EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

July 10, 2014

Port police crack case of homecooked cocaine lab

Christopher St. man accused of extracting cocaine from coca leaves

NEWBURYPORT — Police yesterday morning returned to the Christopher Street house they raided six months ago and arrested a man they believe operated a clandestine cocaine drug lab out of his home.

Charged with misdemeanor cocaine possession and a felony cocaine distribution charge, police say 51-year-old Christopher Kelleher was running a cocaine extraction laboratory inside his home. Approximately 2.5 ounces of cocaine was found on Kelleher at the time of his arrest, according to Newburyport police.

At his arraignment a few hours after his arrest, Kelleher was held on $10,000 cash bail and is due back in court on Aug. 4 for a pretrial hearing.

On a frigid January morning, local police, along with the state police, agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency and drug lab experts from across the region converged upon Kelleher’s house armed with a search warrant. An exhaustive search of the house resulted in the seizure of numerous chemicals and drug residue.

For months police had received multiple 911 calls from nearby residents of the quiet, tree-lined side street located between High Street and Merrimac Street, involving alleged drug overdoses, covered windows, cars coming and going during all hours.

Concerned residents formed neighborhood watch groups and circulated emails regarding activity at the house.

According to the city’s online assessor’s database, the Christopher Street house is owned by Christopher M. Kelleher Trust and was built in 1956.

But what prompted the raid was a medical aid call that saw Kelleher lying on the ground outside his home. As emergency units took care of Kelleher, long known to have medical and drug problems, according to police, one police officer noticed a strange gray haze coming from the kitchen. Police then entered the house to conduct a well-being check and saw signs of a possible drug laboratory.

The next morning DEA agents, aided by local police and Merrimac police Chief Eric Shears, returned to the house with a search warrant and were seen removing jugs of chemicals, cans and other items. Items were photographed and then placed on a plastic sheet pinned to the ground just outside the house.

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