Police bust LSD lab in White Clay
Published: Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Updated: Sunday, July 19, 2009 05:07
His hands are damp with sweat as he passes them over a spread of chemicals that only a seasoned chemist would be comfortable handling - sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid and Imodium hydroxide. Hydrazine, a chemical used in most commercial rocket fuels, sits on the table. In a damp environment, like a barn, it is liable to explode.
He is young, tall and thin like a long-distance runner. He is a fledgling scientist and he was commissioned to produce a highly illegal chemical. He was promised payment - a cheap car and several thousand dollars of college tuition money - and gathered all but a few ingredients. The few he could not purchase, he attempts to synthesize on his own.
The 23-year-old man is named Paul Little. He was once a chemistry student at Widener University and he had hoped to transfer to the University of Delaware. He was nearly broke, desperate and manufacturing LSD in hopes the payoff would let him return to college.
Had he finished his work, he would have produced more than fifty million hits of the hallucinogenic drug, a quantity valued at more than a quarter of a billion dollars. The Drug Enforcement Administration claims only a handful of chemists currently have the ability and the desire to supply America with LSD.
If his work had been completed, he would have gone down as the victim of one of the biggest LSD lab busts in DEA history. But that fact is now irrelevant.
Little pleaded guilty last month to federal drug offenses, and faces a $1 million fine and 20 years in prison. He will be sentenced in July.
Little was unavailable for comment through his lawyer, assistant federal public defender Christopher Koyste.
Widener University track coach Vince Houey found out about Little in the spring of 2001. A friend told him about a promising high school distance runner from Rochester, NY. By that fall, Little was running sub-nine-minute two-miles for the Widener University track team.
When Little was accepted to the university he was offered a hefty financial aid award. Without that award, it is unlikely Little ever would have left New York. His mother, divorced from his father, lived in Texas. And at the time of Little's admission to Widener, his father was living alone and working a low-wage job. Without financial aid, Little would have been unable to pay Widener's nearly $37,000-a-year price tag.
Halfway through Little's sophomore year, the financial aid had dried up. Little's father re-married a woman with a good job and a salary to match. The federal government and Widener University suddenly expected Little to be able to pay nearly 10 times the amount expected of him the previous semester. And for whatever reason, his new stepmother refused to pay for school. That semester would be Little's last at Widener.
But even before Little was rendered financially independent, he had set his sights on the University of Delaware. His high school girlfriend had been enrolled there since they both entered college two years earlier, and the university offered nationally recognized chemistry and chemical engineering departments. And the school had a good track team.
Senior Kevin DuPrey met Little, then a sophomore, at a track meet at Widener in the fall of his freshman year. Little told DuPrey he wanted to run for the university.
"He was a really phenomenal runner," DuPrey said, "and he was going to transfer to UD, but it never happened."
Little has never taken a class at the university. It is unknown whether or not he ever officially applied.
Little officially left Widener at the end of the Spring Semester in 2003. After that, it appears he gradually settled down in the Newark area. He continued his employment as a groundskeeper in the White Clay Creek State Park. By the fall of 2004 he had enrolled in courses at Delaware Technical and Community College. It was around that time that Little attached himself, at least socially, to the track and cross country teams at the university.
Every Sunday, several members of the track team meet for a distance run, an unofficial training session on which they tackle anywhere from 10 to 15 miles on the trails of the White Clay Creek State Park. When Little showed up one Sunday, he was welcomed. There was no reason to be rude and ask him to leave, especially once the guys realized he could hang with the best of them.
Junior Tim Brock said it was not long before Little became a regular at track parties. He talked a big game, Brock said, but always cited a new obstacle that was keeping him from enrolling at the university and joining the team.
DuPrey said Little once told him he could not enroll because he was about to be deported to Canada. Little is a Canadian citizen, but there is no indication the Immigration and Naturalization Service was on his back. Brock said Little once told him he had been sponsored by the shoe company Puma, and was on the brink of signing a deal that would send him to the West Coast.
Little vanished from campus as quickly as he appeared. By the end of the fall, Little had stopped taking classes at Delaware Technical and Community College, disappeared from the Sunday training runs and become as infrequent a guest at track parties as Coach Fisher, who has not seen Little in more than a year.
It should come as no surprise, though, that Little has not made any recent visits to Fisher's office. He was, of course, arrested by the DEA in September. And since then, he has been held in federal custody.
Two weeks before the end of August, Allie Holbrook was asked to take on a new roommate. She and her two other roommates worked on the trail crew at the White Clay Creek State Park, and lived in an old farmhouse at the top of a hill that overlooks the White Clay Creek. She was told the man had finished some seasonal groundskeeping work and needed a place to stay until the end of the month. After that, she was told, he would head back to Canada. His name was Paul.