February 12, 2009

Mobile Meth Lab Out Of Business

By Robin Scott

Reprinted with permission from the Dalhart Texan www.thedalharttexan.com

The intuition of a Hartley County Sheriff’s Deputy lead to shutting down the mobile meth lab of Donovan Michael Troutman of Memphis, MO. Mr. Troutman and two passengers were traveling from Arizona to Iowa in a 53-foot rig when Deputy Chanze Fowler pulled them over in a traffic stop. “I just knew something wasn’t right about that truck,” Deputy Fowler commented. Deputy Fowler’s intuition was correct and he is credited with putting a drug manufacturer out of business.

On Saturday, February 7th, on Highway 54 west of Dalhart, Deputy Fowler and K-9 officer Ellie, made the traffic stop that proved much more atrocious than the speeding violation that initiated the stop. Deputy Fowler stated, “Ellie alerted on the cab of the truck, she got very excited, and I knew there were going to be drugs.” When a certified narcotics detection dog alerts on a vehicle, there is probable cause to search that vehicle. Ellie was recently spotlighted in an article about the narcotics detections dogs in the Dallam/Hartley County area that work with law enforcement. She is one of three dogs currently on duty in the area.

Mr. Troutman, a white male, age 37, was arrested after a meth lab was discovered in the rig. Two passengers riding with Mr. Troutman were initially transported to the Hartley County precinct facility located on Texas Boulevard in Dalhart. A search at the scene rendered the ingredients for manufacturing meth-amphetamines, including a cooking pot, ether and Sudafed. Marijuana was also discovered along with numerous prescription medications.

The truck and trailer were moved to the Hartley County Barn on Highway 281. Sheriff Bruce Scott of Dallam County drove the rig to the barn. “I’m the only one with a CDL, but it’s been awhile since I drove one of these. This truck is very nice and pretty new” Sheriff Franky Scott of Hartley County was also at the scene and later at the barn to assist in the inventory of the items in the vehicle. Readily available in the passenger-side door pocket were policies and procedures for driving the truck. Detective Paul Rowell with the Dalhart Police Department noted that the first page of the notebook was the policies against using alcohol or drugs while driving.

Sheriff Franky Scott spoke with the owner of 5/D Express, Inc. of Keosauqua, Iowa who stated that Mr. Troutman owned the rig, but leased it to 5/D. He was concerned about the load in the trailer and was provided information on how to retrieve the load that belonged to him.

The couple traveling with Mr. Troutman was transported to the barn to pick up their personal items; however, after receiving information from law enforcement authorities in Iowa, it was discovered that Jeremiah John Bass, a white male, age 31, was known to have had past involvements with meth labs in Iowa. The other passenger, Amanda Lea Johnson, a white female, age 27, appeared to be coming off of a high on meth. All three of the suspects had admitted to using either methamphetamines or marijuana earlier that day. Whether or not Mr. Troutman will be charged with driving while under the influence is not yet known.

Mr. Troutman, Mr. Bass and Ms. Johnson were all transported to the Dallam/Hartley County Jail where they were fingerprinted, photographed and booked. They will each be formally charged on Monday, February 9th at their arraignments. Bonds have not been set at this time, but will be set upon arraignment. Deputy Fowler stated, “Mr. Troutman will likely be charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver as well as other drug related charges.”

Also assisting in the search and inventory of the contraband were Trooper Jacob Gamez with the Texas Department of Public Safety and Det. Rowell. Det. Rowell stated, “Meth labs are extremely dangerous because of the volatility of the chemicals used for manufacturing. They may use different things like ether, freon, white gasoline and propane.” He further stated that meth is a very popular drug and is known by several names, including crank, ice, snappy or glass. He also commented, “Meth labs are notorious for exploding and bursting into flames. Anyone near the lab could potentially be injured. That’s why it is so important to notify authorities if a lab is suspected.”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant drug with a high potential for abuse. Det. Rowell noted, “Some signs that a meth lab might be in a particular area are unusual strong odors, houses having their windows blacked out, lots of traffic in and out of a house, lots of trash that contains things like anti-freeze containers. Lantern fuel cans or drain cleaner.” Methamphetamine is a psycho stimulant and sympathomimetic drug in the family of phenylethylamines and permanently changes brain function with overuse.

At the time of the arrest of the suspects and search of the vehicle, Deputy Fowler stated he was not certain what the street value of the confiscated drugs were and wouldn’t know until the items were each weighed. “We did find all of the evidence of an intent to manufacture, sell and distribute.” Trooper Gamez and Deputy Fowler stated they would be conducting a video inventory as well as written log of all of the items in the vehicle.

Sheriff Franky Scott noted that Deputy Fowler has been involved with several high-profile cases recently. On January 16th he chased a criminal suspect who fled on foot and was able to apprehend and arrest the man. On February 3rd, he assisted in a high-speed chase where another individual fled on foot and was apprehended. On February 4th, he assisted in a second high-speed chase in the northwest quadrant of Hartley County. When asked about all of his involvement in the recent criminal activity Deputy Fowler noted, “I’m just out doing my job.”

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