Arrests made in meth lab case

PARKERSBURG – A meth lab discovered on Cypress Street Tuesday afternoon brings the two-week meth lab bust total in Parkersburg to three, officials said.

Officers with the West Virginia State Police arrived at 2615 Cypress St. in Parkersburg shortly after noon on Tuesday, said Lt. Greg Collins, coordinator for the Parkersburg Violent Crime and Narcotics Task Force.

Jeremy R. Buffington, 36, and Monica A. Thomas-Smith, 36, both of 2615 Cypress St., Parkersburg, were arrested on three felony charges each on Tuesday afternoon, Collins said.

Buffington and Thomas-Smith each face one felony charge of operating or attempting to operate a clandestine drug lab, one felony charge of conspiracy to operate or attempt to operate a clandestine drug lab and one felony charge of possession of precursors used for manufacturing drugs, Collins said.

Buffington and Thomas-Smith were arraigned in front of Wood County Magistrate Joyce Purkey on Tuesday night. Buffington was assigned $65,000 bond on each of his three felony charges for a total of $195,000, the same bond amount set for Thomas-Smith.

When troopers arrived at the Cypress Street residence, they noticed a chemical smell coming from within the home, Collins said.

When questioned, Buffington and Thomas-Smith allegedly admitted to having an active meth lab inside the home, Collins said.

The Parkersburg Violent Crime and Narcotics Task Force was summoned to assist in searching the home.

Officials discovered 21 clandestine drug laboratory vessels inside the home, Collins said. There also were items used in manufacturing meth, including empty packages of pseudoephedrine, drain opener, Coleman fuel, and cold ice packs, he said.

An unspecified amount of suspected methamphetamine also was allegedly found inside the home, Collins said.

Buffington and Thomas-Smith were medically evaluated, decontaminated and transported to the Wood County Holding Center to await arraignment, Collins said.

This is the fourth drug bust in Parkersburg since May 25, according to records. The Cypress Street case joins meth cases from Virginia Avenue and Mason Street in the past two weeks and a marijuana bust on Seventh Street rounds out the recent arrests.

A total of 11 drug-related arrests have been reported by the Parkersburg Police Department since May 23, records indicate.

The cases represented by the 11 arrests do not appear to be related, said Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin on Tuesday.

“This has all been the result of good police work and the public reporting suspicious activity,” Martin said.

When citizens have addiction issues, property crimes and theft can result when people run out of money to buy their drugs with, Martin said.

“We are trying to curtail the addiction problem as much as we can in Parkersburg,” Martin said. “We are trying to put the bad folks who are using, selling and making drugs in jail,” he said.

The Parkersburg Violent Crime and Narcotics Task Force is comprised of officers from the Parkersburg Police Department and deputies from the Wood County Sheriff’s Office, who combined forces to create the department approximately three months ago, Martin said.

The recent drug-related arrests can be attributed to getting the new Violent Crime and Narcotics Task Force on its feet, said Collins.

The new task force is combining new concepts and investigation methods with increased activity and involvement to put more pressure on drug users, Collins said.

One of the most recent drug-prevention concepts is a new way of looking at pseudoephedrine purchases in surrounding areas, Collins said. Records of these purchases make it easier for officers to develop suspects as possible meth users and makers, Collins said.

Many of the recent meth busts and arrests involve users who are using the “one pot shake and bake” method to create meth for their own personal habits or those of family members, Collins said. This method requires no heat and can be completed almost anywhere, Collins said.

Drug activity moves in cycles in our area, Collins said. Officials took out the bath salts problem several months ago, and as a response, the meth use came back, Collins said. Heroin and cocaine use in the area is up as well, he said.

“It is just the nature of addiction,” Collins said. “When we take out one, something else will take its place. Those who feel they need their drugs will find a way to get high,” he said.

Anyone who wishes to report suspected drug activity may do so by using the parkersburgpolice.com website, where tips can be left anonymously, Collins said. They may also call the department directly at 304-424-8444, he said.