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UPDATE: Hamlin Pastor Forced Out after Lending Bus to Police for Meth Bust

By: WSAZ News Staff; Andrew Colegrove Email
By: WSAZ News Staff; Andrew Colegrove Email

UPDATE 9/11/13 @ 7 p.m.
HAMLIN, W.Va. (WSAZ/AP) -- A Lincoln County pastor is being forced out of his church job after allowing law enforcement officers to borrow the church's bus to catch meth lab operators.

Chris Wilkinson says he plans to resign as pastor of Morning Star Community Church in Hamlin.

"Emotionally it's rough,” Wilkinson said. “It's hard to walk away from."

Wilkinson says some church members were unhappy with his decision to let police use the bus.

The meth bust happened last Thursday night in Little Harts Creek.

Jeremy Maynard, Mark Vance, and Jeremy Collins were arrested, according to Lincoln Sheriff’s deputies.

Deputies said Maynard had an active shake-and-bake lab inside his house and tried to hide it from view, while Vance had meth-making supplies around his camper. Investigators said Collins helped Maynard and Vance make the drug.

Lincoln County Chief Sheriff's Deputy J.J. Napier says the church bus allowed officers to surprise the suspects.

Napier says as officers piled out of the church bus, the reaction from the suspects was, "Oh God, they've got me."

Napier says he believes the mayor did the Christian thing.

"It hurts my heart he was asked to resign because I asked him to use his church bus," Napier said. “That church has lost not only a valuable member, but an asset -- someone who has a heart, who wants to do the right thing."

Wilkinson, who is also Hamlin's mayor and police chief, says he has no regrets about lending the bus and would do it again.

“I believe when God closes one door, he'll open another one," Wilkinson said.

Sheriff's Deputies, West Virginia State Police and Hamlin Police officers combined efforts in the bust.

Wilkinson said he was surprised his decision upset his congregation, because he’d allowed State Police to use the bus in a meth bust a few months ago, and no complaints were made.

The church treasurer who called the pastor and asked him to resign didn't want to talk on camera, but she said she felt the use of the bus was inappropriate because if it had been damaged, the church's insurance wouldn't have covered it, and also because the church pays for the gas.

She also says attendance at the church has gone down significantly in recent years.

Wilkinson says he’s considering getting into youth ministry.



ORIGINAL STORY 9/6/13
LINCOLN COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Three men were arrested on meth-related charges following a bust Thursday night in Little Harts Creek, Lincoln County Sheriff's deputies say.

Jeremy Maynard, Mark Vance, and Jeremy Collins all were arrested.

Deputies say Maynard had an active shake-and-bake lab inside his house and tried to hide it from view.

Vance had meth-making supplies around his camper, and there was a strong chemical odor, deputies say. They say Collins helped the other two make the drug.

Several law enforcement officers arrived on-scene in a church bus, which was used as a surprise element, to set up the bust. Several police cruisers followed shortly after.

Sheriff's deputies, West Virginia State Police troopers and Hamlin Police officers combined efforts in the bust, which resulted from calls to the Sheriff's Department's Anonymous Tip Line.

Deputies say it's the first time they've used a church bus to stage a bust.


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