Meth lab found near local school

Published 8:31 pm Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Thomas Hardee

Thomas Hardee


A Chocowinity man has been arrested and charged with the production of methamphetamine, this time within 300 feet of Chocowinity Middle School.

Thomas James Hardee, of Walhurst Avenue, Chocowinity, was arrested Tuesday and charged with possession with intent to sell and deliver meth within 1,000 feet of a school, manufacturing meth, maintaining a dwelling to facilitate a drug activity and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office Drug Unit investigators working with a certified clandestine lab investigator with the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant on Hardee’s property, after a week of research and surveillance, according to a drug unit press release. There, officials found meth and the materials used to produce it, the release said.

According to Capt. Russell Davenport, head of the drug unit, the investigation proceeded quickly due to the toxic nature of meth production and the proximity of Hardee’s residence to the school.

“Three hundred feet away, you’re mixing chemicals together that are highly explosive. You’re mixing chemicals that are extremely toxic. The wind blow the right way, it could affect anyone at the school,” Davenport said.

Davenport said the local drug unit called on its Pitt County counterparts and its certified first responder to meth lab scenes to make sure proper measures were taken to reduce exposure to any toxicity.

“It’s really for our safety and everyone else’s safety—to make sure we do the correct procedures,” Davenport said. “That’s whey were in the process of getting all of our guys certified.”

With all meth cases, collection of chemicals and cleanup of meth labs is handled by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations.

According to the press release, investigators relied on surveillance and researching local pseudoephedrine purchases through the N-Plex tracking system to build their case.

Hardee was held at the Beaufort County Detention Center under no bond. In North Carolina, magistrates can deny bond to anyone arrested for meth production as a matter of public safety.