CLINTON — When Sally Harpold bought cold medicine for her family back in March, she never dreamed that four months later she would end up in handcuffs.
Now, Harpold is trying to clear her name of criminal charges, and she is speaking out in hopes that a law will change so others won’t endure the same embarrassment she still is facing.
“This is a very traumatic experience,” Harpold said.
Harpold is a grandmother of triplets who bought one box of Zyrtec-D cold medicine for her husband at a Rockville pharmacy. Less than seven days later, she bought a box of Mucinex-D cold medicine for her adult daughter at a Clinton pharmacy, thereby purchasing 3.6 grams total of pseudoephedrine in a week’s time.
Those two purchases put her in violation of Indiana law 35-48-4-14.7, which restricts the sale of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, or PSE, products to no more than 3.0 grams within any seven-day period.
When the police came knocking at the door of Harpold’s Parke County residence on July 30, she was arrested on a Vermillion County warrant for a class-C misdemeanor, which carries a sentence of up to 60 days in jail and up to a $500 fine. But through a deferral program offered by Vermillion County Prosecutor Nina Alexander, the charge could be wiped from Harpold’s record by mid-September.
Harpold’s story is one that concerns some law-abiding citizens who fear that innocent people will get mistakenly caught in the net of meth abuse roundups.
But the flip side of the story comes from the law enforcement arena, which is battling a resurgence in methamphetamine production in the Wabash Valley.
As the 12th-smallest county in the state, Vermillion County ranked as the state’s fifth-largest producer of methamphetamine just a few years ago.
“I don’t want to go there again,” Alexander told the Tribune-Star, recalling how the manufacture and abuse of methamphetamine ravaged the tiny county and its families.
While the law was written with the intent of stopping people from purchasing large quantities of drugs to make methamphetamine, the law does not say the purchase must be made with the intent to make meth.
“The law does not make this distinction,” Alexander said.
If the law said “with intent to manufacture methamphetamine,” no one could be arrested until it was proven that the drug actually was used to make meth, the prosecutor said.
And that certainly wasn’t the intent of the law, either. It was written to limit access to the key ingredient in meth — pseudoephedrine — and thereby to stop the clandestine “mom and pop” meth labs that were cooking drugs throughout the area.
Just as with any law, the public has the responsibility to know what is legal and what is not, and ignorance of the law is no excuse, the prosecutor said.
“I’m simply enforcing the law as it was written,” Alexander said.
Pharmacies post “Meth Watch” signs, alerting customers that their purchases of drugs containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are being monitored. Pharmacies also are required to submit a list of purchase records to police, who then examine the lists for violations of the law.
It is up to customers to pay attention to their purchase amounts, and to check medication labels, Alexander said.
“If you take these products, you ought to know what’s in them,” she said.
While many people know that Sudafed, Actifed and Claritin-D contain pseudoephedrine, there are many more over-the-counter medications that also contain the key meth ingredient.
Ron Vencel, a pharmacist with JR Pharmacies in Terre Haute, said consumers should check all drug labels, and notes that any drug that has a “D” after it, for “decongestant,” has a likelihood of containing pseudoephedrine, or PSE.
Vencel has worked with area police to help curb the sale of over-the-counter pseudoephedrine to people buying it as a meth ingredient, and he offered insight into some of the purchasers.
As authorities and retailers have limited the sale of PSE, some meth-makers have resorted to asking their relatives and friends, who are unaware of the intended use of the product, to go buy the cold medicine. That has put some innocent people unwittingly into the cycle of meth production. And a buyer may call five or six different people to go buy the cold medicine, thereby circumventing the law.
Harpold, who is employed at the Rockville Correctional Facility for women, feels her reputation has been damaged by the arrest, and that she has been wrongly labeled as someone who makes meth.
Her police mug shot ran on the front page of her local newspaper, she wrote, in a letter to the Tribune-Star, “with an article entitled, ‘17 Arrested in Drug Sweep.’”
“That is something I have never been involved in,” she said of meth.
When she told her co-workers about the arrest, she said, they could not believe it. They have been supportive of her, she said, and other friends in the community have tried to help stop the misinformation that has spread because of the arrest.
The morning she was arrested, Harpold and her husband were awakened by police officers banging on the front door of their home at Midway along U.S. 36. She was allowed to get dressed, and was then taken in handcuffs to the Clinton Police Department, where she was questioned about her cold medicine purchases. She was later booked into jail, and her husband had to pay $300 bail to get her released.
