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Deputies find suspected meth lab in Palm Harbor

PALM HARBOR — The yellowish tan home with the brown roof looks similar to others on Peterborough Court.

There are wind chimes and a chair on the porch, which is ringed by a small white picket fence. Potted plants dot the yard — courtesy, neighbors say, of attentive care by the couple renting there. A welcome sign decorated with a large-beaked bird greets visitors at the front door.

But Pinellas County sheriff's deputies say they believe an ugly secret might lurk behind the pretty facade.

A call about domestic violence led deputies on Monday to discover what they believe to be a meth lab inside the home in a neighborhood east of U.S. 19 and north of Curlew Road. On Tuesday, authorities were still investigating.

"To say the least, we were shocked," said Kathy Borrousch, 56, who lives across the street with her husband. She spoke of the couple who lived in the house: "I've never spoken to him, but she seemed okay the couple times I've talked to her. But you don't obviously know anybody."

The discovery at 2680 Peterborough came about 3:45 p.m. Monday when deputies responded to a report that Shiloh Sladon, 36, had thrown chemicals at his 41-year-old live-in girlfriend.

Deputies were greeted by a chemical odor so strong that one deputy was taken to a local hospital after having an adverse reaction, according to the Sheriff's Office. He was treated and released.

By Monday evening, the agency's narcotics detectives had been called to the scene to investigate what sheriff's spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said was a suspected meth lab operation. A crew in hazmat gear worked through the night to clean up the scene.

Sladon, accused in an arrest report of battering his girlfriend, was charged with one felony count of domestic battery with strangulation.

Deputies said Sladon covered the woman's mouth so she couldn't breathe or yell for help and wrapped his fingers around her throat, leaving faint red marks. As he squeezed, the report said, he threatened to kill her, saying "if he was going to jail he would go for a good reason."

The woman wasn't injured.

The domestic violence allegations didn't come as a surprise to 65-year-old Patricia Escherfelder, who said Tuesday that Sladon's profanities and his girlfriend's screams constantly drowned out the tinkle of their wind chimes.

The couple moved in about three months ago, Escherfelder said, and the fights had progressively worsened over the last three weeks, to the point that she worried for the woman's life. She and others had hesitated to intervene out of fear, she said.

However, both she and Borrousch said they had never seen evidence of drug activity by the couple they frequently saw gardening, sometimes in the darkness of night. Borrousch said the woman recently had a rummage sale and, just last weekend, the couple was painting the house.

"Usually when there's drugs like that, you'd think there'd be a flow of traffic and there wasn't," Borrousch said, gesturing toward the home where a crumpled brown rug, overturned bicycle and black trash bag lay in the driveway Tuesday.

Both women said they feel badly for the couples' two dogs, a golden retriever and a St. Bernard mix.

Borrousch said she began renting a couple months ago and would move away if it weren't for her lease.

Escherfelder, however, said she is not going anywhere. The widow said her son moved her here from Pinellas Park two years ago to what he said was a nicer neighborhood.

"I'm not going to be scared away because there's good and bad in all neighborhoods," Escherfelder said. "It just depends on the people."

Keyonna Summers can be reached at ksummers@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4153. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Deputies find suspected meth lab in Palm Harbor 04/10/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 2:38pm]
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