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Three taken into custody after search of suspected Donora 'drug house'

| Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Donora Mayor John Lignelli called Wednesday “one of the happiest days of my life.”

“Whenever you can remove from the streets one of the major drug dealers, that makes me feel good,” Lignelli said “The district attorney's been doing one hell of a job for us. He's one of the best we've ever had.”

A search warrant at 637 Fifth St. resulted in the seizure of 3,700 baggies of heroin, $33,477 in cash, a loaded 45-caliber Taurus revolver with an obliterated serial number and drug paraphernalia.

Three individuals were taken into custody: Ashleigh Byrd, of 637 Fifth St., Donora, and Quinte Crane, 34, and Rondell Lawrence, 27, both of McKeesport.

Lawrence was later released, pending further investigation. He was present during the search warrant.

Crane was lodged in the Allegheny County Jail for existing arrest warrants. Byrd was lodged in the Westmoreland County Jail on a probation detainer as a result of Wednesday's search.

The search warrant was a result of a cooperative investigation by detectives in the state police and the Washington County District Attorney's Drug Task Force. The investigation focused on the alleged heroin and crack cocaine trafficking of Ashleigh Byrd and Quinte Crane, Vittone said The investigation is ongoing, Washington Count District Drug Task Force Director Rick Gluth said.

“This operation underscores the need for cooperative police work and I appreciate the efforts of the Pennsylvania State Police, Donora Police department, Washington County Sheriff's Office, and the detectives of the Washington County Drug Task Force in eliminating this major heroin operation in the Mon Valley,” said Vittone. “We will continue to focus our efforts on eliminating and prosecuting dangerous drug dealers operating in Washington County”.

The suspects will be charged with violations of the Drug Act and Uniform Firearms Act at a later date, Vittone said.

Lignelli said residents' complaints about the alleged drug house, along with elected officials' concerns, led to the investigation, which culminated in the search Wednesday.

“There's too much of it going on and were not going to stand for it,” Lignelli said. “They might think they're getting away with it, but they're being watched.

“That's important for us,” Vittone said. “That's how we know where to go. Citizen complaints and some really good undercover work from the state police and drug task force led to today's action. We recovered a lot of heroin and got a gun off the street, which is always good.

“We continue our efforts county-wide to go after dangerous drug dealers. I love the fact that all of the police agencies are working together. We're coordinating our efforts to make Washington County safer.

“That's a lot of heroin we took off the streets. I'm proud of those guys.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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