Harpold said she did go talk to the prosecutor about the situation, and Alexander offered her the deferral program, in which Harpold is required to pay the court costs, abide by all laws and not be arrested for 30 days. At the end of 30 days, the class-C misdemeanor will be erased from her record.
Alexander said she is working with Harpold about the charge, but the prosecutor asserts that Harpold did break the law with her purchases and is being held accountable.
“I do want people to know that we will check the pharmacy records and we will prosecute people who violate this law,” Alexander said.
Vermillion County Sheriff Bob Spence said he also is willing to help Harpold overcome the negative situation.
“If there’s any way we can help her, we will,” Spence said.
He explained that the process leading to Harpold’s arrest involved an officer checking area pharmacy purchase records, and coming up with about 40 purchases that violated the law.
That information was then taken to the prosecutor, whose staff drew up the probable cause affidavits to be filed in court. A judge then found probable cause and issued arrest warrants, and the sheriff’s department is required by statute to see that the warrants are served.
Harpold was not arrested by Vermillion County officers, Spence stressed, since her residence is in Parke County. But she was returned to Clinton where she was questioned and processed.
Spence agreed with pharmacist Vencel’s scenario that the people making the meth often send other people to buy the medicine. And Vigo County Sheriff Jon Marvel, who recently renewed efforts to track pseudoephedrine sales in the Wabash Valley, understands Harpold’s arrest is embarrassing for her.
“Sometimes mistakes happen,” Marvel said. “It’s unfortunate. But for the good of everyone, the law was put into effect.
“I feel for her, but if she could go to one of the area hospitals and see a baby born to a meth-addicted mother …”
For now, Harpold is hoping to raise public awareness so others will avoid the stress she is going through. She has written to state lawmakers and to U.S. Sens. Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh and Congressman Brad Ellsworth about changing the law.
So far, only Lugar has responded to her letter, she said, but she will continue to pursue the issue.
“I just don’t want this to happen to other people.”
Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or email@example.com.
CLINTON — When Sally Harpold bought cold medicine for her family back in March, she never dreamed that four months later she would end up in handcuffs.
- Local & Bistate
Not just graffiti: Children learn to express inner positive thoughts, expand vocabulary through street art
The scribble of chalk brushing up against a stone wall could be heard Wednesday as children showed their creativity at the 14th and Chestnut Community Center. The messages on the wall were straightforward: “We are ... artistic, amazing, hope, funny, unique.”
An honor for the ages: Famous Terre Haute sculptor comes up with unique memorial to fete veterans
“Until they all come home” are the words written on the concrete floor clearly visible to workers and onlookers as part of the centerpiece to the new Montezuma Veterans Memorial that was set in place Wednesday afternoon at Aztec Park in Parke County.
MARK BENNETT: Forget the cellphone, enjoy the summer
The third rail post from the left on the second-floor patio. By holding a cellphone at eye level, with your left hand, while standing perfectly still, without blinking, a faint one-bar signal was possible. Possible. Otherwise, there was no connection to the outside world at this retreat spot in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, where my wife and I stayed earlier this month
National group gives ISU low marks for training teachers
A national research and advocacy group has given Indiana State University — and more than a dozen other Hoosier colleges and universities — low marks for how it trains teachers.
Holcomb, other top leaders leaving Indiana GOP helm
INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Republican Party Chairman Eric Holcomb leads a number of high-level departures from the state party half a year after the 2012 elections.
Vigo County Jail Log: June 19, 2013
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Tuesday and Wednesday, based on jail records.
Right lane of U.S. 41 South closed at Harlan Road
VIGO COUNTY, Ind. – An intersection improvement project on U.S. 41 and Harlan Road has closed the right lane for southbound traffic beginning today. This lane closure is scheduled to last about one month.
Terre Haute Coke & Carbon: Cleaning up a legacy
When heavy equipment starts moving dirt next week at the former Terre Haute Coke and Carbon industrial site, city officials hope a new day will be dawning for a long-neglected part of town.
Diversity growing: New census report shows changing face of Indiana
Like the rest of the nation, Indiana is continuing on a trend toward greater diversity as the numbers of Hispanics, blacks, Asians and other minorities are rising at a faster pace than whites.
