A Riverside man whose illegal drug lab triggered a fire in his residence, causing major damage that displaced him and other members of the household, was sentenced Thursday to three years probation.
Charles Henry Elder, 58, pleaded guilty last month to manufacturing illegal drugs, elder abuse and burning an inhabited structure.
No charges were dismissed under the plea, the terms of which Riverside County Superior Court Judge David Gunn certified, imposing the stipulated sentence.
In addition to probation, Gunn ordered Elder to spend six months in a sheriff’s work release program and pay victim restitution in an amount that will be determined by the Department of Probation.
Elder’s son, 23-year-old Daniel Lewis Elder, admitted to the same charges as his father and is slated to be sentenced by Gunn on March 1 at the Riverside Hall of Justice.
He’s free on an $85,000 bond.
The blaze erupted in the defendants’ residence in the 7400 block of El Sol Way, near Lincoln Avenue, on the afternoon of Nov. 30, 2016.
According to the Riverside Fire Department, the men called 911, reporting smoke in their kitchen.
Battalion Chief Jeff DeLaurie said that when crews arrived, they encountered flames in the back of the single-story dwelling but quickly gained the upper hand, preventing the blaze from completely consuming the structure.
“As firefighters were providing salvage to the residence, they discovered large amounts of butane cylinders and other paraphernalia that is used to make the illegal drug honey oil,” DeLaurie said.
Investigators ultimately determined that one of the butane heaters sparked the fire.
Daniel Elder was taken into custody on the spot. His father was transported to Riverside University Medical Center in Moreno Valley for treatment of minor burns, from which he recovered.
Riverside Police Officer Ryan Railsback said a total of five people — including the defendants — were living in the residence, and all were displaced by the fire. One of the occupants was over 70 years old and related to the defendants, though his identity was not disclosed.
Honey oil, also known as “wax” or “hash,” is a liquefied marijuana derivative. Drug lab operators use butane stoves to extract tincture from cannabis plants that can be mixed with anything and bottled.
Numerous explosions and fires have occurred throughout the Inland Empire over the last decade as a result of home-based honey oil manufacturing. The practice has become so rampant and potentially destructive that the District Attorney’s Office in 2017 released a series of public service announcements, warning of the dangers and consequences of making honey oil.
The series can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fSCMCwmlQw.
Neither defendant had prior documented felony convictions. However, Charles Elder had misdemeanor convictions for battery and being under the influence of a controlled substance.
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