Meth lab charges dropped
All charges have been dropped against Sonoma resident Kevin Haywood, 44, who was arrested Jan. 13 on suspicion of possessing chemicals for the manufacture of methamphetamine in the historic Nash-Patton Adobe on First Street East. Haywood also faced an enhancement charge for manufacturing drugs at a home within 1,000 feet of a school.
Assistant District Attorney Christine Cook told the Index-Tribune that after an extensive investigation, including toxicology reports on the chemicals found in the home, county prosecutors did not have "sufficient evidence to move forward with a case."
Haywood had been free on his own recognizance (not on $103,000 bail as originally and erroneously reported) since shortly after his arrest. The incident came to light after a Sonoma police officer, questioning him about a series of local restaurant burglaries, executed a search warrant on the home as Haywood was on probation. He has a long criminal record, largely including drug and motor vehicle offenses.
Inside, police found a cache of chemicals traditionally used to make meth. The manufacturing process had not begun and no chemicals had been mixed or released freely into the building, which is owned by Haywood's mother, Anita Haywood.
Anita Haywood was not present at the time of the arrest and had not been living in the home during her son's stay. The historic building has now been put up for sale with an asking price of $1.2 million.
At the time of the investigation and arrest, according to Sonoma Police Chief Bret Sackett, an officer on the scene found containers of chemicals that, "based on his experience and training, he believed look like a (meth) lab." That officer, said Sackett, talked to his superior, a sergeant, who, based on his experience and training, also believed it looked like a lab. The officers then called a narcotics investigator, described the scene, and he too reached the same conclusion.
At that point Sonoma police contacted the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement at the State Department of Justice, which sent a forensics team to process the chemicals. They, too, thought the chemicals resembled those used in a meth lab.
"The arrest was made," said Sackett, "based on probable cause."
But once the chemicals were sent to a Santa Rosa laboratory, they apparently just sat there.
Haywood was released from jail just days after his arrest and, according to Sackett, no further action was taken until word reached him several weeks ago that charges were being dropped. When he called the District Attorney's office to find out why, he was told, that there were no lab results.
The police chief's inquiry apparently triggered some lab action, the final results of which did not produce enough evidence for criminal prosecution.
Sacket said that among the chemicals and equipment taken from the Haywood house were hydrogen peroxide, a bottle of lye, a one gallon jug of acetone, coffee filters, beakers, chemical test strips and heaters.
"The totality of that would certainly lead us to believe it was used in the manufacture of methamphetamine," said Sackett, who added he had "no problem" with the District Attorney's office for dropping charges, because there simply wasn't enough chemical evidence of "precursors" for the meth-making process.
"Ultimately," Sackett concluded, "it was a good thing they weren't cooking meth in one of the oldest adobes in the city, right next to a school.".
Added Assistant D.A. Cook about the decision to drop charges against Haywood, "We have the highest standard of evidence, proof beyond a reasonable doubt. We did not feel we could meet it."