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Police find meth evidence in vacant store where dead woman discovered

2nd woman found there now critical; two others linked to scene

Friday, January 25, 2013 - 3:23 pm

Fort Wayne Police have linked two more people to their investigation of a woman who was found dead inside a vacant southeast-side storefront, where authorities now believe someone was making methamphetamine.

Police found the body of Dana M. Gersper, 33, inside the vacant strip-mall store at 4331 S. Anthony Blvd. at about 2:08 p.m. Wednesday after receiving a call from a neighboring business owner, who reported a possible dead body.

A second woman, who has not been named, also was found inside the vacant store and was hospitalized in serious condition. She has since deteriorated to critical condition, a Fort Wayne Police spokeswoman said.

Additionally, police have linked to the investigation a man and a third woman who separately went to a local emergency room that day, Officer Raquel Foster said in a statement. Neither was hospitalized as of Friday afternoon.

No one has explained exactly why the women were inside the vacant storefront Wednesday, or how they died. But Foster said police at the scene found items used in the manufacture of meth. Police also found meth-related items in a vehicle linked to the investigation, Foster said.

"Investigators have reason to believe that there was an active methamphetamine lab at the vacant store unit on that day," she said in the statement.

According to an Allen County official, building inspectors also found a bed and three gas-powered heaters – one propane and two kerosene – inside the unit. They also found signs of a kerosene spill said Roger Clark, an assistant building commissioner.

Although a neighboring business owner has told authorities he planned to renovate the space into a convenience store, no one had a permit for the work, and inspectors did not find any visible signs of remodeling, Clark said.

Police first went to the scene at about 1:10 p.m. Wednesday after receiving an anonymous call about a "dead body and possibly another" in the lot across from the nearby Belmont Beverage store, 4308 S. Anthony, police said in an earlier statement.

At that point, police searched the area and looked inside the vacant store, but they did not find anyone, according to the previous statement.

About an hour later, police received a second call from the neighboring business owner, who said two people were inside the vacant unit and may have needed help. He also reported a suspicious odor coming from inside the unit.

First responders then found the two women. Gerpser was pronounced dead at the scene at about 2:35 p.m. Police have said they do not suspect foul play in her death or the other woman's injury.

Firefighters at the scene did not initially detect the source of the reported odor, according to police statements.

It remains unclear why the women were not found when police first went to the vacant store and searched the surrounding area.