Published in the February 16, 2017 edition
NORTH READING – North Reading Police have issued arrest warrants for two town residents accused of running a drug manufacturing operation linked to last week’s house fire on Travelled Way.
According to an announcement from the department, police have issued warrants for Lowell Navarro, age 28, and Jacob Stanish, age 31, both North Reading residents. The two are reportedly facing charges of unlawful manufacturing of a Class B controlled substance (MDMA), and conspiracy to violate drug laws. As of Tuesday afternoon, both suspects were still being sought.
On Tuesday, Feb. 7, at 11:45 p.m., North Reading Police and Fire personnel responded to 6 Travelled Way for a reported structure fire. They arrived to find the house fully engulfed in flames. Officers noted a strange odor coming from the house and plumes of thick black smoke, neither of which are typically associated with a house fire.
On scene, North Reading Police officers and North Reading firefighters quickly determined, from their training and experience, that there was a possible drug manufacturing operation in the home. Out of an abundance of caution, a hazardous materials team and the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Clandestine Drug Lab Response Team were summoned to respond.
Once the flames were quelled and a search warrant could be obtained, investigators made their way inside the home and located a hidden, unfinished room with a venting system and glass laboratory case. Police also found chemicals as well as other evidence pointing to a drug manufacturing operation used to create MDMA/Ecstasy.
Given the danger of the chemicals found in the home, and the proximity of homes in the neighborhood, Police Chief Mike Murphy praised the quick work of first responders to arrive quickly and put out the fire.
“This was an extremely dangerous situation, in which a drug lab was operating in a residential neighborhood with houses stacked closely to one another,” Chief Murphy said. “We are very fortunate that no one was injured or killed.”
Chief Murphy encourages parents to have frank and earnest discussions with their children about MDMA and drug use.
“Unfortunately, there’s a demand for drugs like Ecstasy. If people knew the noxious chemicals that went into drugs like Ecstasy and some other synthetic drugs, they would think twice before using it,” Chief Murphy said. “The home in question was full of deadly, burning chemicals that presented an extremely dangerous situation for first responders and neighbors.”
The origin and cause of the fire remain under investigation. Anyone with information about the two suspects’ whereabouts is asked to contact the North Reading Police at 978-357-5046.