IPD busts #039;meth#039; lab

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 28, 2002

A West Ironton man was arrested early Wednesday morning and charged with the illegal manufacturing of drugs after local authorities raided his home.

Charles Hobart, 43, of 2012 N. Third Ave., is suspected of running Lawrence County's first methamphetamine lab. He was arraigned later in the morning by Ironton Municipal Judge Clark Collins, who set Hobart's bond at $100,000. Hobart's arrest came after neighbors called authorities about a strong odor that had allegedly been emanating from the suspect's home.

"This has been under investigation for a couple of weeks and came to fruition in the last couple of days," Lawrence County Prosecutor J. B. Collier Jr. said. "We were able to send someone in and that person was able to deal with him."

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Authorities say Hobart could face additional charges and others could be arrested in the future.

The Ironton Police Department, Lawrence County Sheriff's Office and the Ohio State Highway Patrol joined the prosecutor's office in the investigation and arrest.

Collier said because of the volatile nature of meth labs, local authorities requested assistance from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Ohio Clandestine Meth Lab Team. The Ironton Fire Department and Southeast Ohio Emergency Medical Services were on standby.

Capt. Chris Bowman, Ironton Police Department detective,

said the raid was structured so the suspect would not be making, or "cooking" the drugs at the time, thereby lessening the risk of explosion and reducing the danger to other residents in the area.

'This was a learning experience," Bowman said. "We have had training in this, but this is the county's first meth lab. I hope it's the last."

"What concerns us is, so far, we have been fortunate that we have not had to deal with this," Collier said. "It's an illicit narcotic, but it's also the manufacturing aspect, which presents a great danger to the community. We hope this is not some trend. We will prosecute this vigorously."

"We want to send a message that we will not put up with meth labs in our community," Bowman said. "We responded very quickly to this. Normally, a case like this would involve several months of investigation."

Lawrence County Sheriff Tim Sexton praised the cooperative effort of the agencies involved. He also urged people to turn in suspected meth lab operators.

"If people refer suspicious activity to us, we will investigate and we will hold those people responsible for the manufacturing of illegal drugs," he said

Methamphetamine, or meth, is a highly toxic, powerful central nervous system stimulant. Its street names include speed, ice, crystal, chalk, glass and crank.

Meth is a white, odorless, bitter-tasting powder that dissolves in water. It can be injected, snorted, smoked or "eaten" by placing it on food.

Meth users may exhibit signs of agitation, excited speech, decreased appetites, and increased levels of physical activity. Sudden and violent behavior, paranoia and hallucinations may also occur. Withdrawal from Meth produces severe depression.

Indicators of possible clandestine meth labs include strong odors like ether, ammonia, acetone; residences with windows blacked out; renters who will only pay in cash; excessive amounts of trash, including large amounts of antifreeze, drain cleaner and clear glass containers.

Meth presents a substantial risk when "cooking" the chemicals that produce the drug. Each pound of meth leaves behind five to six pounds of toxic waste and high concentrations of chemicals that can cause severe health problems including lung damage and burns to emergency responders entering the lab.

Lawrence County Drug Task Force investigator David Marcum said meth labs are a serious problem in the western part of the United States, and the problem has slowly worked its way eastward.