Mobile Meth Lab Impounded After Accident
By Rick Hiduk
When State Police at Towanda responded to a head-on collision on the James Street Bridge in North Towanda Township at about 2:45 on Dec. 14, their primary concern was turning traffic around at both ends of the bridge, which was blocked in the middle, and securing help for a person injured in the crash. One of the last things they might have expected to find at the scene was a pickup truck full of the ingredients and equipment used to manufacture methamphetamine.
An unidentified 44-year-old Towanda woman was initially trapped in her Toyota sedan and had to be life-flighted to Robert Packer Hospital due to serious injuries. The James Street Bridge was closed for about half an hour, according to PennDOT media coordinator Rick Mason. There was no structural damage to the bridge, and PennDOT inspectors were not needed at the site.
Trooper Brandon Allis reported that Cory James Tucker, 27, Towanda, was the driver of the 2000 Ford F-350 pickup truck, but the vehicle belonged to Brian Matthew Edsall, 32, Towanda. According to Allis, a syringe and spoon with white residue were “in plain view” inside the truck, so the vehicle was impounded as evidence and taken to the state police barracks along Route 6.
Allis alerted Edsall by phone that his truck had been seized as evidence. Edsall apparently wanted to access the truck immediately to “remove items and assess the damage to the vehicle,” but Allis informed him that the vehicle had been impounded and would be released to him after the investigation was complete and that he would not be able to access it until that time.
Allis applied for a warrant to further search the truck, which was granted by Magisterial District Judge Tim Clark at about 6 p.m. About an hour later, Allis met fellow state trooper Matthew Knock at the barracks to continue the investigation, and they found Edsall in his truck in the impoundment yard, which is clearly identified as off-limits to the public.
“Edsall accessed the vehicle by walking past cement barricades and signs that state ‘Do Not Enter,’ ‘No Trespassing,’ and ‘State Police Vehicles Only,’” Allis noted in his report.
Edsall apparently saw the approaching officers and tried to walk from the scene with various items in his hands, but he was stopped by the troopers and positively identified via his driver’s license. Edsall, who allegedly had a container of drain cleaner taken from the truck stuffed into his pocket, acknowledged that he should not have been in the yard. He was placed under arrest, and the patrolmen proceeded with their search of the truck.
Items found in the vehicle, Allis related, were consistent with the “Birch” or “Nazi” method of meth production. Ingredients included pseudoephedrine tablets, lithium, lye, and ether, which are extracted from common household products for various aspects of the manufacturing of meth. In addition to the various components used to create the drug, police found tubing, filters, strainers, funnels, thermoses, and other containers in the vehicle that would be used in production.
Pseudoephedrine can be purchased over-the-counter at pharmacies, although its sale is limited and monitored. Through further investigation, Allis learned that Edsall had purchased 33.6 grams of pseudoephedrine since March 7. The process by which Allis assumes that Edsall was making the drugs would yield a high-quality meth that is commonly used and sold by independent producers.
Edsall has been charged with possession of ingredients and equipment used to make methamphetamine, possession of meth with intent to deliver, possession of drug paraphernalia, tampering with evidence, hindering prosecution, and criminal trespass. Allis later reported that Tucker had been charged with DUI and possession of drug paraphernalia. The investigation is ongoing.