MODESTO – Sometimes in an upscale neighborhood something that is just a little out of the ordinary, which would likely go unnoticed in many places, can raise suspicions.
A person on the 2500 block of Snyder Avenue in north Modesto, a housing development featuring large, often two story homes and near the Mary Lou Dieterich Elementary school, saw a young man acting suspiciously at a home; first peeking over the fence, and then entering the backyard of one of the more “modestly sized” houses on the street. Perhaps this neighbor had seen unusual things going on at this house before, but for some reason, this seemingly innocuous activity spurred on a call to the police.
It was 12:43 in the afternoon of Wednesday, August 12 when officers with the Modesto police arrived to check out the scene, perhaps anticipating a burglary in progress. According to Heather Graves of the Modesto Police, what they found was two people, including 23-year-old Zakk Reo Smith who lives at the house, in a shed in the backyard. Smith was engaged in operating a “Hash Oil” lab, which produces concentrated cannabis oil, also known as honey oil, wax, or dabs. Smith’s interest in the drug has been shown in some of his Facebook posts, like one from September 2014 that says simply “Wax who’s got it??”. The answer, a couple weeks later, turned out to be Smith himself, as he posted “Any one need dabs?? Hit me up”.
In addition to the drug being completely illegal, even for “medicinal use”, the process of converting marijuana into hash oil is extremely dangerous. It involves using butane gas to convert the loose leaves into the potent oil, and the volatile nature of the butane in the process makes it highly flammable, and notable cases of fires and explosions have left people with severe burns, and structures destroyed or damaged by the fire.
The Modesto Police Narcotics Enforcement Team agents were called to the location to process the scene. Smith was arrested on charges of manufacturing a controlled substance. The investigators will be working with the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s office on additional charges, including manufacturing a controlled substance within 1000 feet of a school. Bail was set at $250,000. His friend, who was the one spotted looking over the fence, was released at the scene and determined not to be involved in the lab or in possession of drugs.
Later that day Modesto police scored another big drug bust. At 3:40 in the afternoon, officers with the police Street Gang Unit pulled over a car for a traffic violation while driving along North Carpenter Road, just a few blocks south of Modesto Junior College. Matthew Brady McDonough was identified as the driver and discovered to be, not only on probation, but with multiple warrants out for his arrest related to a domestic violence charge. A search of McDonough and the car revealed a loaded handgun, an ounce of methamphetamine, two ounces of heroin, more than 30 oxycodone pills, and evidence of drug sales.
30-year-old Matthew McDonough has a long history with local law enforcement. Available records going back to 2008 show an arrest in October of that year for cultivating and selling marijuana, theft of utilities and damage to a telephone line, and possession of a loaded firearm. In August of 2009 he was charged with domestic violence – battery on a spouse or former spouse. Two months later he was arrested for vandalism with over $5,000 in damage, dissuading a witness from reporting or testifying, and violating his probation.
In December of 2012 he was caught again for cultivation of marijuana and driving on a suspended license. After being assigned to a work-release program in lieu of jail time, he was arrested in March of 2012 for failing to report to the program along with, once again, cultivation of marijuana. He faced another domestic violence charge – inflicting corporal injury on a spouse or co-habitant – in May of 2013. And in October he was charged with possession of marijuana for sale and selling marijuana.
It was found that rather than residing at his current home address in south Modesto, McDonough was staying at a local motel room. That room was checked pursuant to his arrest, and a stolen handgun, along with seven more ounces of heroin, were discovered there.
McDonough was booked into the Stanislaus County Jail on charges of possession of methamphetamine and marijuana for sale, possession of a firearm and ammunition as a prohibited felon, possession of controlled substances while armed, violating his probation, and the two outstanding warrants for the domestic violence charges. He is being held without bail.