They and Russell's girlfriend Christin Brown were charged with marijuana cultivation and methamphetamine manufacture after San Miguel County sheriff's deputies and haz-mat suited Colorado Bureau of Investigation officials hauled away 28 marijuana plants and a laundry list of chemicals and containers from their San Juan Vista home on Hastings Mesa.
The mother and son are now scheduled to enter their pleas early next year, in what Peter Ricciardelli, Russell-Martin's attorney in the case, emphasized was not a "run-of-the-mill case."
The CBI analysis of seized materials was released earlier this month.
Outside the courtroom, the two defendants confirmed they would plead not guilty on charges of methamphetamine manufacture in their propane- and woodstove-fueled home. Russell said, however, that he plans to plead guilty to marijuana cultivation, which was done without his mother's consent.
"I have attention deficit disorder," he said. "I'm hyperactive and I'm dyslexic" – conditions, Russell said, that caused him to be a "lifelong user" of such drugs as Ritalin and Dexedrine.
In recent years, he said, he turned to self-medicating with marijuana instead, because it delivered "no side effects."
"I knew his problem," said Russell's mother, "and I knew he needed to use something to calm him down."
Russell was not able to get a new prescription for medicinal marijuana in Colorado, his mother said. "We're from California," she said, where marijuana is obtainable "for medical uses."
As to police reports that 25 of the 28 seized marijuana plants were being grown in Russell-Martin's bedroom closet, she said: "It was a bedroom that was not being used."
Russell gave reporters copies of an independent report by Cordilleran Compliance Services, Inc., an environmental consulting engineering firm, saying that water and soil samples collected from the home had tested negative, with one exception, for methamphetamine.
Included in that report: A disclaimer that Cordilleran "makes no warranties that the conditions in the residence are the same as when any law enforcement agency samples may have been collected," and, further, that "a significant amount of time had elapsed between when the homeowner regained access to the house and when Cordilleran collected the assessment samples discussed herein."
Nonetheless, soil samples collected from areas "identified by San Miguel County and by the resident of the house" as "representative of waste/grey water disposal locations and soils adjacent to the septic line" that were analyzed for methamphetamine and volatile organics tested negative in all instances but "Wipe No. 1, a composite sample from the west bedroom on the first floor of the residence," representing "a wall surface, two bureau top surfaces and the inside door handle."
The positive I.D., Russell maintains, was from one or both of the room's bureaus, which were moved to San Juan Vista from Russell and Russell-Martin's previous home, in Los Gatos, Calif. He commissioned the July 12 Cordilleran report for $6,000, Russell emphasized, in an effort to address the San Juan Vista Homeowners Association's concerns about soil and groundwater contamination.
METH LAB EPIDEMIC
Clandestine methamphetamine laboratories and dumpsites are a growing problem throughout Colorado and across the U.S.; nationally, more than 8,000 meth labs were raided last year. In Colorado alone, the number of meth lab seizures reported by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation has increased threefold in the past three years, with 450 last year.
In a signed affidavit, Masters said Christin Brown reported that "Russell tried to manufacture methamphetamines in the kitchen of the house; however, Brown thought it was dangerous and smelled bad, so Russell moved the manufacturing operation to the basement of the house."
Brown stated that "at times Russell would pour residue from the methamphetamines-manufacturing process down the drain of the kitchen sink," and that "Russell had a recipe for the manufacturing process; however, it was left in California, or lost during the move to Colorado….To the best of Brown's knowledge, Russell was never successful in developing a useable amount of the drug," and told Masters "that Russell, after failing to manufacture methamphetamines, turned his energy to developing the marijuana-growing operation" that the police found on May 6.
