Sunealitis Trial Goes to Jury Today

Steven Sunealitis (Provided photo)
Steven Sunealitis (Provided photo)

Steven Sunealitis (Provided photo)

CLEARFIELD – The trial got under way yesterday for a DuBois man accused of producing methamphetamine at his residence. Clearfield County President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman is presiding over the trial.

Steven F. Sunealitis, 53, of DuBois has been charged with deposits, stores or disposes of chemical waste; manufacture, delivery or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver; intentional possession of a controlled substance by a person not registered; and use/possession of drug paraphernalia.

State Parole Agent James Shuttlesworth testified first for the commonwealth. On May 13, 2013, he went to Sunealitis’ residence for a routine home visit and to collect a urine sample. Shuttlesworth said that Sunealitis told him “not to waste his time,” as he’d done a line of methamphetamine.

Shuttlesworth subsequently surveyed the residence for any evidence of a violation. At that time, he found a sheet of glass with a white powdery residue and a utility blade on a nightstand in Sunealitis’ bedroom. Sunealitis, he said, told him the white powder was methamphetamine.

When asked, Shuttlesworth testified that Sunealitis admitted to using the “shake and bake” or “one-pot” method to produce his methamphetamine in his basement and stored cooking elements in a cooler in his garage. Sunealitis also told him he could make four grams of methamphetamine in two hours from two boxes of pseudoephedrine.

Officer Travis Goodman of the Sandy Township police testified next. He and the arresting officer, Erik Rupp, were dispatched to Sunealitis’ residence, where they were briefed by Shuttlesworth about his findings during the home visit.

Upon entering the residence, Goodman observed Sunealitis in handcuffs sitting at the kitchen table. On the table, he observed a sheet of glass with a white powdery residue on it that Shuttlesworth had collected from Sunealitis’ bedroom. On the kitchen counter, Goodman observed other cooking elements for methamphetamine.

According to Goodman, it appeared drug activity was occurring inside the residence. Because of the hazardous materials inside, they decided to evacuate the residence for their personal safety. Then, he and Rupp consulted with their sergeant and decided to apply for a search warrant for Sunealitis’ residence.

Goodman said their sergeant contacted a state police search team due to the hazardous materials involved with producing methamphetamine. When asked, Goodman said there were residences to the right of the Sunealitis residence, as well as others across the street.

Cpl. Dennis Ulery of the Pennsylvania State Police Clandestine Lab Response Team was dispatched to the Sunealitis residence on May 13, 2013. Upon arrival to the scene, Ulery collected facts related to the incident and assigned team members to conduct an assessment in preparation to execute the search warrant.

At the scene, team members wore fire resistant gear that was equipped with an air tank, he said. He said they went room-by-room through the residence and checked the air quality, and readings were relayed to him outside. He said that the assessment team members didn’t detect anything in the air, and evidence was then collected and processed piece-by-piece.

Trooper James A. McIntosh of the Pennsylvania State Police lab response team assisted with executing the search of Sunealitis’ residence. McIntosh collected numerous items, which included a foam cooler used to store cooking elements, as well as pseudoephedrine, ammonium nitrate, sodium hydroxide, reactive metal, etc.

Forensic Scientist Brett Bailor of the Pennsylvania State Police Erie Crime Lab responded to Sunealitis’ residence and acted as a chemist for the response team. He identified one bottle as a “one-pot” reaction bottle and another that was consistent with being a gas generator. Bailor told jurors that Sunealitis possessed all of the cooking elements for producing methamphetamine, and this included a mixture that totaled 288 grams.

Rupp was the final witness before the commonwealth rested its case. On May 13, 2013, he and Goodman responded to Sunealitis’ residence to meet with state parole agents. Upon arrival to the scene, he was briefed about Shuttlesworth’s findings and observed the sheet of glass with white powder and the other cooking elements, which he associated with producing methamphetamine. After that he returned to the Sandy Township police station to file the paperwork for obtaining a search warrant for the Sunealitis residence. Rupp said he ultimately filed the criminal complaint against Sunealitis as a result of the investigation.

Sunealitis took the stand on his own behalf yesterday afternoon. On May 13, 2013, he was at home when Shuttlesworth arrived for a routine check and to collect a urine sample. He said that he told Shuttlesworth that he would test positive, as he’d done a line of methamphetamine.

In addition, Sunealitis told jurors that he instructed agents as to where the finished methamphetamine product could be found in his bedroom. He said it was on a glass under a cap, and likely wouldn’t have been discovered without him telling them. Sunealitis said he also told the agents he was producing his own methamphetamine in his basement.

Sunealitis said he’d gone to rehabilitation for his drug problem and met a bunch of guys. There, he said he learned a recipe for the “one-pot” method of cooking methamphetamine.

However, Sunealitis said his methamphetamine lab was contained to a cooler in his garage and wasn’t a large scale operation. He explained that he used a Gatorade bottle to make it and a Mountain Dew bottle to gas it. He said the first time he produced methamphetamine he did it outside on his deck, as he was afraid due to the hazards involved. After that Sunealitis said he started producing the methamphetamine in his basement.

When questioned by District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr., Sunealitis admitted he was guilty of all of the charges filed against him. However, he said the commonwealth had falsely accused him of possessing 100 grams or more of methamphetamine. Then, Shaw asked, “So, basically you don’t think you should be in as much trouble?”

Sunealitis replied, “I know I’m in trouble, Mr. Shaw. He said the commonwealth was trying to say he had 288 grams of methamphetamine when in fact that was a mixture that contained the drug. But when asked by Shaw, Sunealitis agreed that the mixture contained methamphetamine in it.

The trial will resume at 9 a.m. today with closing arguments. Afterward, Ammerman will charge members of the jury and send them into deliberations.

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