Meth lab bust in 1998 leads to two convictions
By Leah L. Culler
A three-day trial in 1st District Court concluded last week with a jury finding a Cache County couple guilty of drug charges, including, in the man's case, the operation of a methamphetamine laboratory.
Dennis Pehrson, 45, and his partner, Kelly Stevenson, 39, both of Smithfield, were arrested on the charges in May 1998, pleading not guilty at that time.
Pehrson was convicted on first-degree felony charges of operation of a methamphetamine laboratory, second-degree felony possession of methamphetamines, and misdemeanor charges of possession of drug paraphernalia. Stevenson was found not guilty of involvement with the laboratory and drugs in the home. She was found guilty only of possession of drug paraphernalia.
In May 1998, the police discovered drug paraphernalia and a meth laboratory in the home of Pehrson and Stevenson. The couple claimed the materials were not their own, but belonged to a man named Paul Martini who had been staying with them. The two claimed they had attempted to kick Martini out of their home when a fight broke out. Police were dispatched to their home on a domestic violence call at that time, which is when the drug paraphernalia was discovered.
Cache County Deputy Attorney Bruce Ward said it would have been impossible for them not to have known of the illegal activity in their home. He added that the couple were fully aware of Martini's actions and were assisting him in the illegal production of methamphetamine.
Evidence that Stevenson had been out shopping most of the day and returned in the evening to find Pehrson and Martini together with the drug materials caused the jury to split their verdict between the two defendants.
"The jury sifted the evidence very carefully," Ward said. "The evidence was stronger against Mr. Pehrson."
Pehrson will remain out of jail on bail until his sentencing Jan. 10 in Logan. Stevenson is scheduled for sentencing the same day but will be extradited to Idaho to face charges for a parole violation prior to her appearance for sentencing.
Pehrson faces at least five years with a possibility of life in prison under the newly passed methamphetamine production laws.
Ward said the Cache County Attorney's Office will continue to prosecute methamphetamine labs, adding that they are certainly not welcome here in Cache Valley.
"The really terrible thing about the labs is that this poison is filtering
out into our community. It's not just poison for the house where the
lab is but for all the houses down the line. That's why we take these
cases so seriously."