CLEARFIELD – Three defendants were scheduled for preliminary hearings Wednesday in cases that resulted from an investigation into a nine-month-old baby testing positive for drugs.
On Jan. 27, local police and a state police K-9 Unit executed a search warrant on the residence of Joshua Allen Root, 32, of Clearfield, the baby’s father.
As a result, police arrested Root, Zachary Douglas Tibbens, 22, of Latrobe and Nicholas Allen Rowles, 23, of Houtzdale.
On Wednesday Root pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor counts of use/possession of drug paraphernalia. For this, he received two years of probation and he must pay fines and court costs.
According to the affidavit of probable cause in Root’s case, on Jan. 24, police received a report from Children & Youth Services about the baby testing positive for illegal drugs the previous night.
The baby was under the care of Root and her mother between the hours of approximately 5 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. at their Montgomery Run Road residence, the CYS worker told police.
At approximately 9 p.m. Jan. 23, the baby’s parents put her down for the night and fed her a bottle. However, she became “very fussy,” and she was also “shaking” and “vomiting.”
After observing these symptoms, the mother asked Root to take their daughter for an evaluation. He left at approximately 9:30 p.m. to take her to Penn Highlands DuBois.
According to hospital records, Root did not arrive at PH DuBois until approximately 11:54 p.m. He was accompanied by another male. The baby was admitted into the hospital at that time.
Upon her evaluation, it was discovered that the baby tested positive for cocaine and amphetamines. As a result, she was taken by ambulance to the Children’s Hospital at Pittsburgh.
On Jan. 25, the baby was discharged from the Children’s Hospital. She was temporarily removed from her parents’ custody and placed with her grandparents until further custodial arrangements and a court date could be scheduled.
An officer attempted to contact the baby’s mother by phone for the purpose of an interview on Jan. 25. She could not be reached and the officer left her a voicemail message.
She failed to return the officer’s call. The officer was notified by the CYS worker that she’d been in recent contact with the mother.
The CYS worker also indicated that Root had refused to submit to a drug test, because he didn’t feel there was a need for one. The mother attempted to but was unsuccessful.
On Jan. 26, police and the CYS worker met regarding the investigation. It was related to police that Root and the baby’s mother were being very uncooperative and their stories neither matched up nor made any sense.
Police learned Root and the mother had an older child – a three-year-old – who had also been placed with her grandparents. Because she was known to be “very talkative,” police arranged an interview at the Child Advocacy Center.
The girl immediately told police that on Jan. 23, her little sister was “throwing up,” “mommy got mad at dad” and was hitting him. She said her dad then took her sister to the hospital.
She said that “daddy keeps his stuff” on the coffee table in the living room. She also mentioned that there were two other people there prior to her sister becoming ill, and they were “being bad” outside in her dad’s workshop.
On Jan. 26, police inquired with a CAC Pittsburgh doctor about the symptoms a baby would experience after having contact with cocaine and amphetamines. She said symptoms would include being fussy, vomiting and an accelerated heartbeat within 10 to 15 minutes.
She said these symptoms would occur from a child having skin contact, inhaling or having the controlled substances around their mouth. Police were unable to obtain medical records but did request them for their investigation.
On Jan. 27, police interviewed the baby’s’ parents at the station. The mother said she did not know how this could have happened and someone must have put something in her daughter’s formula.
She said it was only her and Root with their two daughters when the youngest became ill that night. She was asked if she would willingly submit to a polygraph and immediately said “no.”
Police were contacted by the CYS worker and notified that the baby’s mother had tested positive for methamphetamine. However, she said CYS had to “roll” the test as negative due to the results being so low.
When he was interviewed, Root told police there were other people at the residence that night other than himself, his wife and their two children.
Like his wife, he said he didn’t know how this happened, and someone must have put something in his daughter’s formula. He was also asked to submit to a polygraph but said no.
Later Jan. 27, Lawrence Township and Clearfield Borough police and a Pennsylvania State Police K-9 unit executed a search warrant at Root’s residence.
When authorities arrived, various people were observed around the residence. The homeowner, Root, was observed inside his “shed” with the doors hanging open.
His back was to police but when he saw them, he reportedly slipped a glass pipe into his rear pocket. Root was shown a copy of a valid search warrant and told authorities would do a search of his residence.
While conducting a sweep, the K-9 hit on a tied up grocery bag inside the upstairs bedroom and a multi-colored smoking device.
Inside the bag, there were allegedly 14 used “stamp bags.” A clear glass pipe containing suspected residue was located inside a dresser next to the bed and was wrapped in “bubble wrap.”
Authorities also located a “sawed off,” 16-guage shot gun inside the residence. Root allegedly admitted to using methamphetamine earlier that morning.
He was subsequently taken into custody and to county jail on a 48-hour detainer until charges could be filed and he could be arraigned. More charges will be filed, police said in the affidavit.
Tibbens has been charged with aggravated assault, F2; simple assault, M2; and recklessly endangering another person, M2.
He had all charges held to court after a preliminary hearing before Magisterial District Judge Mike Morris. For this case, his bail was increased from $10,000 to $25,000.
During Tibbens’ hearing, Assistant Clearfield Police Chief Greg Neeper testified that he was requested to assist local authorities with the execution of a search warrant at Root’s residence as part of a drug investigation.
He and his partner approached the residence on foot, and they observed a vehicle in the driveway. Neeper overheard a male being identified as Tibbens and was aware he was wanted by Clearfield Borough police.
Neeper took his assigned position to maintain security of the residence and of Tibbens. He estimated he was with Tibbens for about five minutes while other officers secured the residence, garage, etc.
According to him, Tibbens was very anxious and wanted a cigarette. He asked a female to get the lighter in his front pocket, but she was unable to find it. She couldn’t find one in her purse at first but eventually did.
He said he watched Tibbens and the female very closely since it was an active drug investigation. He suspected it could possibly be an effort to pass off drugs and or related items.
Before transporting Tibbens to the jail on the warrant, Neeper prepared to conduct a “pat-down” search. He asked if he (Tibbens) had anything in his possession that he should be worried about. Tibbens told him “no.”
Neeper located a lighter in Tibbens’ front pocket and removed it. When he felt the back pants pocket, he said he was stuck by an exposed needle.
It caused his finger to bleed and he was transported immediately to Penn Highlands Clearfield. Neeper said he was on medications for three days and must follow up with additional treatment.
Officer Ralph Nedza of the Lawrence Township police said he filed the charges against Tibbens based upon the information he received as part of the investigation.
Rowles has been charged with intentional possession of a controlled substance, F, and use/possession of drug paraphernalia, M. He waived his right to a preliminary hearing, and his bail is set at $10,000 unsecured.
According to the affidavit in Rowles’ case, Rowles was in close proximity to Root’s shed. He was subsequently patted down and detained by police.
During the initial search of the residence, an officer observed a gray and black Ford truck in the driveway. It belonged to Rowles and a “smoked joint” was observed in the front, passenger’s side just below the window in plain view.
The officer advised Rowles that he would have to search his truck. He indicated that he understood and he would find some crystal meth and marijuana.
When the officer entered Rowles’ vehicle, he removed the smoked joint. He photographed the several smoked joints that were in the truck’s ash tray.
Inside a backpack, there was allegedly crystal meth. A safe was also removed from the truck that contained numerous items of drug paraphernalia along with a fully-loaded rifle, which was hidden behind the seat.