Arrest puts in limelight prevalence of meth labs in county

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 23, 2000

Brian Conrad Henderson may be the first shoplifter to appear on area TV.

Monday, October 23, 2000

Brian Conrad Henderson may be the first shoplifter to appear on area TV.

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Arrested for shoplifting $300 of a cold remedy last Wednesday in Albert Lea, Henderson’s picture appeared on newscasts Thursday that reported the incident, plus a subsequent raid on a methamphetamine lab in Austin.

It rated praise the morning after the newscasts from Austin Police Chief Paul M. Philipp.

"I’m glad you used the photograph of Mr. Henderson," Philipp said. "We want more people to know who he is."

The reason for Henderson making the news: growing concerns among local law enforcement about the presence of both the drug and labs where it is manufactured.

Henderson, 24, is known within the area’s drug community, police said, just like Matthew Wayne Horsman, 35, of Wykoff, who received a prison sentence after being found guilty at a jury trial for conspiring in the manufacture of meth.

Three other people arrested in connection with the same Oct. 6, 1999, raid on a lab on 10th Drive SE were allowed to plead guilty to lesser charges in return for their testimony against Horsman.

In both cases and others, meth has become a scourge that local law enforcement wants to eradicate using every person at its disposal, including using the media to publicize the faces behind the menace.

Acting on information obtained after Henderson’s arrest for shoplifting at the Hy-Vee Food Store in Albert Lea, the Austin Police Department obtained search warrants for a residence in Austin and at an undisclosed location in rural Mower County.

According to the police chief, the raid on the rural residence came up empty with no evidence of a meth lab. However, the raid on a house at 502 Seventh Ave. SE in Austin hit the jackpot.

Officers of the Police Department’s Special Incident Response Team raided the residence of Dean Scott Aarsvold, 38, and his sister, Sherrie Renee Aarsvold, 36. Both were arrested without incident and jailed. Sherrie Aarsvold’s son, Anthony Jey Aarsvold, 18, remains at large. He is wanted in connection with the meth lab discovered at the Austin residence.

"We discovered a working meth lab," the police chief said. "There was a batch in the early stages of production, plus a small amount of processed meth in the house."

A specially trained unit of technicians from the Twin Cities was summoned to Austin to aid in the collection of evidence and the disposal of hazardous materials because manufacturing meth is dangerous.

Henderson most recently was arrested in connection with another meth lab discovered when a fire broke out at a residence in the 1900 block of Second Avenue NW.

While released and pending that case’s outcome, police said, Henderson attempted to shoplift a large quantity of a cold remedy used as one of the ingredients in making methamphetamine.

The latest raid marked the fifth such local interruption of the manufacture of meth.

Philipp said the department has received "one or two calls" from merchants who became suspicious after the sale of large quantities of items needed to make meth.

"Alcohol and marijuana remain the most popular drug of choice, but we’re seeing a significant rise in the use of meth," Philipp said.

As more meth labs appear, the purity of the drug is declining and this poses a graver concern for users.

"What we’re finding is that the meth being manufactured today is maybe only 30 to 40 percent pure, whereas earlier batches were as much as 90 percent pure," Philipp said. "That means people who use meth are ingesting more of the toxic substances needed in its manufacture into their own bodies."

Both the Austin Police and Mower County Sheriff’s departments have engaged in an aggressive public awareness campaign to alert both store owners and employees as well as the general public to items needed to manufacture the drug.

Large or repeated purchases of the ingredients, as well as thefts of the equipment needed to build a lab are telling signs, according to the sheriff, that another lab is being built.

"It happens every once in a while," Simonson said. "We had a person report someone who had bought a large amount of starting fluid at a farm store. It was way more than needed, even in a single year."

Posters listing the drug’s ingredients and the equipment needed to manufacture it have been posted in supermarkets, drug stores, discount stores, elevators and farm supply stores.

"People should be aware," Simonson said. "It’s a real problem."