Officers find meth lab in Gaston - - Columbia, South Carolina

Officers find meth lab in Gaston

Gilbert Otto Johnson Gilbert Otto Johnson
David Carl Johnson David Carl Johnson
Scott Phillip Hill Scott Phillip Hill
Jacqueline Felder Johnson Jacqueline Felder Johnson

LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC (WIS) - The Lexington County Sheriff's Department confirms they have discovered a meth lab in Gaston. Sheriff James Metts says four arrests have been made so far.

Major John Allard with the Lexington County Sheriff's Department says the lab has been discovered off Transom Court near Mack Street.

Metts says they've been working undercover about six months in order to bust the lab in an investigation conducted by NET and the Gaston Police Department. Friday they got the search warrant, and Sheriff Metts says when they entered the home the fumes were so bad that it backed them out of the home.

In the home, they found a bathtub filled with a red phosphorus-based liquid as well as small quantities of meth.

Red phosphorus is a highly toxic and flammable chemical that easily can cause an explosion.

It was the largest red phosphorus-based methamphetamine laboratory ever found in Lexington County.

Metts said NET officers arrested Scott Phillip Hill, 30; David Carl Johnson, 42; Jacqueline Felder Johnson, 39 and Gilbert Otto Johnson, 46. Officers arrested Hill, David Johnson and Jacqueline Johnson for possessing methamphetamine. They arrested David, Jacqueline and Gilbert Johnson for trafficking in methamphetamine, manufacturing methamphetamine, child endangerment and unlawfully disposing of methamphetamine waste.  The suspects were being held Saturday at the Lexington County Detention Center awaiting a bond hearing.

The residence on Transom Court was not only a meth lab but was a home to a 15-year-old mentally disabled boy, who is related to the Johnsons.

NET officers took emergency protective custody of the 15-year-old boy and placed the boy in the care of the South Carolina Department of Social Services after finding that the boy and Jacqueline Johnson were at a friend's home on Mack Street, Metts said.

The state Department of Social Services is also investigating Jacqueline Johnson's employment at a child-care center in Gaston.  Her exposure to toxic chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamine could pose a health risk for children who she cared for at the child-care center.

Nearby, residents describe their street as quiet and peaceful, and also one that's filled with a lot of children.

Denise Sturkie lives two doors down from the bust, "We were shocked, literally shocked that it was a meth lab."

But also also counting their blessings, "Our kids are at stake here. It could have blown up and our kids could have been playing out in the street 'cause that's what they do."

As a parent, she's faced with a tough question, one that she never thought she'd have to answer, and one that's she's not sure how to answer. "How do you explain to your kids, 'Well guess what, there's a meth lab two doors down from you?'"

This was the first meth lab that NET officers have seized this year in Lexington County, Metts said. In 2006, NET officers seized 15 methamphetamine laboratories in Lexington County, while they seized 35 in 2005 and 41 in 2004.

The warning signs of meth labs include a strong chemical odor, metal chemical containers that are shaped in the form of a cylinder, large quantities of over-the-counter cold medications, lithium batteries, engine-starting fluid, paint thinner and glass containers, such as large pickle jars, that contain a clear liquid.

Citizens should exercise extreme caution and immediately contact law enforcement if they encounter a meth laboratory. Those who want to anonymously report illegal drug activity can call CrimeStoppers at 1-888-559-TIPS or call the NET Hotline at (803) 785-8411

Reported by Trey Paul

Updated by Jackie Faye

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