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2013-04-11 / Front Page

Meth use hits home

BY KELLY TAYLOR-JEROME
News & Sports Editor * kjerome@mihomepaper.com * 810-245-9343

BAD AXE - Now that the first meth lab has been discovered in Bad Axe, local police believe it’s inevitable more will be found, and they’re getting ready for a battle.

Bad Axe City Police Chief David W. Rothe said he’s spoken with members of the Bay Area Narcotics Enforcement Team, who told him more drug dealers will get into the methamphetamine business now that there are people addicted to the drug in the area.

“(BAYANET members) told us now that we’ve got one meth lab, there’s going to be more popping up, and we’re going to have the crime associated with it,” Rothe said.

Members of the BAYANET HAZMAT team assisted Bad Axe Police and the Huron County Sheriff’s Office after officers found a meth lab while executing a search warrant at 215 W. Butler Street in Bad Axe.

“It was quite an eye opener for us,” Rothe said.

Since the meth lab was found, local police have been working to educate themselves about meth users, meth dealers and the crime that goes handin hand with the use of that drug.

To that effect, BAYANET will be teaching local police about the drug and how to combat it in a training session next month.

Rothe said meth is so addictive that users neglect every other aspect of their lives - their friends, their family, their jobs.

“Addicts live this stuff,” he said. “Their only goal from the time they wake up until the time they go to bed is to get their hands on meth and get high.”

In most cases, the addiction will cause the user to lose his or her job, Rothe said. And often, the addict alienates friends and family, and they are left without any income or way of getting money.

“At some point, that person has to get money to get their next hit. They’re going to sell anything, including their soul, to get their next hit,” he said.

Bad Axe City Police Det. Kevin Knoblock said it is very common for a meth addict to resort to stealing money or items to feed their need for the drug. When meth use goes up in an area, so does the crime rate.

Knoblock said increased crime isn’t the only danger associated with meth.

“It’s volatile. It can explode in a second. It can flat-out explode,” he said.

According to a statement written by R. Gil Kerlikowske, the director of National Drug Control Policy, there were 217 explosions or fires caused by meth labs in the United States in 2011.

In that report, Kerlikowske also states meth lab seizures have increased from 3,100 in 2007 to 6,400 in 2011.

Rothe is extremely concerned about the drug finding its way to the area.

“We can’t win this war. We’ve just got to hope to keep in in check. We’ve just got to try to slow it down,” he said.

So far, every meth-related incident handled by Bad Axe Police have involved only adults, but Rothe said parents need to watch their children for signs of meth use, especially if the children are known to experiment with other drugs.

Also, he said, friends and family need to watch out for the at-risk adults in their lives, as meth is an insidious drug.

“When you start using meth, you’ve put a limit on your lifespan,” he said.

Rothe said if someone suspects a loved one might be using meth, he encourages the person to try to convince the suspected addict to get help.

One telltale sign of meth use is multiple sores covering the arms and face. Rothe said people should visit the website Faces of Meth (www.facesofmeth.us), which shows before and after photos of meth users. Even those who had used meth for only a few months had red, scabby blotches on their faces. Those who had used for more than a year had aged dramatically.

Other signs of meth use include staying up for days at a time, irritability and weight loss.

If someone suspects a resident is cooking meth in their home, Rothe said it’s important to call the police at once.

Signs include strange smells coming from the house, discarded syringes and Gatorade bottles in the yard.

Knoblock said Gatorade bottles are used in the process of “cooking” the meth because the bottle’s plastic is thick enough to withstand the pressure that occurs during the chemical reaction. If a bottle has been used to cook meth, it often will have a crusty coating inside it.

If someone finds a suspicious Gatorade bottle or a syringe, Rothe said to call the police.

“I’d hate to see somebody get stuck by a needle. Let us handle it,” he said.

Two men arrested in connection with the meth lab found in February were bound over to circuit court Friday.

Ryan Scott Welshans, 30, of Bad Axe, will now be arraigned in circuit court on charges of maintaining a lab involving meth, maintaining or operating a meth lab within 500 feet of a specified place (such as a residence, school or place of worship), manufacturing meth and maintaining a drug house.

Ronald Matthew Hartman Jr, 33, of Bad Axe, faces similar charges. He was not charged with maintaining a drug house, but instead was charged with meth possession.

Both arraignments will take place on April 22.

A third man involved in the bust, Thomas Jared- Frederick Conley, 21, of Bad Axe, pleaded guilty to three charges of delivery with a controlled substance.

Conditions of his plea deal include he must testify truthfully against Welshans and Hartman.

The plea deal also stipulates Conley must pay full restitution and no further charges will be filed against him. His sentencing was set for May 13.

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