Ashland Current  [ View Original Article ]

An Ashland Police Department investigation into the theft of donation jars in November from various city businesses indicated that the suspects, including some juveniles, wanted the money to buy marijuana and synthetic marijuana, according to law enforcement officials.

Since those thefts occurred, a 20-year-old suspect in the case, Jacob Mott, has been charged with methamphetamine possession. He was arrested in December after a resident at the Bay Tower on Chapple Avenue allegedly spotted Mott going into cars parked at the apartment building.

“I was kind of surprised when (Mott) was caught with meth,” Ashland Police Investigator Jerry Katchka said last week.

The methamphetamine was not discovered right away, according to a criminal complaint filed on Jan. 10 in Ashland County Circuit Court. When an Ashland police officer confronted Mott at the scene, the officer found a marijuana pipe and prescription drugs on Mott, the complaint alleges.

The officer, Gene Brinker, then transported Mott to the Ashland County Jail for booking. During the booking, Mott was observed removing from his “underwear/groin area” a clear bag of white powder, the complaint states. The 2.7 grams of powder tested positive for methamphetamine, the complaint alleges.

A highly addictive and destructive drug, methamphetamine affects the central nervous system. While meth abuse has plagued some rural areas, it has been less pervasive in the Ashland area, law enforcement officials say.

Ashland County District Attorney Kelly McKnight estimated he’s handled fewer than five meth-related cases over the past 18 months. Both McKnight and Katchka said they primarily deal with prescription drug abuse.

“Prescription drugs are far and away the most serious problem that we have,” McKnight said last week.

Katchka decribed the presence of methamphetamine in Ashland as cyclical, depending on whether a drug supplier emerges in the area. It’s too early to tell whether Mott’s arrest is an anomaly or an indication of meth’s resurgence in Ashland, he said.

Perhaps the most concerning aspect of Mott’s case is that his alleged participation in the theft of donations jars from businesses — including the Black Cat Coffeehouse, Family Video, and Happy Panda’s Buffet & Grill — involved juveniles.

One of the players in the donation jar thefts, Cody Burnett, pleaded no contest in Ashland County Circuit Court to multiple charges earlier this month, including contributing to the delinquency of a child. According to a criminal complaint, some of the charges against Burnett involved juveniles of middle-school age.

However, Katchka said, he hasn’t seen any evidence of juveniles using methamphetamine.

Katchka said that if meth use is on the rise in Ashland, he’s confident law enforcement would succeed in clamping down. “It’s such a small town,” he said. “We have a pretty good handle on what’s coming in and what’s coming out.”