Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

September 19, 2012

6 area residents indicted on meth related charges

Tazewell County officials: Problem with the drug growing

By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

TAZEWELL, Va. — With six people indicted on 23 methamphetamine-related charges by the Tazewell County Grand Jury, law enforcement officials in Tazewell County said Tuesday that meth is a growing problem.

Richlands Police Chief F.L. Dorton said prescription drugs still account for the greatest portion of drug-related arrests but meth is becoming the new “drug of choice.”

“There has been an increase in meth labs,” Dorton said. “I don’t remember when the last active lab we had was, since the grand jury indictments are over a period of several months. It’s been increasing for the last two years. It just seems to be people’s drug of choice. We still have our problem with prescription medications. Meth seems to be on the increase and we are dealing more with it. Other counties have seen a problem with meth prior to us. I think it is slowly branching into Tazewell County.”

Dorton said chemical odors are the biggest indicators a meth lab might be in the area.

“Mostly it is shake-and-bake labs that are done in pop bottles,” Dorton said. “Odor is the biggest indicator. There is a strong chemical odor. They should contact the local police if they see any signs of meth abuse and let them know what they suspect.”

Major Harold Heatley with the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office said evidence of meth usage and meth labs have been found across the county.

“It is just by chance most of the people indicted were from one end of the county,” Heatley said. “We are seeing evidence in all sorts of different places throughout the county. It isn’t just on the county borders but in areas throughout the county. There is no area where meth is concentrated more than others. Mostly it is set up in someone’s house. We have found a few of these single-pot labs in backpacks.”

Heatley said law enforcement has been fortunate in that no large-scale labs have been uncovered in Tazewell County.

“Last year, we only worked 13 or 14 labs all in the shake-and-bake method,” Heatley said. “We have not had any large scale labs. It is all the one-pot method, not the older ‘red phosphorus’ or ‘red-p’ labs that involve explosive chemicals. It doesn’t seem to be as big a problem as it was last year. It is kind of hit and miss. We are not seeing it anywhere as much as our neighbors to the south in other Virginia counties and Tennessee are.”

According to Heatley, the public should report any signs of possible meth usage they see to police.

“Strong chemical odors and people asking other people to buy them cold medicine are often signs,” Heatley said.

“You have to sign to buy cold medicine now because of meth. People purchasing temporary ice packs from stores in large quantities can also be signs. We want people to report us this information. Do not go to the location on your own but let us handle it. Those locations can be very hazardous and should be left to police.”

Meth-related indictments made by the Tazewell County Grand Jury included:

• Mistie Dawn Hagerman, 33, of Bandy, Va., on charges of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine; manufacturing of methamphetamine; possession of two or more substances with intent to manufacture methamphetamine; and possession of methamphetamine; and failure to appear.

• James Allen Houchins, 46, of Cedar Bluff, Va., on charges of manufacturing of methamphetamine; possession of two or more substance with intent to manufacture methamphetamine; possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine; and driving a motor vehicle while a habitual offender, second or subsequent offense.

• Christopher Cody Lester, 19, of Richlands, Va., on charges of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine; manufacturing of methamphetamine possession of two or more substances with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine; and possession of methamphetamine.

• Goldia Elizabeth Plaster, 27, of Richlands, Va., on charges of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, manufacturing methamphetamine; possession of two or more substances with intent to manufacture methamphetamine; and possession of methamphetamine.

• Nathaniel Ryan Tatum, 32, of Jewell Ridge, Va., on charges of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine; manufacturing methamphetamine; possession of two or more substances with intent to manufacture methamphetamine; and possession of methamphetamine.

• Trampas Shawn Wingo, 36, of Bandy, Va., on charges of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, manufacturing of methamphetamine, possession of two or more substances with intent to manufacture methamphetamine, and possession of methamphetamine.

— Daily Telegraph Senior Report Greg Jordan contributed to this report.