The group of young friends decided to spend one day in February trying to mix up a batch of homemade methamphetamine.
Four of them -- Sierra Marie Clark, 19, Leland Allan MacQuarrie Jr., 21, and siblings Michael Wayne Bousquette, 22 and Michele Lynn Bousquette, 20 -- failed in their first attempt to brew some one-pot meth.
They had driven to a remote location on a two-track and tried to mix up chemicals and the active ingredient, pseudoephedrine, found in the cold medicine Sudafed.
MacQuarrie told police that he tried to cook and it didn’t work out.
Later, Michele Bousquette would admit it was her idea to try to cook meth that day and she also helped mix the ingredients.
Michael Bousquette bought the Sudafed, he would later tell police. MacQuarrie would later admit he bought starter fluid, cold packs and lithium batteries. Clark went to a hardware store and bought the Draino, she would tell police.
The group decided to try again that same day. This time they went to cook in the basement of the Bousquette siblings’ father’s home in Mancelona, a white, somewhat dilapidated Victorian rental house on State Street, east of US-131.
That second time, the cook was a success. It happened just in time for a visit from police.
A VISITOR WITH A WARRANT
An Antrim County Sheriff’s deputy happened to pay a visit to the Bousquette residence that day in early February.
The deputy had a warrant to arrest someone named Rick Brown and was looking for him at the residence. Brown’s name doesn’t come up again in this Antrim County meth story, though you’ll read more about him later. But the warrant was the thing that brought the deputy to the door of the house.
When the Bousquette siblings’ father, Michael Bousquette Sr., answered the door, he led the deputy to the basement so the officer could talk to his son.
As the officer was led into the house, he noted that it began to stink more and more of a “strong, suspicious odor” that got stronger the further the officer went into the house. It got really strong toward the basement, according to a probable cause statement.
The deputy made it all the way to the basement where he found the group of young men and women and a one-pot meth lab. They were arrested and the four of them eventually plead guilty.
Michele Bousquette was sentenced to three to 20 years in prison. Michael Bousquette was sentenced to 30 months to 20 years. MacQuarrie was sent to prison for 20 months to 20 years. Clark was sentenced to a year in jail.
SIMILAR TO A SPATE OF CASES
What makes this case representative of a spate of one-pot meth cases in Northern Michigan lately is that it involves a group of people getting together to pursue homemade drugs.
Each one has to bring something in order to be involved -- someone needs to buy pseudoephedrine, or Sudafed, someone needs to get batteries, someone needs to bring campfire fluid -- and in the aftermath, each one has to face the consequences.
“It’s kind of like a perverse potluck,” said James Rossiter, assistant prosecutor for Antrim County who has become a specialist in drug cases. “Everybody seems to bring something.”
That’s what makes this different from the trade of other drugs, which usually involves money exchanged for drugs like heroin or cocaine or prescription painkillers.
One-pot meth is different because it can be made from items available at a store and a group of people can fairly easily get together and assemble the ingredients.
Groups of people have gotten together on numerous occasions across Antrim County in recent months to try to make one-pot meth, and the ones who have gotten caught -- 13 of them so far, Rossiter said -- have faced serious consequences.
FIRE AT METH HOUSE IS AN ARSON
The meth cases have been keeping the prosecutor’s office, the sheriff’s department, undercover investigators, and even a state arson investigation specialist busy in the county recently.
A few weeks before the group in Mancelona was busted for meth, on Jan. 5, a trailer burned to the ground on Elder Road, a few miles outside of town.
The fire was investigated by state police Sgt. Jerry Briolat and was ruled an arson. Someone used accelerants to torch the place and it was a total loss.
No one has been arrested or charged in connection with that arson.
What is odd about that case is that the trailer had been the site of a police search a few weeks earlier in an investigation into a one-pot meth lab.
Did police miss some evidence in the search that someone wanted destroyed? Did paranoia take ahold of someone, causing them to burn down a residence and crime scene for no reason?
Rossiter said he could not comment about it because it is an open case.
Two people wound up convicted as a result of that Elder Road meth lab case -- Mancelona residents James Zackery Johnson, 23, and Bret Alan Miller, 18. They were each sentenced to 120 days after they pleaded guilty to misdemeanors.
BLAZE APPEARS MYSTERIOUS
What’s odd about the arson fire is that the one-pot meth cook-ups that happened at Elder Road apparently occurred in a garage next to the trailer, not in the trailer itself, according to court documents. The garage, where police say the actual drug crimes occurred, still stands.
Police found Coleman fuel, starter fluid, and lithium strips in a search of the Elder Road property in the December search, according to a probable cause statement.
Johnson told police he provided Sudafed but he denied taking part in cooks.
Miller admitted to taking part in the cooks in the past.
Miller told police that his payment for his part in the process came in the form of a plate he would find in his room in the Elder Road trailer that would have methamphetamine residue on it.
He told police he received that from “the individual in the garage who cooked meth there,” according to the statement.
Miller and Johnson were originally charged along with five co-defendants. Charges against the co-defendants were either not brought or eventually dismissed.
NAMES KEEP REPEATING
Among the remaining meth cases in the county, names get repeated enough times to make them look like they are all loosely connected.
A group of suspects was accused of cooking meth at a house on Maple Street in Mancelona in January. That group included MacQuarrie, from the State Street bust, and Richard Earl Brown, 22, of Holt, who police were looking for when they knocked on the door of the State Street house a few days after this bust.
Another defendant is linked to the Elder Road case, at least one of the State Street defendants, and another case, a one-pot meth lab that was busted in October when police found the remnants of a cook next to a fire pit at a property on Big Marsh Road in Jordan Township.
Dennis Milton Short, 37, of Mancelona, represented by attorney Janet Mistele, is described in court transcripts and probable cause statements as someone who would travel around the county and cook meth for different groups of people in exchange for ingredients, particularly pseudoephedrine.
Mistele won a victory for Short when she got evidence from his original arrest suppressed. The traffic stop used to arrest Short was found to be improper. Despite that victory, Short still faced enough evidence to put him away for a long time.
Mistele did not return a message seeking comment.
Short was charged originally with five counts involving three of the other cases and he pled guilty to possession of meth and conspiracy to manufacture meth and he faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced June 10.
‘HIT US ALL AT ONCE’
Rossiter, the prosecutor, believes authorities have made a dent in one-pot meth making in Antrim County, but he doesn’t believe it is going away.
“It’s just like any other drug, once it shows up, it sticks around. Maybe it goes away for a little while, but then it comes back,” he said. “It kind of hit us all at once. The deputies and TNT have been trying to make in-roads into it.”
Rossiter said methamphetamine has seemed to creep north in the last few years.
Meth doesn’t travel like other drugs because it spreads with the knowledge of how to make it, which can be found online. As the Short case in Antrim County shows, one person with knowledge can quickly spread the drug around.
Rossiter said he is mystified by the appeal of the drug.
Since the people who use it almost always also help make it, they know what goes into it. If you look at what goes into it, it is one toxic, noxious thing after another.
When it is mixed up in the bottle, a chemical reaction occurs that actually causes a fire inside the pop bottle, Rossiter said.
“You will actually see a flame in the bottom of the bottle. Why do you think that’s a good idea?” he said.