Raid yields two meth labs in one house

Wednesday, April 21, 2004
Dressed in protective gear, Green Forest Police Sgt. Brad Handley and Carroll County Sheriff's Office Investigator Alan Hoos listened to last minute instructions from CCSO Investigator Ralph Gordon before entering a home where a meth lab operation was suspected. Two labs were confiscated and one man arrested in connection with the case. Photo by John Bailey

GREEN FOREST ---- Two more meth labs were confiscated and one person arrested last week by members of an "unofficial" task force comprised of all county law enforcement agencies and Alpena police.

"This was our first meth lab bust as a unit," said Green Forest's Sgt. Brad Handley.

According to Handley, the two labs were located at a residence northeast of Green Forest. One lab was on the back porch and the other in a trunk of a car parked in the driveway.

Handley said the Green Forest Police Department and Carroll County Sheriff's Office had been working together on a clandestine meth lab investigation when he and CCSO Investigator Jason Hunt went to a County Road 829 location on an unrelated case.

"We smelled a strong chemical odor emitting from the residence and met a 62-year-old disabled female on oxygen at the door," Handley recalled. "She was having difficulty breathing and standing. We had her step outside to sit and we called EMS."

While waiting for medics to arrive, Handley said the woman gave them consent to search for components of meth manufacturing.

"Located on the back porch was a sizable meth lab," Handley said. "At this point, we backed out and went to obtain a search warrant for the residence."

Upon their return, Handley said he and CCSO Investigator Alan Hoos suited up in protective gear to enter the home. Both he and Hoos had just completed a special training course that certified them as meth lab technicians. Previously, only CCSO Investigator Ralph Gordon was trained for testing and clean-up.

Handley said protective gear was worn to enter and ventilate the house, which could have been poisoned with phosphine, a deadly gas.

Once fumes were dispersed and air tests conducted, Handley said investigators could enter and begin their work.

"We collected several samples of chemicals and hazardous waste to send to the state crime lab," he said. "No arrests were made at that time."

However, an arrest warrant was issued for Jay Etchison, of Oak Grove, alleged to be the owner of the car where one of the meth labs was found.

"On April 16," Handley said, "officers from Eureka Springs, Green Forest and the CCSO went to a residence off of Hwy. 221 North to arrest Etchison for possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to manufacture meth. He ran out the back door of the residence and was pursued on foot. He was arrested without further incident."

Handley said the investigation is continuing, suspects have been interviewed and items collected for crime lab analysis, including items containing fingerprints.

"More arrests are expected," he said.

Etchison, 38, of Oak Grove, was booked into the Carroll County Jail, charged with alleged possession of drug paraphernalia.

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