JS man, girlfriend charged with working meth lab

WILLIAMSPORT — Two people have been charged with allegedly operating a one-pot methamphetamine lab inside an apartment at Newberry Estates, 2500 Federal Ave., late last month, according to Williamsport police.

Michael Puch, who turns 34 on Thursday, of 317 S. Lincoln Ave., Jersey Shore, and his girlfriend, Jennifer Berkebile, 35, of 918 Race St., Williamsport, have both been charged with illegal possession of liquefied ammonia gas, recklessly endangering, possession of heroin and possession of drug paraphernalia.

On the evening of Dec. 29, another woman, who was making a surprise visit, discovered the two sitting on the floor in a bedroom of Apartment 140 next to what was believed to be “a meth lab,” police said.

Upon discovering the suspected “meth lab,” the woman, who has heard reports of “a foul odor and suspicious activity going on in the apartment,” immediately alerted the tenant, who was out of town. The tenant, in turn, called police.

Officers responded and seized four envelopes of heroin and numerous items affiliated with making methamphetamine, including bowls of ammonium nitrate and sodium, an empty bottle of lighter fluid and plastic tubing.

Neither Puch or Berkebile lived at the apartment complex, police said. However, the tenant allowed the two and the couple’s teenage son to stay in the unit while she was away, police said.

Both Puch and Berkebile had fled the apartment by the time officers arrived on the scene, “but it was evident someone had just vacated the apartment as cigarette smoke was still hanging in the air,” an officer wrote in an affidavit.

Berkebile was arraigned Wednesday before District Judge William Solomon and committed to the Lycoming County Prison in lieu of $100,000 bail.

Puch, who was jailed earlier this month after his bail in other criminal cases was revoked, was taken from the jail Friday afternoon and brought before District Judge Christian Frey. During the proceedings, he admitted to the judge that he was addicted to methamphetamine and opioids.

After Frey read him the charges, Puch initially denied his alleged involvement in the matter.

“How am I being charged? I was not even there. That was none of (my) stuff,” he told the judge, referring to the items police said they seized in the apartment.

Frey paused to take a few moments to read the affidavit in greater detail.

Puch said nothing when the judge told him that according to the affidavit, a witness identified Puch as being in the apartment.

Puch, who has been arrested at least three times in the last two years on other charges by Tiadaghton Valley Regional police, told the judge all his alleged criminal activity was related to his drug addiction. He was returned to the prison in lieu of an additional $150,000 bail.

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