Fatal fire at Four Oaks meth lab highlights need for tougher law - WNCN: News, Weather

Fatal fire at Four Oaks meth lab highlights need for tougher laws

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FOUR OAKS, N.C. -

Across the state, police are busting more and more meth labs and say they need tougher laws to deal with meth makers.

This follows Saturday's fatal explosion and fire in a barn used as a meth lab off Highway 301 in Four Oaks.

Neighbors say they discovered they were living near a dangerous situation following the fire.

"They didn't come out and say it was a meth lab; we figured it by the way they were acting (that) there was something going on," said neighbor Kimberly Ellis.

When those living near the barn finally found out what caused the fire, it made some folks nervous.

"Considering it was this close to our house, it kind of puts me on edge about what's around here," said neighbor Cameron Ellis. "It was kind of scary."

When the fire first broke out, neighbors didn't realize the danger.

"We come running outside and this barn was up in flames," said Kimberly Ellis pointing to the burned out hulk just a few yards from her home.

Eventually word spread that there was something sinister in the barn behind the rental home on Highway 301.

"There were rumors going around that we were going to have to be evacuated and we were like, ‘why?'" said Kimberly. "They apparently had found something in there to evacuate us."

The meth lab in Four Oaks is typical of what police in North Carolina are finding these days: a well-hidden, low-yield operation.

"They're going to smaller, more mobile labs," Attorney General Roy Cooper told WNCN's Steve Sbraccia.  "It's called the one pot method."
 
Thinking back, neighbors say there were some signs something wasn't right at the barn which later blew up.

"We just noticed there were cars parked at the barn every so often," said Kimberly Ellis. "From what I was told when they rented the house, the barn was off limits to the people that had rented it; so there wasn't supposed to be anybody in there."

Across the state, police are busting more and more meth labs every year and say they need tougher laws to deal with meth makers.

"We're pushing a new law in the general assembly that provides for tougher sentences for people who make meth and also provides criminal charges for someone who has been convicted of maneuvering meth and has in their possession pseudoephedrine products," explained Attorney General Cooper.

Meanwhile the bill that will toughen up the meth lab laws has passed the house and is now waiting for a senate committee to take action.

In the meantime, investigators with the Johnston County Sheriff's Office are working to identify the victim found dead in the burned meth lab.

The body has been sent to the medical examiners office in Chapel Hill for identification.

Steve Sbraccia

Steve is an award-winning reporter for WNCN and former assistant professor. A seasoned professional, Steve is proud to call the Triangle home since 2005 after over two decades in Boston, Mass.  More>>

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