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Beaver Bay man gets 1 year after meth lab bust

A Beaver Bay man was sentenced to a year in jail this week after pleading guilty to a felony charge of for the manufacture of methamphetamine.

Donald Arthur Packard Jr. was sentenced by Lake County District Judge Mike Cuzzo Monday. Packard was charged in April as part of a larger investigation by the Lake County Sheriff's Office going back to last August. There are more drug charges pending against other people charged in the investigation.

Packard, 43, also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of domestic assault and the year in jail is part of the penalty for that crime. Packard will be on supervised probation for one year with several conditions, including random testing for drugs, no entry into liquor stores or bars, and no contact with the co-defendants in the case or other known felons.

Sheriff Carey Johnson said the drug case shows there is "still meth use in our county. It's still a problem."

The complaint filed against Packard states that he helped manufacture meth between Aug. 1 and Oct. 18, 2010. The court document lists accomplices as Robert Lornston Jr., Jah Culp, and Devin Connor.

The court document says a Two Harbors Police Department officer and an agent from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension interviewed a source last fall who said the men were manufacturing the drug at a trailer home outside of Beaver Bay. The property, owned by Arthur Lornston, Robert's brother, was searched on Oct. 18. Arthur Lornston was on the property at the time and said "he knew there was a methamphetamine lab on the property and that he should have reported it," the court document states.

Arthur Lornston apparently warned his brother to stay off the property. Officers found signs on the vacant trailer home stating "Go Back" and "Meth Lab Closed."

Items seized in a room inside the trailer and around the property showed clear signs of a meth operation, officers said. Confiscated items included empty packets of pseudephedrine tablets; empty containers of engine, drain, and carpet cleaners; salt; peeled lithium batteries; camping fuel; and blenders, tubes, and jars.

Tests later showed that residue found in the trailer was meth.

Sheriff Johnson said the mechanics of making the drug have gotten more confined than the large labs that proved an environmental hazard across the state and country in past years. "Now they are making it with two-liter pop bottles," he said.

A check by officers of pharmacy records show Packard, Culp, and Connor all made purchases of pseudoephedrine at the pharmacy in Silver Bay, Walmart in Hermantown, and Walgreens in Duluth. State law passed in 2005 restricts the volume of purchases customers can make at one time of the key ingredient in making meth. The men made several trips to the pharmacies, the court document says.

Packard had other run-ins with police in the last year. Court documents show he was cited for disorderly conduct and the domestic assault in June 2010. In February of this year, he was cited for possession of drug paraphernalia and open bottle. He was found guilty on the misdemeanor open bottle charge. The misdemeanor disorderly conduct and petty misdemeanor drug charges were dropped.

Packard is being credited with about a month of jail time served off his one-year sentence. The first-degree felony conviction has a maximum sentence of 30 years under Minnesota law that could include a fine of $1 million. He faced two felony charges for the manufacture of meth. He was convicted for manufacturing meth. A charge of conspiracy was dropped.

In interviews with the four men, the court document shows, each admitted using meth in the past but downplayed their roles in the trailer home lab operation.

Jah and Connor were interviewed while incarcerated on other drug charges.