Meth busts have occurred in three Northeast Tennessee counties since Friday, resulting in eight arrests and involving six children.
The most recent bust happened in Washington County on Tuesday when Washington County Sheriff’s Office investigators went to 429 Bill Jones Road in Jonesborough and discovered an active methamphetamine lab, finished meth, marijuana, firearms and a severed bear’s head. Three children were removed from the home.
Deputies charged Samuel McCoy Sanders III, 34, and Crystal Michelle Sanders, 29, both of the residence. According to a news release, officers went to the home in search of someone who was wanted on an outstanding warrant.
Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal said a pot of meth was cooking when the operation was busted Tuesday morning. A church was located across the road, and, because of that, Graybeal said he would try to pursue federal charges.
The bear head was discovered as the lab components were being removed from the home. The head was found outside. The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency was called to investigate the bear’s remains.
Several live animals also were recovered from the home, including a small dog, lizards, turtles and a boa constrictor.
Graybeal said the home was old and would have burned in a matter of minutes had the meth pot exploded or lithium strips removed from batteries gotten wet. Lithium strips were found on a table in the house. These strips are commonly used to cook meth, Graybeal said.
“Lithium strips on the table is pretty dangerous,” Graybeal said. “As you can see, that’s an old house. I talked to one of the firemen here, he said if it had caught on fire and blown up, you’d have had about 10 minutes to get out of that house.”
He said it was scary to think three children were in the home, as well as the two adults.
“I don’t know what it’s going to take for people to realize this is bad stuff, that they don’t need to mess with it,” Graybeal said.
The Department of Children’s Services came to the scene, and the children had to be decontaminated due to their exposure to meth.
The Sanderses were each charged with maintaining a dwelling where controlled substances are used and/or sold, possession of schedule II, IV and VI drugs for resale, initiation of the process to manufacture methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia, three counts of child neglect/endangerment and possession of a firearm in the commission of a dangerous felony. Samuel Sanders also was charged with tampering with evidence.
Meth operations were discovered this past Friday in Elizabethton and Mountain City.
In Elizabethton, a truck left standing in the middle of a parking lot with its engine running and its windshield wipers going attracted the attention of Carter County sheriff’s deputies, who determined it was a rolling meth lab. A sleeping passenger and the truck owner were arrested on methamphetamine manufacturing charges.
Lt. Dean Jones checked the suspicious pickup truck parked at a convenience store at 1033 Bristol Highway on Friday morning. Jones found a man sleeping on the passenger side of the truck who was sweating profusely.
The man, Brian Keith Hopson, 41, 557 Browns Branch Road, Hampton, reportedly told Jones “I don’t know how I got here.”
Jones found two bottles containing white- and peach-colored pills in the pocket of a jacket Hopson had been sitting on. A loaded .22-caliber pistol also was found in a pocket of the jacket. Hopson said he did not know where the weapon came from.
While inventorying the truck, deputies found a Mason jar in the passenger floor board filled with a liquid that had two distinct layers, red and clear. The liquid appeared to be a pill wash for methamphetamine manufacturing. Deputies also found a gallon jug of muriatic acid, a bottle of peroxide and a second Mason jar with a white residue.
Witnesses at the convenience store told Jones a woman had driven the truck into the parking lot, gotten out of the vehicle and left. Jones determined the owner of the truck was Tracy Lee Davis, 39, also of 557 Browns Branch Road.
Jones was able to reach Davis by phone and asked her to return to her truck. She was identified by the witness as the woman who had earlier abandoned the vehicle.
The Tennessee Meth Task Force was called to the scene to remove the potential biohazards and neutralize the toxic materials.
Both Hopson and Davis were arrested on charges of initiation of the process to manufacture methamphetamine. Hopson was also charged with possession of a gun by a convicted felon, possession of a controlled substance and possession of a legend drug. Both are scheduled to answer the charges in Sessions Court on April 9.
Also, three children were removed from a Mountain City residence and four people were arrested after authorities found a methamphetamine lab there, Johnson County Sheriff Mike Reece said.
Robert Courtner Jr., John D. Trivette and Hunter Atwood were charged with initiation of the process to manufacture methamphetamine, felony possession of drug paraphernalia and child abuse. Karen Fletcher was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.
Reece said Johnson County deputies and Mountain City police found the lab on Depot Street when officers were there looking for another person.
DCS was contacted to remove the three children.
The Mountain City Fire Department assisted with decontamination of the people involved, and the Tennessee Meth Task Force response truck also arrived to assist with the lab clean-up.
Staff Writer Rex Barber and Elizabethton Bureau Chief John Thompson contributed to this report.