An Oak Ridge woman who lives at an apartment raided by police on Wednesday admitted that she and a man who also lives at the home were using methamphetamine laboratory components, including chemicals and pseudoephedrine powder, to make meth there, authorities said.
Besides the chemicals and pseudoephedrine, officers also found gas generators, hoses, and what they described as bi-layer liquids, according to arrest warrants. Police described those items as meth lab components. They were allegedly found inside Apartment C at 197 Tusculum Drive during a Wednesday evening search, according to the warrants, which were filed by Simon Byrne of the Seventh District Crime Task Force.
After she was read her Miranda rights, apartment resident Kimberly Welch, 48, told police that she and Raynell Hopson, 47, who also lives in the apartment, were using the equipment to make meth, Byrne said.
Welch and Hopson have each been charged with the initiation of meth manufacturing, possession of drug paraphernalia, and the manufacture/delivery/sale of Schedule II drugs.
The alleged meth lab was within 1,000 feet of La Petite Academy on Tulsa Road, a drug-free school zone, so there could be a school zone enhancement to the charges, which would be applied at sentencing if Welch or Hopson are convicted, said Russell Barker, director of the Seventh District Crime Task Force.
After an initial inspection, the Seventh District Crime Task Force determined the apartment was an active meth lab at about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. Barker said the Crime Task Force had been investigating narcotics trafficking at the home and that led to a search warrant, which was executed Wednesday.
During the search, officers found digital scales with residue, pieces of straws with residue, baggie corners with residue, and drug pipes, Byrne said in the warrants.
“These items are consistent with items used to weigh and package drugs for sale and ingest drugs,” Byrne said.
Hopson was also charged with driving on a revoked license.
A third person, a man who also has an address listed at the apartment, was charged with having legend drugs without a prescription. Richard Henry Stein, 57, told police that pills in a a large pill bottle that contained suspected Gabapentin were his and that he “took them off someone earlier in the day,” Byrne said. The pill bottle was allegedly found in the back pocket of the front passenger seat of a car that was outside the apartment and examined by Anderson County Sheriff’s Department Corporal Rick Coley and his police dog.
“The K-9 gave a trained response to the odor of illegal narcotics in the vehicle,” Byrne said.
On Wednesday, three members of the Crime Task Force first checked the apartment home wearing hazardous materials suits and breathing oxygen. After they determined it was an active meth lab, they went back in, still wearing their suits and using oxygen tanks, to remove what Barker described as meth lab materials and trash left from cooking meth. Officers also found finished product, Barker said, although he didn’t have information on how much. The warrants don’t give an amount either.
Officers collected the meth lab-related materials in front of the home on a blue tarp. Wearing gloves, boots, and sometimes using breathing masks with eye shields, they also placed some items in plastic five-gallon buckets.
Welch and Hopson were decontaminated, according to authorities, and taken to jail in white Tyvek suits at about 7:45 p.m. Wednesday.
The Seventh District Crime Task Force is comprised of officers from Oak Ridge, Clinton, Anderson County, Oliver Springs, and Rocky Top, which have combined narcotics officers.
Barker said meth labs pose a variety of hazards, including the dangers from toxins, potential fires and explosions, and the criminal element they attract. The Tusculum Drive home, a rental unit, will probably be quarantined, Barker said. The other apartments have been deemed safe because of firewalls and because they don’t share attic space.
A Tennessee Meth and Pharmaceutical Task Force pickup truck and trailer were at the scene on Wednesday. So were the Seventh District Crime Task Force, the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department, the Oak Ridge Police Department, and the Oak Ridge Fire Department. The ORFD brought a hazardous materials truck and helped the Seventh District Crime Task Force members get in and out of their hazmat suits.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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