Four arrested in meth lab probe

NEW CUMBERLAND – Four local men have been arrested in connection with a meth lab investigation that began with a traffic stop on state Route 2 Friday.

New Cumberland Police stopped a vehicle driven by Gregory A. Birden, 23, of New Cumberland, for operating a vehicle while failing to wear a seat belt. Following the discovery of equipment used to produce methamphetamines in the vehicle’s trunk, Birden also has been charged with the purchase and possession of substanced used to manufacture the drug.

He also has been charged with driving while suspended- administrative and a misdemeanor count of possession of marijuana.

His arrest has led to at least three others found to be allegedly making the drug in an apartment at 907 North Chester St.

New Cumberland Police Chief Les Skinner said the three, who had been under surveillance by the Weirton-Brooke-Hancock Drug Task Force, are: Jay Edward Kinzie, 22, of Apartment 3, 907 North Chester St.; Joel Thomas Shaffer, 22, of 614 Doyles Alley; and David John Duffy, 22, a New Cumberland area resident.

The three have been charged with manufacturing methamphetamines and exposing a child to the manufacture of the drug. Skinner said a child at the apartment has been removed and placed with a family member.

Skinner said Birden was stopped by a New Cumberland police officer on a patrol covered by a state grant aimed at promoting seat belt use. But he also was aware the driver was under surveillance by the Weirton-Brooke-Hancock Drug Task Force, he said.

Skinner said the officer noticed the odor of marijuana from the vehicle and a search led to the discovery of the alleged meth equipment in the vehicle’s trunk. He said it included sulfuric acid, a portable burner and lighter fluid.

Skinner said in addition to the drug task force, the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department and West Virginia State Police were involved in the arrests. He added the New Cumberland fire department and ambulance service were placed on standby because the meth materials’ hazardous nature.

Chester Police couldn’t be reached for comment on reports of a meth-related arrest in that community.