Authorities: Two-story meth lab was unusual, threatened neighbors

ndunn@newsobserver.comApril 28, 2014 

On Javelin Court south of Clayton, kids sometimes play near the house at the end of the street.

It’s the same home investigators say had methamphetamine labs on two floors, the same one that now has an “Unsafe” sign on the front door.

Earlier this month, sheriff’s deputies discovered the elaborate meth labs at 115 Javelin Court, in the home of Andrew and Ryanne Gardner. Both are charged with manufacturing meth.

The Gardners’ home, tucked into the Summerset Place neighborhood south of Clayton, sits at the end of a cul-de-sac, on a street with nearly a dozen mid-to-upscale homes. Capt. A.C. Fish, of the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office, said the lab’s location was unusual.

“Most of the time, they are in rundown homes,” Fish said. “This was a very nice house at one time; it’s not so nice anymore.”

The April 18 bust marked the second time authorities had visited the Gardner home in the past two months.

Deputies responded to a domestic disturbance call there on Feb. 25. When they arrived, they didn’t find a meth lab but did seize drug paraphernalia. Andrew, 34, and Ryanne, 32, were both arrested, said Tammy Amaon, public information officer for the sheriff’s office.

Neighbors say the Gardners have four children, who lived at the home until deputies came in February. Amaon said social workers removed the kids, who are living with their grandparents.

State Bureau of Investigation officials say children of meth users often suffer from neglect, physical abuse or sexual abuse. When parents crash after a meth high, they sleep for days at a time, and children often have to fend for themselves, the agency says.

After the couple’s arrest, the SBI sent a team to the Gardners’ home to gather evidence and collect hazardous materials, said agency spokeswoman Noelle Talley. Those materials are typically taken to a secure site for pickup and later destruction, she said.

But the Gardners’ home still has residual, hazardous materials that make it unlivable, said Larry Sullivan, head of Johnston County’s environmental health division.

Potent chemicals and dust can oftentimes seep into absorbent materials like carpet surfaces and drapes, Sullivan said. Contaminated air-conditioning systems, clothes and even children’s toys can also host residual materials from meth labs, he said.

The Gardners’ house will be deemed unsafe until it goes through a regulated decontamination process, Sullivan said.

“Part of it involves an assessment of what is there, determining what needs to be disposed of, what needs to be cleaned and what needs to be replaced,” he said. Then, the responsible party must take the appropriate steps to clean the home, he added.

Authorities discovered 22 meth labs in Johnston County in 2013, seven more than the prior year and the highest number recorded in the past decade, according to SBI data. Johnston County’s total number of meth busts that year ranked eighth.

This year, authorities have discovered 11 meth labs in Johnston County, ahead of last year’s pace, Talley said.

Fish said the number of meth lab discoveries fluctuates, and he added that the sheriff’s office has not seen an unusual increase in cases.

“We are tending to find smaller meth labs now,” Fish said, adding that some cooking operations are clearly intended for users, not mass production.

However, that doesn’t appear to be the case with the Gardners. “It’s obvious they were cooking a lot there,” Fish said.

Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104

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