only drug offenders in court Friday.
Gary B. Williams, 33, 6720 Wabash Road, Celina, was sentenced to three years in prison for the illegal assembly or possession of chemicals for the manufacture of drugs. He also received a 12-month sentence for assault with the time to be served consecutively.
Deputies serving an arrest warrant Nov. 6 at the Williams home for a driving under the influence case out of Randolph, Ind., noted a telltale chemical odor and spotted filled syringes consistent with cooked methamphetamine, a highly addictive drug that causes profound mood swings. Williams reportedly "head butted" Deputy Chad Fortkamp in the face, breaking the officer's nose during an unsuccessful escape attempt.