2014-03-05 / Front Page

Meth lab found in basement of Berkeley Springs home

Two arrested for making drug
Kate Shunney

Police arrested two Berkeley Springs residents for operating a clandestine lab to manufacture methamphetamine in the basement of a house along Martinsburg Road on Tuesday night. West Virginia State Police discovered the lab shortly after 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 4, when they were called to the 2000 block of Martinsburg Road for a domestic dispute in progress.

Trooper Samuel Smith arrested Jeremy Adam McCumbee, 31, and Trista Lynn Courtney, 25, following questioning and a search of the home, which is owned by McCumbee’s mother. Both McCumbee and Courtney live in the home.

According to a criminal complaint filed in Morgan County Magistrate Court, Trooper Smith was “familiar with McCumbee” from a previous arrest for public intoxication. At that time, McCumbee told police he was addicted to methamphetamine, Trooper Smith said in his report. Police indicated they had received information in the last several weeks that McCumbee was selling and using the drug.

When Trooper Smith questioned McCumbee about cooking methamphetamine in the residence, McCumbee told police he did have a clandestine lab, commonly known as a “shake and bake” lab, in the basement. He said Courtney had been present while he purchased the ingredients used to manufacture methamphetamine at various locations in Berkeley Springs.

After receiving written consent to search the home, Trooper Smith and Sgt. L.A. Faircloth of the State Police Special Response Team located a black plastic container, which McCumbee described as being the “lab” in which he cooked meth. Both Sgt. Faircloth and Trooper Smith are certified to search and identify clandestine laboratories. Samples were removed from the black container for further testing, police said. 

According to a statement from Courtney, taken by Cpl. V.E. Branham of the State Police, “she and McCumbee had been cooking methamphetamine for the past ‘couple’ months.” 

Both McCumbee and Courtney are being held at the Eastern Regional Jail in lieu of $20,000 cash-only bail. Their case in Magistrate Court has been assigned to Magistrate Greg Miller, but no hearing has been set in the case yet. Because the charge of operating a clandestine lab is a felony, the case will likely be moved to Morgan County Circuit Court. According to state law, the penalty for operating such a lab is 2-10 years in prison.

Jeremy MccumbeeJeremy MccumbeeTrista CourtneyTrista Courtney

Labs are a hazard

Sgt. Faircloth confirmed that meth labs are considered sources of hazardous material, and said the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Morgan County Health Department were both notified of the discover of the lab on Martinsburg Road.

Because of the dangers of the method used to “cook” meth, the West Virginia DEP and police agencies have received special training to respond to calls involving labs. Homes and hotel rooms used as meth labs typically require specialized cleaning before they are considered safe to be inhabited, according to law enforcement officials.

A “shake and bake” lab is a one-pot method of making small amounts of crystallized methamphetamine – a highly addictive synthetic stimulant that is injected, smoked or snorted by users. Among the ingredients and supplies needed to operate the labs are pseudoephedrine, found in over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines, plus camping fuel, lye, cold packs and other sources of ammonium nitrate, said Sgt. Faircloth. 

West Virginia State Police seized more than 500 of the labs in southern West Virginia in 2013. Efforts to combat the labs have included attempts to reduce access to pseudoephedrine, which is necessary to make the drug.

“The growing use of the one‐pot method increases the danger to law enforcement and civilians from explosions, fires, and exposure to dangerous chemicals. The shake and bake method is extremely dangerous. Authorities suggest that individuals who find discarded bottles containing an unknown mixture, leave them alone. Do not open them or pick them up,” the WVDEP Hazardous Emergency Response team advises in a publication about the labs. 

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Let's see if I have this

Let's see if I have this right. We have had only one case of this in Morgan County since I've lived here (over 25 years) and because of this we should make over the counter medications (you still have to sign for medications with pseudoephedrine in them) prescription only. That means all those that have allergies and depend on these medications will now have to go the doctor and pay for an office visit ($30-$100) in order to got these medications. Interestingly enough the biggest problems we have had in the Eastern Panhandle with drugs is heroin and prescription medications. So tell me how increasing the cost to the user of commonly used anti-allergy medications is going to help. John Talbert

Our shameless local reps to

Our shameless local reps to the House of Delegates -- Daryl Cowles and Larry Kump -- continue to mouth the line of Big Pharma and work to defeat legislation that even former Republican Mississippi Governor and Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour, conservative talk show host Hoppy Kercheval, and the state police all support -- legislation that would cripple the meth labs by putting pseudoephedrine on prescription while keeping the tamper resistant form available without prescription. For this alone, Cowles and Kump ought to be defeated in November. http://morgancountyusa.org/?p=845

Isn't it ironic that as this

Isn't it ironic that as this news was coming via Facebook, I was listening to the Judiciary Cmte of the House amend a bill that would've made this crime a lot harder to commit? SB6, which would've required a prescription for any cold medicine that's capable of being made into meth, was amended to the point that it's... well, pointless. Instead of the prescription requirement, the House bent to the will of the Attorney General (whose wife is a drug lobbyist, and until becoming AG was associated with the drug industry himself) and merely reduced the amount of pseudoephedrine (the active ingredient in those cold medicines)allowed to purchase in a year to about 10 boxes. This, after a Kentucky law enforcement officer testified that lowering the purchasing limit worked for a little while in his state, but then the cooks simply hired more "smurfs" (people hired to purchase pseudoephedrine). Especially now that there are two pseudoephedrine meds that would be exempt because they are "meth-resistant..." The landlady of this house is not going to be happy when she finds out it can cost up to $10,000 to properly clean a home of all the toxic residue that meth leaves behind.