And the award for the most "Shake and Bake" meth lab bottles recorvered goes to the - - the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office.
Eighty-two bottles used to manufacture illegal methamphetamine broke a record for the most “shake and bake” bottles seized in Tennessee when found Monday night at a Rockvale residence by Rutherford County Sheriff’s narcotics detectives.
Sheriff Robert Arnold said, “In my opinion, methamphetamine has become an epidemic in this state and a huge problem and a liability for the citizens of Rutherford County due to the fact that the state is running out of money for methamphetamine clean up. The responsibility of the clean up may fall back on the citizens of Rutherford County because methamphetamine producers are making this highly toxic and flammable narcotic that is destroying not only their lives but those of their family and friends.”
The methamphetamine produced in two-liter bottles in the “shake and bake” method was located by Detective Sgt. Tony Hall. The narcotics were already manufactured.
The illegal drug is made when pseudoephedrine, lithium batteries and other ingredients such as drain cleaner and camping fuel are mixed and shaken in a plastic bottle. Once dried, the mixture yields about 10 grams of methamphetamine that sells for $100 a gram.
Director Tommy Farmer of the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force said he didn’t know of a larger “shake and bake” seizure in Tennessee than the 82 bottles confiscated Monday. Tennessee ranked among the top three states in illegal methamphetamine production in the U.S. for the past seven years.
“We’ll be the meth capital of the U.S. ,” a distinction he doesn’t want, Farmer said, adding he expected more than 2,400 illegal labs this year in Tennessee . Since 2007, cleaning up 1,625 meth labs cost $70 million in Tennessee .
This was the fourth methamphetamine-related call by Sgt. Hall in three days in Rutherford County . The other calls included a two-liter bottle of discarded methamphetamine found Saturday on Halls Hill Pike, ingredients for producing meth found in a vehicle Sunday during a traffic stop and methamphetamine located in a small storage building Monday on Amerson Court off Old Woodbury Highway. Suspects have been tentatively identified.
Sheriff’s narcotics detectives have located nine illegal meth labs this year.
The investigation in Rockvale started when Sgt. Lee Young and Deputy Kenny Smith arrested suspect Stacy Lynn Brown on arrest warrants from Greene County , Tennessee .
“When they took him into custody, they found three grams of methamphetamine on his person,” Sgt. Hall said.
Rather than simply arrest Brown, Sgt. Young and Deputy Smith notified the narcotics detectives who obtained from Brown consent to search his home where investigators found an immediate chemical odor.
“In a quick sweep of the room, we identified one to two one-pot labs,” Sgt. Hall said. “We backed out for safety and airborne dangers.”
Detectives notified Robert Slatton, methamphetamine incident response specialist of the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force, who dismantled the operation, cleaned up the lab and disposed of the dangerous materials. Slatton also cleaned up the meth from two other calls during the weekend.
“As we were searching and removing the laboratory from the room, that’s when we found a total of 82 one-pot bottles along with other precursors to manufacture methamphetamine,” Sgt. Hall said. “Each two-liter cook is capable of producing about 10 grams, which is more than the typical user amount with that type of volume.”
Charges are pending against Brown, who is being held at Rutherford County Adult Detention Center .
One of the precursors of methamphetamine is pseudoephedrine, a drug commonly found in cold medicines. Because of the increase of meth production, Tennessee law now requires buyers to use driver’s licenses to buy the product from the pharmacy, who tracks the purchases.
Capt. Jason Mathis , who supervisors the sheriff’s Special Enforcement Bureau, said the past history of investigations showed methamphetamine cooks manufacture enough of the illegal drug for their own use to support their habit. They also produce enough of the illegal drug for “smurfers,” people who travel from store to store buying ephedrine.
Farmer said meth producers recruit unwitting senior citizens and pay college students needing extra money to buy ephedrine for them. Or the “smurfers” use fake driver’s licenses to buy the drugs so they can’t be tracked.
Capt. Mathis said producers use household items such as the cold medicine with ephedrine, empty two-liter bottles, drain cleaners, ammonia, Coleman fuel and coffee filters for filtering. Citizens who view these products together and suspect an illegal meth production should report the observations to the Sheriff’s Office at 898-7770. Producers mix lithium batteries with the household products.
“That’s especially dangerous because of the Coleman fuel and lithium, when exposed to other chemicals, reacts, causing a fire that will cause the fuel to ignite,” Capt. Mathis said. “It’s extremely flammable.”
Sgt. Hall said once the production is finished, the chemicals are still volatile and could release toxins.
Both Capt. Mathis and Sgt. Hall said the meth production could be dangerous for Rutherford County citizens who are unknowingly exposed to the dangerous drug.
“It actually attacks middle class families with cooks near their homes and garages and affects small children,” Capt. Mathis said, adding children whose families cook the illegal drug may expose other children and teachers at school.
Some producers toss out the two-liter bottles on the side of the road. People who spot such bottles with a residue of a powder or white residue or rubber tubing should not touch it but call the Sheriff’s Office. Parents should advise their children not to touch it or smell it.
“We have found numerous cases where meth cooks drive around while cooking because they feel safer,” Capt. Mathis said. “If there’s a failure, lithium moisture could cause a large flash fire, expose other people and cause severe burns.
Because of understaffing, the narcotics detectives cannot keep up with the demand of cases and enlisted citizens’ support to help. Anyone who suspects a meth operation is asked to call the detectives at 898-7770.
“Don’t take a chance of getting hurt or contaminated,” Sgt. Hall said.
Narcotics detectives throughout the state rely on the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force to clean up the hazardous materials and dispose of it safely.
“It’s a huge burden on the taxpayers,” Sgt. Hall said.
Capt. Mathis agreed.
“It’s such a drain on the Sheriff’s Office and the community because of the expense and overtime paid to officers who respond,” Capt. Mathis said. “Typically, we don’t ever recoup any of that money from the suspects.”
Above Photo: Common household items used to produce methamphetamine include Coleman fuel, drain cleaner and ammonia.
Public information officer
Rutherford County Sheriff's Office