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Women hunted after drug raid at Arnold house

Chuck Biedka
| Friday, Aug. 26, 2005

Police raided a house along usually quiet and hilly Alcoa Drive just after 11 p.m. Thursday searching for women who allegedly sold crack cocaine or allowed it to be sold.

Janelle Houser, 38, no fixed address, will be charged with multiple counts of possession with intent to deliver, police said. Crystal Fritch, 24, who rented the house, will be charged with having drug paraphernalia, police said.

Police also want to know if the women know anything about a report of shots fired late Tuesday night, Sgt. Eric Doutt said.

Empty shell casings were found along the street about six blocks from the police station, he said.

As midnight approached, neighbors gathered in clusters of twos and threes -- arms crossed and heads shaking -- to watch the raid and ask questions. Five said they have become increasingly worried since Fritch moved in about three weeks ago and they were glad to see police at the house.

"There is constant traffic going in and out. It's every day. They aren't in there long enough for a cup of tea and they're not getting directions," said one man who wouldn't give his name.

"Yeah, and there were the shots we heard Tuesday night, too," he said, crickets noisily claiming their part of the night amid sounds of police searching inside the house.

Police said informants bought crack cocaine in the house twice. Allegedly, crack was being sold in the house all night Wednesday until about 6 a.m. Thursday.

Police Chief Joe Doutt said he called in the Westmoreland County Drug Task Force when he learned that a large amount of crack was seen in the house.

The women weren't at home when the task force entered the house by using a battering ram that left a large circular hole in the door.

With guns drawn against the unknown, once inside police found one man who is named in a county court bench warrant. The man, Eric Damon, no age or address available, was to be taken to the county prison.

Two other unnamed men were temporarily handcuffed and detained while police searched the house and talked with the men, said Rusty Myers, an agent with the state Attorney General's Drug Strike Force.

The men refused comment as they rapidly walked away in different directions.

The house is owned by Bajr Associates LP. Rich Lippert, who said he represented the partnership, said it would not have rented the house to the woman if the partnership had known drugs would be sold there.

Lippert is an Arnold Ambulance official and a Lower Burrell councilman.

Before the task force left, officers slapped D.A.R.E. -- Drug Abuse Resistance Education -- stickers on the front and rear doors of the white frame house in a neighborhood of well-kept lawns.

Meanwhile police on patrol have photos and descriptions of the women.

During the past several years the task force has done raids during mid-morning when most drug suspects are sleeping. The return to a night time raid is also sending a message the task force will go when and where it needs to go to arrest drug dealers and users, the chief said.

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