Judge sets high bail for four suspected of running Owls Head meth lab

Damien Welch
Courtesy of Knox County Jail
Damien Welch
By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff
Posted Nov. 18, 2013, at 4:26 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — Four people arrested Friday on suspicion of running a methamphetamine lab remain in jail after a judge set bail well in excess of what the defense had requested. An affidavit filed with the court also revealed what led to the arrests of all four.

Judge Susan Sparaco set bail at $50,000 cash for 22-year-old Damien Welch, who is charged with aggravated trafficking in methamphetamines. The charge is aggravated because the suspect admitted to local police that he was on probation for trafficking meth in California, Assistant District Attorney Christopher Fernald said.

Bail for each of the other three defendants — Anthony Torre, also known as Shots Moniker, also known as A.J. Torre, 22; Heather Gregory, 40, of Owls Head; and Travis Batty, 29, of Owls Head — was set at $10,000 cash each.

Fernald asked for $125,000 cash bail or $500,000 surety for Welch, describing the manufacturing and trafficking of methamphetamines as a huge danger to the community. In addition, Welch has no ties to the area, Fernald argued.

Attorney Jeremy Pratt, who represented the inmates making their initial appearances Monday in Rockland District Court, said he had never seen such high bail being sought on a drug trafficking case. He said the amount sought for Welch was well out of bounds and asked for bail to be set at $1,000 cash. Pratt also pointed out that Welch works at a local lobster wharf.

Pratt also sought lower bail for the other three defendants, including $200 cash bail for Torre and $300 cash for Gregory. He said all three had ties to the area.

But Fernald argued that Torre did not have ties to the community and had lived in California and Colorado before moving to the area in November 2012. He said that Batty had a lengthy criminal record, and that Gregory had a failure to appear in court conviction from 2007.

An affidavit filed by Maine Drug Enforcement Agency indicated that agents began investigating the four in late October after learning that Batty and Gregory had been going around to stores and purchasing over-the-counter medicine with pseudoephedrine, an essential ingredient of methamphetamines. The practice of buying pseudoephedrine in several small, individual packages like that for use in the manufacturing of methamphetamines is known as “smurfing.”

MDEA agents went to the home of Batty and Gregory last Wednesday to speak to the pair but no one answered the door. The agents, however, spotted a can of Drano and a cut-up lithium battery, which are used to manufacture meth, according to the affidavit. They also saw what appeared to be sludge, which is a byproduct of the manufacturing process, the document indicated. Agents obtained a search warrant on Thursday and executed the search on Friday.

Welch told agents that he moved to Owls Head from Modesto, Calif., on Sept. 16 and moved in to Gregory’s residence. He said that two days after arriving, Gregory, Batty and Torre said they were manufacturing meth and they agreed to manufacture it together.

They cooked up the drug a couple times a week, Welch told investigators, according to the affidavit. He said he had a long addiction to meth.

Gregory admitted to shopping around for pseudoephedrine but not to making methamphetamines, according to the court documents.

Torre said he had a long addiction to meth and helped Batty make the drugs, according to the affidavit. Torre also told police that the meth was cooked often in his bedroom but also sometimes in a shed behind the house and in the woods behind the house.

Batty admitted to purchasing Sudafed at multiple locations but would not say what it was being used for, according to police. The affidavit said the agents also learned that Batty had burned his leg while cooking a batch.

The house the four lived in is located on South Shore Drive near the Owls Head Baptist Church.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/11/18/news/court/judge-sets-high-bail-for-four-suspected-of-running-owls-head-meth-lab/ printed on September 23, 2014