EXCLUSIVE: 'Tree bark' drug lab discovered in Lorain County home with baby inside

'Tree bark' drug lab find is first-ever in region

ELYRIA, Ohio - Neighbors say the stretch of Washington Avenue they live on, along the Black River in Elyria, is usually a quiet place, with a nearby church and library. 

But what drug detectives found in a Brownstones apartment unit even surprised them.

On March 5, Lorain County sheriff's department detective Olen Martin had a few questions to ask a man living in one of the apartments about another case. That man invited Martin inside.

As the detective was walking through, he thought he saw a meth lab through an open door of a utility room. 
Concerned about the safety of neighbors, and a 7-month-old baby girl living in the apartment, Martin asked the man about the jars, tubes and flammable liquids. 
 
Martin said the man confessed it was a "DMT" lab made from cooked tree bark. The man claimed the lab belonged to his roommate. 

DMT -- dimethyltryptamine -- acts as a psychedelic drug. Depending on the dose and method of administration, its effects can range from short-lived milder psychedelic states to powerful immersive experiences.
 
Martin immediately evacuated the apartment building, contacted the fire department and called for a chemical clean-up team while carefully collecting evidence. Chemicals used in this type of drug making process are volatile and could easily cause an explosion that could have leveled the entire apartment building. 
 
Martin, who's been working in the narcotics unit for 26 years, said it's the first drug bust of its kind that he has ever made -- and the first one he knows about in the entire region, if not state.
 
Martin said he was trained to keep an eye out for this rare type of drug lab, but never expected to see one himself. 
 
Buying the certain type of tree bark on the internet is legal, but grinding the bark down and "cooking" the powerful chemical into a hallucinogen is a first-degree felony. 
 
Martin said DMT is considered a mix between PCP and LSD. DMT is a naturally occurring chemical released by the brain at birth and at death. But making the chemical from tree bark with ingredients that include paint thinner, drain cleaner and numerous other flammable liquids is both dangerous and illegal. 
 
The three people living at the apartment -- Anderson Rush, 22, Benjamin Harvitt, 28, and Maura McFadian, 21 -- have all been indicted by the Lorain County prosecutor for illegal manufacturing of drugs, among other charges. 

Martin said MaFadian was also charged with child endangering because the hazardous fumes from the chemicals were being vented into the living room, making the odor not able to be detected outside. 

Earlier this week, NewsChannel5 was first to report the Lorain County drug task force also busted up a major PCP ring, taking $1.2 million worth of the drug off the streets.
 
Watch NewsChannel5 at 5 p.m. for a complete report on the tree bark drug lab bust.
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