2017-05-25 / Front Page

‘Rather large’ meth operation raided in Bad Axe

By Cindy Centofanti & Kelly Krager

Members of the Sanilac County Drug Task Force wear hazmat suits while removing a suspected methamphetamine lab from a home located at 316 Whitelam St. house. Three people were arrested when police arrived with a search warrant, which was authorized following a nearly two week investigation by the Bad Axe Police Office and the Huron County Sheriff’s Office. Another suspected was reportedly arrested when another raid was conducted early Friday afternoon. Members of the Sanilac County Drug Task Force wear hazmat suits while removing a suspected methamphetamine lab from a home located at 316 Whitelam St. house. Three people were arrested when police arrived with a search warrant, which was authorized following a nearly two week investigation by the Bad Axe Police Office and the Huron County Sheriff’s Office. Another suspected was reportedly arrested when another raid was conducted early Friday afternoon. BAD AXE – Four people were reportedly arrested and police are searching for a fifth after police executed two search warrants Friday in Bad Axe.

Early reports that one of the homes was a daycare center were incorrect, officers and a homeowner confirmed.

Bad Axe Police Chief David W. Rothe said three people who were inside the 316 Whitelam St. house were arrested when police arrived with a search warrant, which was authorized following a nearly two week investigation by his department and the Huron County Sheriff’s Office.

Officers protected by hazmat gear removed what appeared to be at least two two-liter plastic bottles containing chemicals actively producing methamphetamine late Friday morning, Rothe said.

A fourth suspect reportedly was arrested at a Bad Axe apartment, which also was searched in connection with the investigation.

The names of those arrested will not be released until charges are filed and the suspects have been arraigned in district court.

Sheriff Kelly J. Hanson said the drug was in the process of being “cooked” when officers raided the Whitelam Street home.  

After officers arrived, three children who live in the home were taken by their mother to the hospital to be tested for chemicals.

The children’s grandmother and the home’s owner sat on the steps of Sacred Heart Church- St. Hubert Parish across the street and watched while officers wearing bright protective coveralls, oxygen tanks and facemasks removed items the side door of her house. Kandi Kivel was repeatedly racked by tears as she discussed her troubled 21-year-old son, Jonathon Boyce, who was one of those arrested during the raid.

She said she had no idea her son was cooking an explosive poison in her home.

“I feel stupid,” she gasped, wiping her eyes. She said she had allowed Boyce to move into her basement last week when she discovered he was effectively homeless in the Mount Pleasant area.

“He’s had trouble all his life. I know it’s not an excuse, but I don’t know what to do. Now, he’s at that age, and I can’t do anymore for him,” she said.

Pastor Ean K. Green, of Community Wesleyan Church of Elkton, was on the scene to support and console Kivel. She has been attending the church and participating in its Celebrate Recovery program since last fall.

“You were loving your son. Every mother would do that,” Green said, handing her a handkerchief.

Kivel said the rest of the family did not enter the area where the suspected meth lab was located.

“He put blankets up, so we couldn’t go past the washer and dryer,” she said.

Kivel has not been charged with any crime, but she will be unable to return to her home until it is tested and cleared for deadly chemicals. Until then, her church will give her a place to stay.

“They said I might get lucky, and it’s just in the basement,” she said.

Kivel expressed frustration with early media reports stating that her home was a daycare center. She pointed to her yard, nearly covered with children’s outdoor play equipment and toys, and said she was planning a yard sale.

“I don’t have a daycare center,” she insisted.  

Rothe said he told members of the media that Kivel’s neighbors reported to police that the home contained a daycare center, but Kivel later told him it did not. The home is not registered with the state as a licensed daycare, according to information from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

The Huron County Sheriff’s Office and Bad Axe Police Department were on scene while the lab was dismantled by the Sanilac County Drug Task Force (DTF), which has the required protective equipment.

Hanson said the officer in charge of the Sanilac DTF told him the operation was “rather large,” compared to what the task force usually encounters in the Upper Thumb.

Kivel said three of her grandchildren, her daughter and her daughter’s husband live in the home.

The Huron County Prosecutor’s Office worked through the afternoon while the raid was being conducted to execute a neglect petition remove the children from the home, and the matter was appealed in Huron County Family Court Friday 2:30 p.m. The youngest child is 5, Huron County Prosecutor Timothy J. Rutkowski said.

Rutkowski said law enforcement raided a house on Butler Street in February 2012 and found meth-making materials that aided in the sentencing of three men. The bust was the first to uncover a meth lab in the city of Bad Axe.

Ryan Welshans, 35, was sentenced to six to 30 years in prison for several counts related to the bust, including delivery of meth and maintaining a meth lab near a home. The length of his sentence was increased by his criminal record, which includes fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct. He remains imprisoned with an earliest release date of Feb. 20, 2019.

Ronald Matthew Hartman Jr,  was sentenced to three years and six months for meth delivery, manufacturing meth and maintaining a meth lab near a home. He was released in August, 2016 and is currently assigned to report to the Saginaw County Parole Office with a supervision end date of Aug. 29.

Thomas Jared Frederick Conley, 25, was sentenced to 330 days in jail for two counts of delivery of a controlled substance and three years probation for a third count of the same charge. The Michigan Department of Corrections lists him as being on probation in Bad Axe.Rutkowski said multiple charges could be brought, but at the time, the suspects are facing operating or maintaining a meth lab, operating or maintaining a meth lab within 500 feet from a neighboring residence and operating or maintain a meth lab within 500 feet of a church.

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