2 Zephyrhills-area homes are called meth labs

Three people are arrested, one of whom faces a child neglect charge. Police say two children were neglected.

Published July 14, 2006

ZEPHYRHILLS - One day, two meth labs, three arrests.

Authorities with the countywide drug task force said they discovered two homes Tuesday in the Zephyrhills area that doubled as manufacturing sites for methamphetamine, a highly addictive narcotic that can be made with household chemicals.

First seen in Pasco County a half dozen years ago, the drug is making its way from the country to more populated areas. And the number of labs in Pasco has climbed steadily since a crackdown in Polk County drove users into east Pasco.

About midnight Tuesday, Zephyrhills police responded to a complaint of a loose pit bullterrier at the mobile home at 38053 Lawanda Loop. Once there, they found telltale signs of a meth lab: common chemicals used to make it and a strong, noxious odor in the air.

"It's easy (to manufacture)," said Lt. Robert Sullivan, head of the Sheriff's Office drug unit. "You can make it in your bathtub. You download your recipe off the Internet."

Police also found signs of how meth affects lives. Two children, ages 8 and 10, were living there in filth. According to a report, there was no food in the refrigerator, and old food and animal feces were on the floor. The children were sleeping on the floor in a room with no lights.

Police arrested their mother, Cynthia Ann Mistretta, 28, and charged her with child neglect.

A man at the residence also was arrested. Michael Lee Moon, 34, of 5118 Studio Drive was charged with violating probation on charges of possession of methamphetamine and possession of chemicals, records show.

Neither is facing charges related to the drugs or chemicals found in the house. The investigation continues, said Zephyrhills police Capt. David Shears.

Hours later, about 3 p.m. Tuesday, investigators with the Sheriff's Office said they discovered another meth lab in a mobile home on Naomi Avenue. Inside they found ingredients such as filters, glassware, solvents, red phosphorous and ephedrine, according to a report.

They also found 9 grams of meth on an entertainment center in the living room, the report says.

Lindsay Meschelle Thacker, 21, was arrested and charged with possession of methamphetamine and possession of listed chemicals with intent to manufacture a controlled substance.

Sullivan said the Naomi site was the 12th lab found in Pasco County this year. He said 80 percent of Pasco's labs are on the eastern side of the county because the drug is still found mainly in rural areas.

But the two Zephyrhills incidents are evidence of its migration to the suburbs, where it poses a danger not only to users, but to neighbors of those cooking it.

"It's probably one of the most dangerous drug labs," Sullivan said. "The chemicals are noxious, toxic and extremely flammable."

Its effect on the body is harrowing. Sullivan said addicts suffer rotted teeth, severe weight loss and paranoia. They often have open sores from scratching themselves because of a "skin crawling" sensation produced by the drug.

And it's a beast to kick.

"I don't see a whole lot of people that are reformed meth addicts because it is just an incredibly intense addiction," Sullivan said.

Mistretta's children were taken by the state Department of Children and Families and are now with their grandparents. She remained jailed Wednesday in lieu of $2,500 bail.

Moon was being held without bail.

Thacker's bail was set at $10,000.