More meth labs seized in Roane over the last year

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By Damon Lawrence

Meth labs continue to proliferate in Roane County, despite state laws passed in recent years that were supposed to curb the problem.

“We’ve dealt with more labs than we care to deal with, but they’re there and we got to deal with them,” Roane County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Tim Phillips said.

Kristin Helm, a public information officer for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said complete statistics for 2012 were not available.

However, she did provide some statistics that showed there were 12 meth lab seizures in Roane County in 2011.

Through October of last year, there was 15.

The trend has continued in 2013. On Jan. 10 a lab was discovered at 100 Oaks Apartments near Rockwood.

Police said a 6-year-old girl and a 3-month-old boy were found in the apartment. Seven adults — identified as Christopher Lee Powers, Christopher Ryan Jenkins, Samuel Brock Johnson, Randella Lachelle Coffey, Ashley Crabtree, Tiffany Johnson and Nancy Johnson — face drug and child abuse charges in connection with the lab.

On Jan. 11, police said they went to the home of Kenneth Messimer in Philadelphia on a sex offender compliance check and found him making meth.

Two male children, ages 12 and 8, were in the home. Messimer, his wife Ruby and Kenneth Gibson face drug and child abuse charges in connection with that lab.

Shawna Cofer, Ryan Powers and Roy Potter face drug charges in connection with a lab that was discovered on Black Jack Road near Rockwood on Jan. 5.

Phillips said having pseudoephedrine is essential for making meth.

“If you don’t have that, you can’t follow through with the process,” he said.

Pseudoephedrine is found in many common cold medicines, such as Advil Cold and Sinus, Claritin-D, Mucinex
D and Sudafed.

In 2011, the Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation that put into use a real-time, electronic tracking system known as the National Precursor Log Exchange, or NPLEx for short.

The goal of the legislation was to limit the amount of pseudoephedrine products that could be purchased by individuals.

“Making it hard to get is one thing, but there’s ways to circumvent that,” Phillips said.

A report released this month by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury found meth production continues in Tennessee, despite the new law.

“Law enforcement officials in Tennessee and nationally attribute the increase in methamphetamine lab incidents to the ability of producers to work around precursor control polices,” the comptroller’s office said.

While electronic tracking can limit the amount of pseudoephedrine products people can buy, the report found the law can be ineffective when meth violators recruit groups of individuals to make purchases.

“It’s almost like the pill mills,” Phillips said. “You know how you’d have a ringleader, get 10 people to go to the pain clinic and pay for everything up front.

“It’s the same thing. They’re just doing it with pseudoephedrine, and that’s how you get around it.”