Trooper finds suspected meth lab at lake cabin

Posted: Wednesday, December 11, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A Fish and Wildlife trooper stumbled across a suspected methamphetamine lab Sunday as he checked out a report of trespassing at a Harding Lake cabin.

Trooper James Burton, on patrol at nearby Birch Lake about 45 miles south of Fairbanks on the Richardson Highway, responded after the cabin owner reported there were two vehicles parked at the building. No one was supposed to be there, the owner told troopers.

When Burton arrived, only a red Ford truck was at the cabin. Burton said that when he knocked on the door, the lights were on but no one answered. He said he smelled an odor that was strong enough to feel like ''sticking an ice cube'' to his eyeballs. He recognized the odor as being commonly associated with a methamphetamine lab.

''To me, it smells like paint thinner and rubber cement,'' Burton said.

Burton said he knocked repeatedly a second time and saw shadows moving behind curtains, but, once again, no one answered. He then drove about 200 yards down the road to monitor traffic and wait for investigators from the statewide drug enforcement unit to arrive with a search warrant.

During his wait, the red Ford truck came down the road. Burton stopped the truck and arrested its two 18-year-old occupants on burglary charges, which were dismissed by the district attorney's office Monday. The driver, Timothy Dale Middleton of North Pole, also was cited for driving with an expired registration.

Trooper Sgt. Ron Wall, said investigators found what looked like a ''fairly large'' methamphetamine lab inside the living room and kitchen of the cabin, which is about 25 yards from the back side of the lake.

Wall said investigators removed highly toxic and flammable chemicals often found at suspected labs: red phosphorous, hydrochloric acid, toluene, acetone and ephedrine.

Samples will be sent to the statewide crime lab. Officials were at the cabin Sunday night and most of Monday.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough hazardous materials team disposed of the remaining material.

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