By Doug Ireland
---- — LONDONDERRY — What police and fire officials say is a disturbing trend led to the arrests of a father and son at a Ridgemont Drive home last month.
Internet availability of elaborate plans for manufacturing more potent forms of illegal drugs has led to a nationwide increase in homemade labs, according to Trooper 1st Class Matthew Partington, a member of the New Hampshire State Police bomb squad.
The labs are used to create highly addictive methamphetamines and also butane honey oil from hashish, Partington said.
When police searched the home of Mark and Brandon Castiglione on Sept. 30, they were in for a surprise. They were looking for smoking paraphernalia stolen from a vendor at the Londonderry Flea Market, but uncovered much more.
Investigators found highly explosive materials in 19-year-old Brandon Castiglione’s bedroom, believed to have been used to make honey butane oil. That included cans of flammable Sterno cooking fuel, the chemical butane and propane torches.
The oil is produced in a tube by forcing the liquid butane through marijuana to extract THC, the component that produces a high. The end result is a substance, resembling honey, that has a purer THC content and creates more of a euphoria, Partington said.
“You are getting a much more enhanced effect,” he said.
Brandon Castiglione is being held at the county jail on $100,000 cash bail. He was arrested on three counts of possession of a controlled/narcotic drug and single counts of unlawful manufacture of a controlled drug, possession of a controlled/narcotic drug with intent to distribute, and unlawful possession of alcohol and intoxication.
Mark Castiglione, 54, was released on $10,000 cash bail after being charged with having control of a premises where a controlled drug is kept, Londonderry police Detective Christopher Olson said.
But drug-manufacturing equipment isn’t the only thing the team of 10 Londonderry police officers found. They uncovered $1,500, assault rifles and other semiautomatic weapons, glass pipes, test tubes, plastic bags, glass pans, razor blades along with marijuana, hashish and psychedelic mushrooms, police said.
Partington and New Hampshire State Fire Marshal William Degnan said butane honey oil, or BHO, labs are becoming more common around the country.
“It’s really becoming more of a trend,” Partington said. “We have begun to get them right here in New Hampshire.”
Partington, who did not investigate the Londonderry case, said he knows of several BHO labs found in the Granite State in the last year.
Degnan, the state’s top fire official, is concerned about the several labs he has seen in New Hampshire in the last year. He first started seeing BHO labs a year ago, but has yet to witness an explosion or serious injuries.
The most recent BHO lab he saw was in Henniker three weeks ago, Degnan said. The labs are commonly found in motel rooms and near college campuses, he said.
“The biggest risk is the chance of a flash fire,” Degnan said. “They are exposing a lot of innocent people to a flash fire.”
That’s definitely been the case in other parts of the United States, Partington said.
“Across the country, they’re encountering burns and explosions because of the BHO labs,” Partington said.
Olson and Londonderry police Chief William Hart said dangerous drug labs aren’t something they often see, especially BHO labs.
“This is obviously a concern and something we haven’t seen before in Londonderry in a great while,” Hart said.
Brandon Castiglione turned himself to police Oct. 4 and was charged with three counts of possession of a controlled/narcotic drug and single counts of unlawful manufacture of a controlled drug, possession of a controlled/narcotic drug with intent to distribute, and unlawful possession of alcohol and intoxication.
He was arraigned that day in 10th Circuit Court, where Judge John Coughlin set his bail at $100,000 cash. The judge set a high bail because Brandon Castiglione violated his bail conditions on previous drug possession charges, Olson said.
Coughlin rejected defense attorney Mark Stevens’ request during a probable cause hearing Friday that the bail be lowered to $10,000 cash or less. He also asked that some of the drug charges be dropped because the mushrooms and oil residue had not been tested. Those tests are scheduled to be done by the state’s drug lab, prosecutor Kevin Coyle said.
“There is a picture of mushrooms that could be found in a grocery store,” Stevens said.
Coughlin declined to lower the bail or drop the felony charges. He said the alleged drug lab posed a dangerous risk.
“The court has a serious concern in regard to safety,” Coughlin said.
Coyle said his office decided not to prosecute Castiglione on the two misdemeanor counts of possessing marijuana and butane honey oil. The alcohol charge, a violation, will also not be prosecuted, he said.
Mark Castiglione waived his arraignment, Olson said. He did not attend his son’s probable cause hearing Friday.