Police & Fire

Meth Lab Busted in Springfield; Odor Causes Evacuation of Nearby Homes

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SPRINGFIELD, NJ — A 42-year-old Springfield man has been arrested and charged with maintaining a crystal methamphetamine production facility in his apartment, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park and Springfield Police Chief John Cook jointly announced Tuesday. Also arrested was 24-year-old Elana Garman.

John Howlett is charged with first-degree maintaining a narcotics production facility, first-degree possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute, two second-degree weapons offenses and a third-degree drug offense.

Inside his apartment and an adjacent garage, cops said they found  approximately 11 ounces of crystal methamphetamine, more than 160 oxycodone pills, approximately 220 various prescription pills, 20 folds of heroin and numerous pieces of narcotics production equipment, including instructions on the production of methamphetamine, packaging materials, several boxes of pseudoephedrine tablets, iodine, batteries, heating sources, glassware, digital scales, Tyvek protective suits, a money counter and a filtration system wired directly to an electrical box.

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Also in the home were approximately $13,000 in cash, a sophisticated video surveillance and computer system, a Sig Sauer airsoft gun and a BB gun, the prosecutor's office said.

Detectives arrived on Monday afternoon, executing a search warrant obtained after a joint investigation by the Springfield Police Department and the Prosecutor's Office's Guns, Gangs, Drugs and Violent Crimes Task Force. Inside was what appeared to be a make-shift meth lab, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Before a search of the apartment could begin, the toxic odor emanating from Howlett’s apartment on Troy Drive was enough to prompt the evacuation of several nearby housing units and the dispatching of the Springfield Fire Department and the Union County Hazardous Material Response Team, the prosecutor’s office said.

New Jersey State Police Hazardous Materials Response Unit and the Drug Enforcement Administration's Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement Team evaluated the apartment and determined that it was safe for a search inside to proceed.

Howlett was arrested in his vehicle outside the apartment while Garman was arrested inside; she later was turned over to the custody of the Bergen County Sheriff's Office after being found to have outstanding warrants out of Bergen County. Howlett was placed in Union County Jail, with bail set at $600,000 by state Superior Court Judge William Daniel.

Convictions for first-degree crimes commonly carry penalties of 10 to 20 years in state prison.

These criminal charges are mere accusations, according to the prosecutor’s office, and each defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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