After being abruptly awoken and evacuated from their residence hall early Saturday morning, displaced Harbin Hall residents began to piece together the morning’s events and reflect on the students who were said to be involved.
Initial reports claimed that police had responded to a student caller reporting an odor on the ninth floor and that they discovered a student-run drug or methamphetamine lab in room 926. Further investigation reportedly found that the makeshift lab was instead producing dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a psychedelic drug known for its capacity to induce vivid and intense hallucinations that are relatively brief in duration.
Police arrested three students Saturday morning, two of whom are currently facing charges in connection with the alleged DMT lab. Resident Charles Smith (SFS ’14) and University of Richmond student John Perrone, a guest of Smith, are currently scheduled for a January court date; John Romano (COL ’14), the other resident of Harbin 926, was cleared of charges and released Monday.
Romano was aware that Smith and Perrone were intending to produce DMT, according to a friend who asked not to be named and a blog post written by a Harbin resident with knowledge of the situation.
Smith, who hails from Andover, Mass., was known to be the more outgoing of the two roommates. According to Eleni Kessler (COL ’14), Smith seemed innocuous, though she said he never fit in perfectly.
“Charlie seemed like an OK guy. He definitely wasn’t as clean-cut as the stereotypical Georgetown student is,” she said. “There weren’t any red flags, though.”
A friend of Smith and Romano who asked not to be named described Smith as a bright student, adding that Smith was a “great kid, but very naive . thought he was indestructible.”
According to John Vandergruff (COL ’14), who lives on the ninth floor, the roommates were not outsiders.
“They were nice guys who made a bad decision,” he said.
Mark Berardi (COL ’14) said Smith and Romano were easily approachable.
“Even though they were stupid to do this to themselves, they were some of the most genuine, friendliest people I’ve met over the past couple months,” he said.
Kessler said that she was surprised to find out that Charlie could be behind the lab.
“I didn’t expect it from him. He looks like a little boy, like he’s 15,” she said.
A Long Island, N.Y. native, Romano kept mostly to himself, according to Maria Brzozowski (COL ’14), who was in his New Student Orientation group. “He was so quiet,” Brzozowski recalled.
She added that Romano intermittently disappeared from NSO activities, and that when in attendance, he was often listening to music.
Brzozowski said when news of the arrests first broke, she was surprised to learn Romano was involved. “Every third person at Georgetown is named John,” she said. It was only when someone referenced Romano’s NSO group that she realized who he was.
Another Harbin resident agreed with Brzozowksi’s impression. “He wasn’t as talkative [as Smith], so I didn’t really have much contact with him,” he said.
The resident added, “I think there was a lot of reason to suspect it would be John if you were just basing it off of his appearance.”
Harbin resident Kelly Baltazar, a friend of Smith and Romano, ran into her roommate in Sellinger Lounge on Saturday morning, and they began to talk for the first time in days. According to a blog post written by Baltazar’s roommate, Baltazar said – hours before major news sources reported that the drug lab was intended to produce DMT – that two students and a visiting friend had been trying to make DMT in their room, Harbin 926.
As for the odor that initially was said to have prompted the investigation, The Washington Post reported Tuesday that it may not have led to the discovery of the suspected DMT lab at all. According to the Post, Saturday’s search and arrests came after a student who had been approached outside of Harbin while smoking K2, a synthetic form of marijuana, led DPS officers to investigate Harbin 926.
Residents on the ninth floor said they did not smell anything suspicious around the time the student caller informed DPS of the strange odor.
“I have not met a single person on my floor who said they smelled anything,” a Harbin 9 resident said.
As of Monday, the university continued to say that the odor led to the investigation.
Harbin residents were permitted to re-enter their dorm after 6 p.m. Saturday evening, but it wasn’t until 8 p.m. that Baltazar returned to her room, according to her roommate’s blog. “She was crying because they took away her best friends and she was worried about them. `Skinny innocent C- in jail and easy-going J-. It’s not fair. I hate this school,'” the roommate wrote.
After 7 p.m. on Tuesday evening, Baltazar was arrested and led out of Harbin in handcuffs by MPD, according to university spokeswoman Julie Bataille. A search of Baltazar’s room minutes before had yielded marijuana.
Baltazar lives in Harbin 229, and is reportedly close to Smith. “I’d seen them hanging out,” a Harbin 9 resident said. “I saw them outside smoking hookah together.”
Baltazar’s arrest on Tuesday for possession with intent to distribute marijuana was not Baltazar’s first link to illicit substances. According to the DPS Baltazar was cited for possession of marijuana in September. Her roommate wrote on her blog that Baltazar had been suspended in high school for substance-related reasons. Baltazar’s Bronx, N.Y., high school, Riverdale Country School, declined to comment.
According to the blog kept by Baltazar’s roommate, Baltazar said her disciplinary history made her more cautious.