That same day, in the basement, according to the same affidavit, Masters and two deputies found "a cardboard box containing various lab chemicals, various glass beakers, two glass containers containing liquid, two metal containers, one marked 'barium chloride,' a large plastic bowl containing muriatic acid, hydrogen peroxide and iodine bottles, a milk crate containing various glass bottles with amber-colored liquid, a Preston anti-freeze container, a milk jug with a clear liquid, a cardboard box containing glassware and miscellaneous chemicals, a glass acid jar, a 2000 ml flask containing an iodine-like substance, a clear jar with black pellets, cardboard containers with gray rock-like blocks, a gray plastic tub with glassware, two plates with crystalline material, plastic tubing, empty NaOH (sodium hydroxide) container, empty glass containers, a large glass round BTM beaker, a metal container with gray duct tape top, a glass mason jar with two level fluid (top clear, bottom brown), a white plastic container with a pasty substance, a blue plastic container with Red Devil lye, blue liquid in a glass container, amber liquid in glass container, white plastic container, tongs, mercurochrome container, large lemon scent extra bleach, a glass jar containing a dark liquid, an empty hydrogen peroxide bottle, aluminum foil 25 yards, Coleman fuel, a clear plastic container with tall cone-shaped beaker, a plastic 'vapor-jet,' empty sulfuric acid boxes, six syringes, a clear plastic tub containing a hot plate, voltage regulator, empty sulfuric acid box, four blue tubs containing electrical venting system, a brown plastic bucket containing pvc pipe and venting equipment, a barnstead heater, gray pvc tubing with T-connections with smaller tubes on end, a round-bottom glass container with white crystalline on sides and yellow liquid in bottom, an electric powered agitator."
THE CIVIL CASE
Being cleared on charges of manufacturing methamphetamine may not be enough to get mother and son back into their San Juan Vista home. The uncontested presence of the 28 marijuana plants alone allows authorities to seize and auction off the house, under federal law; because the home's previous owner held the promissory note, however, the property has instead gone into foreclosure.
Following the drug bust, the house at 3400 Alpenglo Lane was declared "unfit for human occupancy" by San Miguel County health officials. Among the reasons it was red-tagged: on-site unsafe and non-compliant propane tanks, water heating systems plumbing and drainage; a broken septic tank; and the presence of human feces, "rodent/pet feces, putrefying food and dead rodents."
Effective Oct. 21, the court issued an "abatement of nuisance and closure of property" order, restricting the defendants' visits to the property to five daytime visits a month.
"This is a difficult case," said San Miguel County Commissioner Art Goodtimes, of pleas that board has heard from the San Juan Vista homeowners association and the sellers of the house as well as from Russell and Russell-Martin.
"The landowning adjacent neighbors have been very upset" at the prospect of meth manufacture in their midst, Goodtimes said, and "are appalled" that someone accused of manufacturing methamphetamine "still continues to live there."
"We are seen as evildoers," Russell-Martin said Thursday. "I want people to understand that there has been so much misinformation."
Russell said that the bulk of chemicals and containers removed from the home belonged to his stepfather, Charles Martin, who died prior to the September 2003 move to Hastings Mesa and "was a chemistry teacher for 30 years." Items taken in the May 6 bust, he said, included "antique glassware, microscopic telescope and all kinds of equipment" from Martin's estate. Other items were taken from kitchen drawers, Russell-Martin added.
As they embarked on their first-ever Hastings Mesa winter, Russell-Martin said, they found themselves ill-prepared for being snowbound in a home inaccessible by car.
"We felt like idiots," she said. "We had no facilities. We had to go to Ouray to shower. We had to go to the bathroom outside, although we finally got a Porta-Potty."
It's an unusual case, Goodtimes pointed out before the Oct. 28 hearing, because "usually these situations occur in rentals. We are running head-on into a public-private dilemma. Private property owners have their rights, and you cannot step all over them."
As for the fact that marijuana plants were seized in the raid: "I certainly don't support seizing homes because cannabis is present," he said.
On all fronts, this can be characterized as a lose-lose situation, Goodtimes said.
"It's a gray area of the law, and everyone feels like the system isn't working."