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Update: Elizabethton traffic stop led to JC meth arrest, 4 child endangerment charges

Staff Report • Feb 25, 2013 at 4:29 PM

A traffic stop in Elizabethton early Monday morning led to a one-pot meth lab find in a Johnson City public housing apartment, according to the 1st Judicial Drug Task Force director.

The apartment, at 801 Kentucky Ave., was briefly evacuated, but DTF Director Mike Adams said there was no indication the residence was being used as an active lab location.

Billy Ritter, 37, is charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, initiating the process for manufacturing methamphetamine, promotion of methamphetamine and four counts of child endangerment.

Adams said four children were in the apartment when Johnson City Police officers obtained permission from the resident — Ritter’s mother — to search the place.

Officers found the one-pot lab around 3 a.m. under a towel in a back bedroom. Ritter was also located there, Adams said.

“They pulled the towel off and it started cooking again,” Adams said.

He said he believes the meth had finished cooking, but had not been dried. The movement when officers removed the towel covering the bottle apparently re-initiated the cooking process, Adams said.

Meth makers use pseudoephederine from cold tablets and mix it with drain cleaner and lithium strips from batteries. When the lithium contacts the liquid, it creates a chemical reaction commonly called “cooking” the meth.

After the cooking is finished, meth makers use anhydrous ammonia to evaporate the liquid and the white residue left behind is meth, Adams said.

He said he thinks Ritter started the cook at another location, then arrived at his mother’s apartment.

“I believe he showed up and set it down before it had completely dried,” Adams said.

The children were unharmed and their respective mothers took them from the scene, he said.

Ritter was transported to the Washington County Detention Center and held on $71,000 bond. In addition to the drug charges, Ritter also now faces a failure to appear charge. He will be arraigned on the charges in Washington County Sessions Court on Tuesday.

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