UPDATE: New Bill Could Help Condemn Middleport Meth House

By: Lauren Schmoll Email
By: Lauren Schmoll Email

UPDATE 2/4/13 @ 6:10 p.m.
MIDDLEPORT, Ohio (WSAZ) -- When Middleport Police busted a couple with 11 meth labs in a mobile home in January, it was a big win. A dangerous situation was stopped in its tracks, and the home was deemed unlivable.

“It's like nothing the public would ever expect to see inside of a trailer,” Middleport Police Officer Shannon Smith said. “Inside of a residence at all.”

But that moment of victory quickly turned into frustration when building inspector Mike Hendrickson learned the home couldn't be condemned.

“Other states, West Virginia, they tear them down,” Hendrickson said. “They go in and just knock them down. And in Ohio, we just don't have the legislation in place yet.”

The suspects were back inside within 24 hours. The home's owner, James Wolfe, was stunned.

“I thought that they'd be in jail,” Wolfe said. “I never dreamed that they'd be back in it.”

By Monday, though, there was a ray of hope. A new piece of legislation is about to hit the Ohio Senate. It will allow building inspectors to condemn structures because of meth contamination -- something Hendrickson says is necessary to do his job.

“The main reason we're here in this office is to protect the people,” Hendrickson said. “And if you don't have the tools to do it, you feel like you're just drowning.”

It would also provide money to tear down those meth houses. The money would be seized from drug dealers.

“We'll be able to get rid of the eyesores for one thing,” Hendrickson said. “Because usually where there's a meth lab, the structures aren't in very good shape. And the safety factor for the kids.”

The bill also will create a registry of homes that have had meth labs found inside, mainly to protect future homeowners and tenants.

Neighbors WSAZ.com spoke with Monday wouldn't go on camera, but say they're relieved to hear the house could be condemned. They say they want it gone.

The landlord says the court paperwork has finally gone through for the eviction, and he's now working with police to enforce it.

For now, he is the one stuck with the cost of getting rid of the trailer.

There is some hope on his part that this bill will be passed and help out with those expenses.



UPDATE 1/14/13 @ 6:10 p.m.
MIDDLEPORT, Ohio (WSAZ) -- It has been a frustrating week for the building inspector in Middleport.

Last Wednesday, police busted a meth lab in a rental trailer. There were 11 active one-pot labs inside. Building inspector Michael Hendrickson initially condemned the building, but hours later found out there are no grounds for condemnation because of meth in the state of Ohio.

“I was amazed,” Hendrickson said. “I mean, I thought I could just come and condemn the structure. No, it wasn't within my ability.”

When the suspects were released from jail the next day, they moved back inside the trailer.

James Wolfe, owner of the trailer, says he cannot in good conscience let anyone else live there. The trailer is -- for all intent and purpose -- ruined. However, he also cannot get the suspects out to begin demolishing the structure. He has served them with a three-day notice, but now must wait for the eviction proceedings to go through, which could take several months.

“I thought that they'd be in jail,” Wolfe said. “I never dreamed that they'd be back in it.”

“That place is so contaminated,” Hendrickson said. “It is so contaminated, and there's nothing I can do. My hands are tied. I mean, I have no laws.”

He's also troubled by the fact that there is no registry of buildings where meth labs have been found.

“You can actually rent -- the very next day -- to a tenant and never disclose,” Hendrickson said.

Wolfe says he plans to destroy what's left of the trailer. But he can't even do that until eviction proceedings go through. On Monday, a WSAZ.com reporter saw someone leaving the mobile home.

“Landlords have no control over their properties,” Wolfe said.

The suspects, Ianzoe Herman and Sara Craig, are both charged with manufacturing and possession of meth. They'll be indicted at the next Meigs County grand jury, according to police.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



ORIGINAL STORY 1/9/13
MIDDLEPORT, Ohio (WSAZ) -- More than a dozen meth labs were found in less than eight hours in the village of Middleport.

The community is tackling its meth problem head on. While the village could be considered a small police department, they're really helping lead the charge against meth.

A third of Middleport's nine officers are what are known as "meth techs." They've undergone countless hours of training to help them deal with a problem that's growing in southeastern Ohio.

All that training was put to good use Wednesday morning when officers made busts at two homes and found more than a dozen one-pot labs.

Jeremy and Trish Manley live just feet away from the home where Middleport police found 11 meth labs.

"We lived right next door and had no idea," Jeremy Manley said.

Incredibly, this isn't the first meth lab bust they've been so close to. At their last home in Pomeroy, an active lab was discovered right next door.

"I don't want my family around it," Manley said. "I don't want to raise my boy around it. It's hard. It's hard because it's everywhere."

Jeremy and Trish have a 3-year-old son. They worry about him getting ahold of some of the meth-making materials.

"It's like nothing the public would ever expect to see inside of a trailer," Middleport Police Meth Tech Shannon Smith said. "Or inside of a residence at all."

Smith showed WSAZ.com the porch of the trailer next door to the Manleys.

"Liquid fire there ... that's typical to see in a methamphetamine lab," Smith said. "Also a lot of the plastic two liter bottles that you'll see -- here, the Gatorade bottles. The things that we look for a lot of the times are the psuedoephedrine packets here."

This home was condemned. It wasn't the only bust overnight.
At a house a few blocks away, police found several more meth labs thrown away with the garbage.

"They just leave this stuff out in the open for the local trash man or the local kid to stumble upon and kind of disregard the public safety all together," Smith said.

Despite the growing number of meth busts, Jeremy says he's comforted to know that Middleport Police are prepared to handle the problem.

"It does give me hope," Manley said. "And seeing this today ... It terrified me. But it gives me hope that there's another one down."

Something that often goes hand in hand with hope: inspiration.

Jeremy says he's so inspired by the actions of Middleport Police officers, he's enrolling in the police academy and hopes to one day make busts like this one.

His 3-year-old son also says he wants to be a police officer.

Three people were arrested in the busts. Their names haven't yet been released.


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