Drug agents battle meth comeback

Three recently charged; several locations under investigation

By MITCHELL KLINE  Staff Writer  Tennessean August 1, 2008


 Drug Task Force agent Scott Jones lay still, hoping a man suspected of making methamphetamine wouldn't shine a handheld spotlight in his direction.

Jones and other task force agents had surrounded the home at 5854 Davis Hollow Road and were waiting for the right moment to reveal their presence. Tension built as team members, who had been hiding in the trees, crawled to the edge of the driveway and smelled a chemical odor that confirmed their suspicions that someone in the house had just finished cooking a batch of meth.

"As we were creeping up towards the house, making our approach, the dogs were barking and carrying on," Jones said. "He came out with a shotgun and a spotlight and we hit the ground. He was shining the light and hollering, 'Get 'em boys. Get 'em.' "

When the wanted man, Gregory A. Shaver, 39, went back inside, Jones and the team of law enforcement officers followed, displaying heavy firepower. They found lithium batteries, muriatic acid, camp fuel, drain opener and cold medicine ? telltale ingredients that combine to make meth.

Drug is making 'comeback'

Methamphetamine, a highly addictive drug that affects the central nervous system, is making a comeback in the area, according to Jones.

Jones said meth, a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that is taken orally, snorted, injected or smoked, is a "rural drug." He referred to it as "poor man's cocaine."

Shaver's bust occurred on April 2. Details about his arrest and those of two others accused of making meth in Williamson County were released in July after a grand jury issued indictments against them.

Jones said he's investigating six other locations where he believes meth is being manufactured, having gathered information about possible meth makers from informants, suspicious pharmacists and concerned citizens.

"We'll do everything in our power to keep meth out of this county and the 21st Judicial District," said Joey Kimble, director of the 21st Judicial District Drug Task Force, which covers Williamson, Lewis, Perry and Hickman counties.

Other charges levied

Shaver and Cynthia Murrell, 34, are charged with manufacturing meth in the home Murrell was renting in the Boston community. Both also were charged with two counts of child endangerment ? Jones said there were two children, ages 8 and 10, living with the couple.

Jones said he found evidence that Shaver and Murrell made meth at least three times by combining chemicals in plastic bottles.

Shaver, who was on parole from prison, was transferred from the Williamson County jail to a state penitentiary on April 15. Murrell was released from jail on May 17 after posting $5,000.

Barry Dale Watkins, 30, also was indicted for manufacturing meth and child endangerment. Jones said several pharmacists reported that Watkins was purchasing an unusual amount of cold medicine containing pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient in meth.

Watkins, whom Jones believes made meth at least nine times, was renting a home at the Motoroll Trailer Park on Carters Creek Pike and living with a 2-year-old boy. He is being held at the Williamson County jail with bail set at $100,000.

Jones said Murrell, Shaver and Watkins are suspected of selling some of the meth they made.

"Through the investigations of Shaver and Watkins we've been led to other individuals we are currently investigating," Jones said. "We're getting information on some others and are keeping a close watch."

Murrell and Shaver are scheduled to appear before a judge on Oct. 7. Watkins has a hearing date on Sept. 30.

Homes are quarantined

While their cases move through the court system, the owners of the homes they left behind are dealing with costly quarantines.

The production of meth involves combining household chemicals used to "cook" or extract ephedrine from cold or allergy medicine. The toxic byproducts and gases produced from this process can adhere to walls, clothing, furniture and other items.

Following state and federal laws, Jones filed notices that the homes had been quarantined with the county's Register of Deeds. The notice states that the homes shall remain under quarantine until the property is certified as safe for human use.

That's left the home Murrell was renting on Davis Hollow Road "worthless," according to Michael Holt, who spoke for his aunt, Precillar Holt, who owns the property.

"It's just crushed our family," Michael Holt said. "We've got a piece of property that we can't ever sell."

Holt said his family agreed to let Murrell stay in the home, paid her electric bill and even watched her children.

"It's a bad, bad situation," Michael Holt said. "I don't know what good can come out of this."

Holt said he is unsure what his family will do with the house.

Watkins was renting a home on lot nine at the Motoroll Trailer Park for $150 a week, according to William Sweeney, who manages the park and is engaged to the park's owner, Glenda Waller.

"We can't rent the property or even go in until we have a certified person come out and get it tested," Sweeney said.

The home is being torn down and will be replaced by a double-wide trailer. Sweeney said Waller would lose about $9,500 because of the quarantine. That includes the $5,500 Waller put into the home before Watkins moved in and the $4,000 the couple is paying to have the home demolished.

"I have no hard feelings towards him about it," Sweeney said. "I'm sure he must be an addict himself. I hate that it costs us that, but I'm not angry at (Watkins). I understand addiction."

Contact Mitchell Kline at 615-771-5417 or mkline@tennessean.com.