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Police: Meth lab ‘an isolated incident’

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ANN MARIE AMES
April 6, 2012
— A long-time Beloit Township resident was charged Thursday with manufacturing methamphetamines after police and drug enforcement agents found at least three pots for cooking meth in the man’s garage.

Based on the history of methamphetamine use in Rock County, residents should be confident this is an isolated incident, said a drug enforcement official with the Wisconsin Department of Justice.


John. S. Sharlow, 55, of 3249 W. Alpine Drive, Beloit, faces seven drug charges as well as a concealing stolen property charge.


In Wisconsin, methamphetamine production and use is concentrated in the northwestern part of the state. It is used more commonly in rural communities than urban communities, said David Spakowicz, director of field operations for the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation.


In other states, meth is an urban drug, he said.


Rock County has not had a meth lab reported since 2006 and has had only small amounts of the drug reported annually to the crime lab, Spakowicz said.


“Based on the number of submissions of meth to the State Crime Lab, this does not appear to be an up-and-coming trend but hopefully an isolated incident,” Spakowicz said.


Law enforcement agents continue to focus on heroin as the most dangerous and addictive drug used in Rock County. Meth is not as addictive as heroin, nor is it as deadly, Spakowicz said. Heroin users are prone to overdosing because of the unpredictable way the drug is cut with other substances.


But meth use takes a toll on a community because, unlike heroin, meth is a powerful stimulant. A person high on meth might stay awake for more than 24 hours, not eat and be unpredictable, Spakowicz said.


“It’s a very, very, very strong stimulant,” Spakowicz said. “People under the influence (of methamphetamines) are unpredictable. Heroin is a depressant. It slows everything down. Fortunately, well, it’s hard to say ‘fortunately’, we do not see as much violence with heroin use.”


While heroin is more deadly in the short term, meth quickly takes a toll on a user’s body, Spakowicz said.


“It’s made with lye, ether, camp fuel and lithium,” he said. “It’s very devastating to the body.”


Local, state and federal law enforcement agents on Tuesday executed a search warrant at Sharlow’s home. They found stolen tools, a gun and electronics as well as a number of unused, temporary license plates reported as stolen from Midwest Auto, Prairie du Chien, according to the criminal complaint.


Along with the three “one pot” meth labs in a cooler in the garage, they found stained plastic tubing, cold medicine and liquid drain opener, all of which are commonly used in the “one pot” method of meth production, according to the criminal complaint. Police found a fourth pot in an outdoor burn pit.


The “one pot” method of cooking meth is less complicated and becoming more common than the clandestine laboratories that have been used for cooking the drug, Spakowicz said.


People cooking with this method use chemicals from inside first-aid cold packs, lithium from household batteries and psuedoephedrine, Spakowicz said. They start batches in intervals in multiple pots, he said.


“It’s a lot less complicated than it used to be,” Spakowicz said. “Now, this is very easy. You throw it into a pot, and it starts cooking. The problem is you have to monitor it.”


Reports indicate that one in three labs of this type result in a flash fire, Spakowicz said.


In court Thursday, Sharlow appeared by video from the Rock County Jail. His attorney, Robert Ruth, entered not guilty pleas on all charges.


Court Commissioner Stephen Meyer set a cash bond of $12,800, which Assistant District Attorney Kate Buker said was needed because of the seriousness of the meth charges.


Ruth argued the bond—$2,500 for each felony—was “way, way more” than necessary to ensure Sharlow appears in court.


“We’re talking about a single allegation split up into multiple counts,” Ruth said.


Sharlow, 55, has no criminal record, lives in home he grew up in, has been working for Alliant Energy for 33 years and has family in Rock County, his attorney said in his request for a signature bond.


A preliminary hearing was set for 2 p.m. Friday, April 13.



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