Jacksonville police arrested four suspects in connection with operating a meth lab after police learned suspects were buying a “suspicious” amount of materials used to manufacture the drug, according to a press release by Jacksonville Public Safety Spokeswoman Beth Purcell.
The four suspects face the same charges: three counts of possession and distribution of meth precursor and felony conspiracy.
The following suspects were charged: Steven A. Malpass, 48, and Christine Seymour, 36, both of 1547 Catherine Lake Road; Sybil Batchelor, 57, of 402 Hickory Road; and Jack Ames II, 32, of 106 Ash Street.
Update: Police seeing ‘more and more meth labs’
From left: Christine Seymour, Jack Ames II, Steven Malpass and Sybil Batchelor were arrested and charged with meth possession and conspiracy, among others, in connection with a meth lab operation in a garage on Ash Street, Jacksonville. Jacksonville police closed the street during the investigation Friday
Ames, who is held on $187,000 bond, also is charged with manufacturing meth and possession of a weapon of mass destruction. Police said meth labs house such volatile ingredients, which can catch fire or explode, explaining Ames’ weapon-of-mass-destruction charge.
Batchelor, Seymour and Malpass were held on $67,000 bond.
About 3 p.m. Thursday, Jacksonville Police Special Operations Division detectives received information from a confidential source that suspects were buying a “suspicious” amount of meth precursors and the tip included a description of the vehicle that had just left the store where the materials were sold, according to the press release.
Detectives located the vehicle at the intersection of Hickory Road and U.S. 258 and conducted a traffic stop. A search of the vehicle revealed precursor chemicals used to make meth, according to the press release.
The investigation led detectives to a residence at 106 Ash Street, where the garage was used to manufacture methamphetamine, according to the press release.
Jacksonville Police Lt. Ronnie Dorn, investigations supervisor, said Friday afternoon that evidence showed meth had been cooked in the garage previously, but there was not an active lab when officers showed up at the scene. Officers blocked the roadway and secured the area.
N.C. State Bureau of Investigation responded and was at the scene to “provide site safety,” along with Jacksonville Fire Department, Southwest Volunteer Fire Department and Onslow County Sheriff’s Department Narcotics Deputies, according to the press release.
Seventeen pit bulls were located in buildings on the property and one animal was chained inside of the garage.
Onslow County Animal Control removed the animals. The dog inside of the garage was sedated, removed by law enforcement officers and turned over to Animal Control for transport to their facility for decontamination and to monitor its health. Neither Bettis nor Dorn commented as to why the dogs were on the property Friday and Dorn said, “it would be speculation as to that part of it.”
Alan Davis, the director of Onslow County Animal Services, said the dogs were in fair condition, with good body weight, but he said they did have some skin problems. Davis said Friday that all the dogs are on “hold” status as Animal Control investigates who owns the dogs and whether it is safe for them to return home.
He said they have determined they belong to multiple owners and some belonged to residents of 106 Ash Street. He also said some of the dogs belong to someone living as far away as Fayetteville.
Once the animals were removed, an initial assessment of the crime scene determined that there was no immediate public safety concern. An SBI chemist was dispatched to process evidence at the site. The homeowner was notified of the bust.
On Thursday, residents of the neighborhood were participating in routine activities. Children were jumping on trampolines while others were grilling on the porch. Some residents sat in lawn chairs in their yards. Bettis said there was no immediate danger to the public, and investigators determined an evacuation was not necessary. Bettis said Friday that no one was injured.
This is the fourth meth lab dismantled within Jacksonville city limits this year.
“We’re seeing more and more meth labs,” Bettis said Friday.
Bettis encourages anyone who has any information about methamphetamine abuse to call the JPD at 910-455-400 or Crime Stoppers at 910-9383273. Callers can remain anonymous.
Dorn said even if callers are not sure about what they are seeing, he said to call it in.
“We’d much rather air on the side of caution,” he said, due to the toxicity and the instability of meth labs.
All four suspects remained in custody Friday at Onslow County Jail.