GOSHEN — A man charged with attempting to manufacture methamphetamine was sentenced in Elkhart’s Circuit Court after he was found guilty in a bench trial.
Joseph Bell, 54, of Sturgis, Mich., was found with precursors to manufacture meth in his vehicle during a traffic stop and later in his apartment when an officer obtained a search warrant.
He was sentenced to 29 years in prison and four years on probation.
Bell and Elizabeth Scarbrough, 54, of Elkhart, were arrested and later charged with attempting to deal in meth by manufacturing.
Bell wrote a waiver of trial by jury in March, and he later confirmed with his attorney that he wanted a bench trial instead of a jury trial.
Whille Bell did not deny he was attempting to manufacture meth at the time he was arrested, he argued whether the meth he was making weighed more than 3 grams.
A bench trial was held Aug. 30, during which the prosecuting attorney presented two Elkhart police officers who were at the scene of the traffic stop, an officer from the department’s drug unit, and an officer from the Indiana State Police as witnesses in the trial.
The court found that Bell attempted to manufacture 3 or more grams of meth, after the state presented a video of police interviewing Bell. In the interview, Bell admitted he had manufactured meth in the past, and that he would produce 4 grams of the drug each time he “cooked.”
During his sentencing hearing, Bell told the court he appreciated the fact that he was stopped from potentially hurting himself. He said he didn’t know what he was doing.
“I’m glad I was stopped before I hurt myself,” he said. “But I never endangered anyone.”
Judge Terry Shewmaker said one of his main concerns was that Bell was attempting to manufacture meth while under the influence.
“I think it’s tremendously dangerous driving while under the influence, with a meth lab in your car,” he said.
Scarbrough, Bell’s co-defendant, pleaded guilty to aiding in attempting to manufacture meth Thursday in Circuit Court.
She agreed to a sentence of four years at Elkhart County Community Corrections and six years on probation. Her sentencing was scheduled for Nov. 27.