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News Authorities uncover meth lab at apartment complex

A meth lab was discovered in the Orchard View Apartment complex just below Macon Program for Progress Head Start, behind Kmart in Franklin. Photo by Davin Eldridge11 units evacuated due to chemical hazards

While responding to a complaint of suspicious activity last Thursday, officers with the Franklin Police Department discovered a laboratory used for manufacturing methamphetamines at a local apartment complex.

At approximately 4:45 p.m. officer Dwayne Cabe responded to a complaint of suspicious activity at building 400 of Orchard View Apartments on Orchard View Drive in Franklin. Upon his arrival, Cabe recovered a plastic bag containing several unused syringes in the parking lot.

During Cabe’s interview with a neighboring complainant, loud music was reportedly emanating from apartment 400 H, where the reported suspicious activity was coming from. According to the neighbor, the bag of syringes Cabe had recovered was dropped by 400 H occupant Kathy Dills Dukes, 51, earlier that day. At that time Sergeant Laurie Beegle and Officer Jeremy Beard arrived on scene.

After their interview, officers then approached 400 H and knocked on the door at which point the music reportedly stopped while officers heard the sounds of “scrambling feet.”

Once the door had been opened officers immediately detected a strong chemical smell coming from within the apartment. “We recognized the odor the moment we opened the door,” said Beegle. “We had a numbness of the tongue and burning eyes when we entered.”

Kathy Dills DukesLarry Jake Dills

Officers were then given permission to enter the apartment by Dukes, who along with other occupants reportedly told officers that they had burnt something earlier while they were cooking. Upon receiving permission to search the home, Beegle found what she believed were the components of a meth lab along with drug paraphernalia.

At that point Beegle exited the residence and contacted the Macon County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Unit for assistance. Lieutenant Brian Leopard arrived shortly after on behalf of the MCSO and determined that what Beegle had found was indeed a meth lab. Officers from both agencies then evacuated all 11 apartments in the apartment building due to the danger of chemical exposure.

The occupants reportedly used a new method of producing the drug called “shake and bake method,” in which manufacturers of the drug place all of the ingredients in a small container and periodically shake it to mix the ingredients. When the precursors found on the premises are mixed together, they create a hydrogen chloride gas to extract the drug from the shaken by-products.

“They were making enough to use,” said Leopard on Monday. “We don’t suspect that it was a production lab at this time, but there were some products readily available for use.” Leopard added that some samples of the drug had been taken to an SBI lab for further analysis.

It is unclear to authorities how long the meth lab had been in operation however it did take about eight hours to dismantle the lab and clean up the premises.

For several hours the tenants from the building were displaced, many of which were given rooms at the Franklin Motel for the night with the help of Macon County Emergency Services. The tenants were permitted to return to their homes the following day.

Steven George BlantonJames Bradley Vaughn

During that time, the State Bureau of Investigation’s hazardous material team arrived to dismantle the lab, with the help of a chemical clean up company from Knoxville, Tenn. Because FPD originally detected the presence of the lab, the agency paid approximately $3,000 for the Knoxville-based company to clean up the mess.

The following four individuals who were in the residence at the time of the seizure were arrested and held on $30,000 secured bonds:

Kathy Dills Dukes, 51, was charged with manufacturing, selling and possessing a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school, possession with intent to distribute an immediate precursor chemical, possession of drug paraphernalia and maintaining a dwelling for keeping and selling controlled substances.

Larry Jake Dills, 33, was charged with manufacturing, selling and possessing a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school, possession with intent to distribute an immediate precursor chemical and maintaining a dwelling for keeping and selling controlled substances.

James Bradley Vaughn, 36, was charged with manufacturing, selling and possessing a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school, possession with intent to distribute an immediate precursor chemical and maintaining a dwelling for keeping and selling controlled substances.

Steven George Blanton, 52, was charged with manufacturing, selling and possessing a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school, possession with intent to distribute an immediate precursor chemical and maintaining a dwelling for keeping and selling controlled substances.





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