Chocowinity meth bust biggest to date
Published 10:11 pm Friday, January 31, 2014
A Chocowinity home on Carrow Road was evacuated and searched Friday night after an anonymous tip alerted authorities to methamphetamine production. In addition to the suspects, five children, ages 6 to 14, were taken from the home during the evacuation.
According to Capt. Russell Davenport, head of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office drug unit, the tip came in earlier in the week when most of Beaufort County was shut down due to snow, but once surveillance started Friday, the presence of children in the home where meth was allegedly being produced prompted investigators to move quickly.
“We saw that there were five kids running in and out of the house,” Davenport said. “Once we saw there were children there, we acted quickly. … Not only is (meth production) dangerous to (the suspects), it’s a danger to the children.”
Once it was established that the homeowner, Donnie Lee Mayo Sr., was on probation, Davenport contacted probation officers to request a warrantless search of the property.
“We needed to do a search as soon as possible because of the kids,” Davenport explained.
He said Mayo initially denied investigators consent to search the home, but ultimately reversed his stance, copping to the presence of the drug.
“We immediately evacuated the house,” Davenport said.
The scene at 415 Carrow Road was brightly lit throughout the night as Chocowinity Fire/EMS, Beaufort County Emergency Management and Beaufort County Department of Social Services personnel arrived.
“Once (the children) were decontaminated, they were transported to Beaufort Vidant Hospital where they were evaluated, then were released to other, suitable, family members by the Department of Social Services,” Davenport said.
According to Davenport, the owner of the neighboring Tar Heel Variety Theater offered the use of one of his buildings to keep the children out of the cold during the decontamination process.
“The owner had no idea what was going on next door,” Davenport said, describing the neighbor as being extremely helpful.
In addition to remnants of meth labs located in garbage behind a barn on the property, inside the home owned by Mayo, investigators found two active meth labs–one in the oven, one in a bedroom–with substances known to make the drug scattered throughout the house, all of it easily accessible by the children.
Meth is produced with common household chemicals and pseudoephedrine–a mix that can be extremely volatile. In addition to the risk of explosions, nasal, lung and brain tissue can be irreparably harmed by breathing the toxic fumes that result from its production, while walls, flooring, furniture and air vents can absorb its toxicity, making the place where it is produced toxic, as well.
Dressed in Hazmat suits, agents with the North Carolina SBI meth task force went through the Carrow Road property, finding evidence of what Davenport described as the biggest meth bust Beaufort County has seen to date. The exact amount of the methamphetamine found in the house will not be released until all evidence is analyzed by the state lab.
Mayo, 38, and Gina Elizabeth Whaley, 34, were arrested by drug unit investigators and charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, possess/distribute meth precursors, maintaining a dwelling to manufacture a controlled substance and possession of methamphetamine. Investigators will pursue indicting Mayo and Whaley with child endangerment with the District Attorney’s Office. Mayo and Whaley were detained in the Beaufort County Detention Center under $100,000 secured bonds.