Five adults face numerous charges and five children were removed from a mobile home on Highland Avenue in Lenoir City after local law enforcement discovered an active meth lab.
The single-wide trailer was littered with trash and old food, according to Brendan DeBoer with the Ninth Judicial District Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force. DeBoer reported there were as many as seven children in those conditions at various times.
"(It was) basically unlivable conditions that these children were exposed to," DeBoer wrote in his report.
Agents found shake bottles, coffee filters, muriatic acid, aluminum foil, lithium batteries, Red Devil lye, camp fuel, pseudoephedrine pills and other materials used to manufacture methamphetamine. Two of the children were found in the room where the meth lab was discovered.
The residence belonged to, or was rented by, Gwendlyn Sue Heiple, 53, of Lenoir City. "Heiple admitted to manufacturing meth in the house with these children present," DeBoer wrote in his report.
Melinda Sue Towle, 26, of Loudon, and Patrick Wayne Norris, 32, of Madisonville, were in the room where the meth lab was discovered. James Richard Orr Jr., 19, of Lenoir City, was in the residence at the time of the search and was in possession of two hypodermic needles. Bryan Howard Clark, 19, Lenoir City, was also present during the search.
"Clark was a little reluctant to comply with orders given by law enforcement during the entry into the house. He was detained and removed from the residence," DeBoer wrote.
A metal container, which tested positive for methamphetamine, was found in Clark's pants pocket during a search. "Clark admitted to being involved in the manufacturing of meth," according to DeBoer.
The Tennessee Department of Children's Services was contacted immediately, and the children were removed from the home.
"It is heartbreaking to see children who are put in these situations," Russell Johnson, district attorney general, said. "I am proud of the work everyone did to quickly extract those children from that environment."
Heiple was charged with aggravated child abuse/neglect, two counts of possession of a Schedule II substance, possession of a Schedule IV substance and possession of drug paraphernalia and held without bond.
Towle and Norris were charged with aggravated child abuse/neglect and held without bond. Orr was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and held without bond.
Clark was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia (felony), possession of a Schedule II substance and aggravated child abuse/neglect and held without bond.
"If not for these pain clinics, I think meth would be the No. 1 problem," Lenoir City Police Officer Kevin Condee said Friday afternoon. "I think it just gets overshadowed by the prescription drug problem."
He said he believed the law enacted last July, which required a database of those buying pseudoephedrine, helped alleviate the meth problem for a time, but those interested in making meth have found ways around it by using other people to purchase the over-the-counter drug.
Loudon Police Sgt. Bill Evans said officers find illegal prescription drugs are more prevalent locally.
"Obviously, meth is still there, and we're still seeing it," he said, but not like four or five years ago. "Over the last few years, the prescription drugs have overshadowed meth. Pills are an epidemic."
Officers still see marijuana, cocaine and even heroine being sold in the local community, Evans said.
He explained that methamphetamine production is monitored locally by having agents at certain pharmacies keep an eye out for "smurfs" - people who are buying pseudoephedrine for the purpose of producing meth.