Valley following diversity path of nation, Indiana
Like much of Indiana, the majority white population in the Wabash Valley is on the decline, while minority populations are on the increase.
Court lets walkout fines against House Democrats stand
House Democrats who had to pay more than $100,000 in fines after they walked out of the Indiana Statehouse two years ago during a legislative session won’t get the help they sought from the Indiana Supreme Court.
Arrest made, victim identified in Rosedale homicide
The victim in a Parke County homicide that occurred last week has been identified as Kathryn A. Bays, 55, of Rosedale.
Vermillion industrial park gets award for transition
The Vermillion Rise Mega Park, a former chemical weapons base now an industrial park north of Clinton, has gotten national attention for its rapid transition to civilian from military use.
Slight damage from evening storm
Very little damage was reported from a late evening storm that rolled through the Wabash Valley on Tuesday.
U.S. 41 lane restrictions
Motorists should expect delays because of lane restrictions on U.S. 41 in Sullivan County next week as a railroad company repairs a rail crossing 1.2 miles north of Shelburn.
Lane restrictions next week on U.S. 41 at Shelburn
SHELBURN, Ind. – Motorists should expect minimal delays because of lane restrictions for U.S. 41 in Sullivan County next week as the railroad company makes repairs to the rail crossing 1.2 miles north of Shelburn.
Reputed Mafioso tip triggers new Hoffa body search
OAKLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. — The FBI saw enough merit in a reputed Mafia captain’s tip to once again break out the digging equipment to search for the remains of former Teamsters union leader Jimmy Hoffa, last seen alive before a lunch meeting with two mobsters nearly 40 years ago.
UPDATE: Parke County homicide victim identified
ROSEDALE — The victim in a Parke County homicide that occurred last week has been identified as Kathryn A. Bays, 55, of Rosedale.
Court lets walk-out fines against House Democrats stand
INDIANAPOLIS — House Democrats who had to pay more than $100,000 in fines after they walked out of the Indiana Statehouse won’t get the help they sought from the Indiana Supreme Court.
Vigo County Jail Log: June 18, 2013
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Monday and Tuesday, based on jail records.
Back home again: Items from vaudeville stage and Terre Haute native sent to Historical Society
The staff at the Vigo County Historical Museum are excited about the arrival of priceless items used by Terre Haute-native Rose Fehrenbach and her husband, Edward Pierce, to promote their Vaudeville acts in the early 20th century.
Husband charged in Archer homicide
Terre Haute Police have found local reports of domestic violence between a Terre Haute man and his wife, whose body was discovered wrapped in a tarp and dumped in an Ohio ditch.
National Road panels dedicated
Rewind to the mid-1800s, when the trotting of a horse and buggy on National Road could be heard alongside the voices of people heading west, searching for opportunities.
Pence sets agency priorities
Following a directive from Gov. Mike Pence, state agency heads are reorganizing some of their top priorities to better reflect the first-year governor’s “roadmap for Indiana” plan for improving the state’s economy, infrastructure and health.
Another I-70 traffic snarl: Three injured in two related crashes
Three people were injured Monday afternoon from a pair of crashes on Interstate 70 that temporarily closed the highway and diverted traffic into Terre Haute.
Terre Haute man still hospitalized after scooter/car crash
A Terre Haute man remained hospitalized Monday at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis after his scooter struck a car early Saturday on Wabash Avenue at 25th Street.
Overpass repairs causing Interstate 70 lane restrictions
Repairs to the Frye Road overpass in southeastern Vigo County has caused a restriction to the left lane of Interstate 70 between the 13- and 14-mile markers, about two miles east of the Indiana 46 exit.
Indiana woman condemned for killing at 15 is freed
A woman who was sentenced to death at age 16 for taking part in the torture and murder of a 78-year-old Bible studies teacher was released from an Indiana prison Monday after growing to middle age behind bars.
Grant will let Vigo Library evaluate map collection
The Vigo County Public Library has received a $2,000 grant to evaluate its historic map collection, a library official announced Monday.
Four juveniles caught on elementary school roof; one injured jumping off
Police say a juvenile was lucky to have suffered only a broken leg after jumping from the roof of a Vigo County elementary school – dropping about 30 feet to the ground.
- More Local & Bistate Headlines
- Not just graffiti: Children learn to express inner positive thoughts, expand vocabulary through street art