Robert Dewayne Bice, 37, of Jasper and Elena Bookout, 24, of Cordova were arrested after Cordova police officer Keith Concord responded to complaints about the strong odor and traced its source to Bookout’s residence at 439 Stewart Street.
“It would burn your eyes,” said Cordova Police Chief Kenneth Bobo about the fumes from the residence where the illegal drug was allegedly being cooked. “It was hard to breath.”
The suspects are both charged with first-degree manufacturing of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) and possession of drug paraphernalia. They are being held at the Walker County Jail on a bond of $1.5 million each.
Bobo said the suspects’ bond was set at the maximum amount allowed by law because of the many people endangered by the laboratory. Meth labs typically use substances so volatile they are capable of causing deadly explosions.
“We just felt like this was such a danger to our community,” Bobo said. “We had to do a small evacuation right there to get some of the surrounding neighbors out of their residences and have some (residents) ventilate their homes.”
Bobo added that because of last week’s heat and humidity, many residents were running their air conditioners, which he said were “sucking these fumes into their residences.” He also said the neighborhood is characterized by shotgun houses originally built by the local cotton mill. Therefore, it contains many citizens living together in close proximity.
“All these houses are about 25, 30 feet apart,” he said. “This one lab affected the whole community and put the whole community at risk. It was a very dangerous situation.”
Both the heat and the neighborhood’s high density contributed to Bice and Bookout being caught. Bobo said several concerned citizens alerted police to the smell.
“It’s pretty much impossible to make the stuff here and not get caught,” Bobo said. “If you make (meth) here, we’re going to get calls on it. We’re fortunate to have residents who will call us and let us know so we can get this out of our community.”
Bobo said Bice has previous arrests for making meth. Bobo said the last time Bice was arrested for the charge was near the beginning of the year. Bobo said this also contributed to the high-cost bond ordered for the suspects.
“Mr. Bice has been doing this for several years now,” said Bobo who added that the felon who resides at 5367 Arkadelphia Road in Jasper was in possession of a 380 automatic pistol at the time of his arrest. Federal law prohibits those found guilty of committing felony crimes from ever possessing firearms or ammunition.
The chemicals found at Bookout’s residence have been transported to a hazardous materials center.
Bobo said during his two-year tenure, Cordova police have busted five meth labs in the city.
The street value of methamphetamine is about $100 per gram, according to Bobo who said meth can be made for about $10 to $16 per gram.
Bobo said he believes this is why many meth users make their own drugs.
“We’re seeing a lot of folks who we’ve arrested back in the earlier days for possession who now we are arresting for manufacturing,” he said.