Child endangerment charge filed after large Carter Co. meth lab dump site found
Apr 1, 2013 at 3:49 PM
ELIZABETHTON — A man who is accused of being involved in one of the largest methamphetamine dump sites in recent Carter County history was arrested over the weekend on child endangerment and methamphetamine charges.
Lance Daniel Nidiffer, 33, 121 Riverbottom Road, was arrested on charges of aggravated child endangerment, promotion of methamphetamine manufacture and initiation of the process intended to result in the manufacture of methamphetamine. He is scheduled to answer the charges in Sessions Court on May 6.
The charges stem from the Carter County Sheriff's Department's discovery of a dump site at Nidiffer's residence on Riverbottom Road.
“It was definitely a big one,” Lt. Mike Little said. “There were more than 20 1-pot cooking bottles.” He said the garbage near the house also contained cold medicine packs that were used to provide the active ingredient, pseudoephedrine. Other items found in the garbage were empty cans of Coleman lantern fuel, cold packs containing ammonium nitrate and other items.
Little said the dump site was so large it required the department to call in four meth lab technicians to clean it up. The sheriff’s department normally uses only one or two meth lab technicians to clean up a dump site. Even with the extra manpower, Little said it took more than four hours to clean up the site.
Little said the discovery of the meth lab came about because the family of Heather Renee Stevens, 29, suspected that her boyfriend, Nidiffer, may have been hitting her.
Acting on the family’s concerns, deputies Michael Freeman and Sgt. Kenny Cornett went to 121 Riverbottom Road to investigate. Little said Stevens was at home and they found bruising on her that suggested she may have been the victim of domestic violence. While they were investigating, the deputies noticed a chemical smell in the home and received consent from Stevens to investigate.
As they went through the house, Little said they encountered “a heavy, heavy chemical odor,” and other indicators of meth manufacturing. As the odors got stronger, Little said the deputies backed out and contacted him and the department’s Special Operations Unit.
Little said the unit found numerous components commonly found at methamphetamine manufacturing operations. An outbuilding was found to contain a large amount of household garbage where most of the evidence was found.
Sgt. Harmon Duncan said during the Jan. 21 investigation that Nidiffer and others were cooking methamphetamine in her kitchen on Jan. 20 and had cooked meth in the house on numerous times in the past.
Duncan said Stevens told her during the search that Nidiffer had been living with her for a couple of months and had purchased cold medicine containing psuedoephedrine, a key ingredient in methamphetamine manufacture, for Nidiffer to cook the drug in her house.
Duncan said Stevens has two children under the age of 8. He observed toys, furniture, and children's clothing in the house. He said both children tested positive for methamphetamine by Jeff Street, Tri-Cities Diagnostics, an agency that performs such tests for the state Child Protective Services.
Evidence was found in the house and outside in the trash and garbage that meth manufacture had been going on for several weeks if not months, Duncan said.
Duncan said he was aware that Nidiffer had arrested on Dec. 28 by the Johnson City Police Department after the 1st Judicial District Drug Task Force had found a methamphetamine lab in a hotel room in Johnson City.
Also on Jan. 21, Nidiffer and two others, Jesse Taylor Timbs and Robyn Willis were arrested by the Newland, N.C., Police Department when a meth lab was found inside a vehicle parked in the Avery County Sheriff's Department parking lot. Duncan said Nidiffer confessed to Chief Jason Brown of the Newland Police Department that he had been cooking methamphetamine at the Riverbottom Road residence earlier that day.
Duncan and Deputy Nick Andes interviewed Nidiffer at the Avery County Jail on Feb. 1. He said Nidiffer admitted he had cooked meth on Riverbottom Road. Duncan said Nidiffer also admitted he had argued with Stevens on Jan. 19 and had left in her vehicle without her permission on Jan. 20. That was the vehicle found by the Newland Police to contain a meth lab.
Duncan said there is evidence that Stevens made purchases of psuedoephedrine in Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia and Pennsylvania.