standing Richmond Police Department cruiser

RICHMOND — A local man was arrested after the police said he got into an argument with his wife when she came home Friday night and found he was trying to make methamphetamine.

The man, Gregory S. Pendergraft, 46, of 252 Richmond Townhouse Road, was charged with domestic simple assault or battery, domestic disorderly conduct and domestic refusal to relinquish a telephone for an emergency call. The police said he was held overnight and arraigned Saturday morning before a justice of the peace, then was arrested an hour later when he contacted his wife despite an order barring him from doing so.

Pendergraft pleaded no contest to the assault charge on Wednesday and was sentenced to one year probation, issued a no-contact order, and ordered to participate in a batterer's intervention program, according to court records.

As part of the plea, prosecutors dismissed the remaining charges, documents show. The police said no drug charges were involved because Pendegraft's process would not have produced an illegal drug.

Richmond Police Chief Elwood M. Johnson Jr. said the investigation began at about 6 p.m. when Pendergraft's wife came to the department to report domestic violence. The police said she found that Pendergraft was trying to make a "shake and bake" batch of homemade meth. The method, which is considered hazardous, involves extracting active ingredients from cold medicines and using heat to combine them with household chemicals.

According to the police report, Pendergrast pushed his wife, grabbed her cellphone, and pushed her back from the front door when she tried to leave. She escaped through a different entrance, the police said.

Arriving at the house, Sgt. William Litterio persuaded Pendergraft to come out and placed him under arrest, police said.

Johnson said the department contacted the Carolina Fire Department and ultimately called on the Hope Valley-Wyoming Fire Department's hazardous materials response team. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and the Providence branch of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration also assisted in the investigation.

The investigators "confirmed the presence of substances used for fabricating meth," Johnson said in an email. "They also determined that the scene posed no immediate danger to the surrounding neighborhood."

In the house, the police said thermal imaging technology detected two steel Gatorade bottles, topped with solid lids, that contained heat-generating liquid. Outside the house, the officials found "an electric blender containing a white powdery substance suspected to be pseudoephedrine and a plastic pharmacy bag containing cold medicine packs with pseudoephedrine.

"Specially-trained personnel from the DEA examined the scene and ultimately determined that the suspect had gathered the correct chemicals and materials to make meth, but made one error in his selected materials that would have rendered the process ineffective," Johnson said. "There was insufficient evidence to charge him with manufacturing or possession of illicit narcotics."

Hazmat teams were cleared from the scene late Friday night. The case is now considered closed, officials said.

jvallee@thewesterlysun.com

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