Child burned at suspected meth lab

Officials investigate a suspected meth operation in Hoke County (Gilbert Baez)

February 3, 2011 9:13:31 PM PST
Sheriff Hubert Peterkin said Thursday his deputies raided a suspected meth operation near the Hoke/Cumberland County line where a 6-month-old child was burned.

Deputies charged the boy's grandmother, Michelle Lynn Tiller, 42, of 165 Watersplash Lane and Samuel Weatherford, 46, of the same address with four felony drug counts and one count each of child abuse.

The meth lab was discovered at the mobile home near Raeford Road (Highway 401) where the pair was living.

Four other suspects were also arrested at the Raeford Inn Hotel next to the mobile home.

Authorities said both properties are owned by the hotel owner who has been cooperative with police. The motel's owner told ABC11 that Weatherford moved into the home last October.

Peterkin said agents with the SBI went into the mobile home first because of the potential danger of the chemicals typically used to make methamphetamine.

"They have to go in and make sure they secure the scene and make sure that nothing is going to be dangerous - any explosions or anything like that," he explained.

Peterkin said his officers discovered the 6-month-old boy after hearing the piecing screams of the baby. He was suffering from what appeared to be second and third degree chemical burns.

"All of the people that do this don't wear gloves, so they could have been handling the chemicals and then handling the child," Peterkin said. "And to know they probably prolonged taking the child to the doctor to try and prevent any attention being brought on the actual facility over there."

The child was immediately taken to the hospital for treatment. Officials are not releasing his condition at this time.

The sheriff said Tiller was taking care of her grandson, while the child's mother was believed to be in South Carolina.

Both Weatherford and Tiller have been placed in jail under a $125,000 secured bond.

The other suspects; Ashley April Anne Goins, 20, Doris Chrinette Myers, 56, and Larry Andre Wiggins, 59, are all charged with one count of possession of drug paraphernalia.

Billy Ray Cummings, 26, is charged with one count of possession of one-half ounce or less of marijuana.

The sheriff said from indications it appeared the suspects were getting ready to ramp up production.

A neighbor told ABC11 he saw a lot of people going into and out of the mobile home.

Peterkin said a community "tip" led to the raid. He said he was not sure how long the home-made lab had been in operation, but said it was well hidden, in plain sight.

"That place was out there in the open," Peterkin said. "I mean who would think when you ride by there, there was a meth lab sitting beside Highway 401. So the reality is they do try and find ways to deter us. Do I think there is more in Hoke County, absolutely."

Authorities said the investigation had been ongoing for less than two weeks and other people may be arrested. The Hoke County Sheriff's Office was involved in the investigation along with Fayetteville and Cumberland County authorities.

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