Police say mushroom lab didn’t sprout overnight

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
Police say the mushroom lab discovered Wednesday on Maupin Avenue may have been in operation for months or years.
And they are trying to determine if any of the mood-altering mushrooms were sold.
Police busted the lab Wednesday evening in the home of Charles Edward “Eddie” Earnhardt IV.
Deputy Chief Steve Whitley of the Salisbury Police Department described Earnhardt as a learned man, but a bit eccentric.
Earnhardt’s pharmacy degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill hangs on the wall near the lab.
Earnhardt, 53, remained Thursday at Rowan Regional Medical Center, where his condition had improved.
Police planned to confer with Rowan County District Attorney Bill Kenerly to decide what charges to file.
Police accustomed to methamphetamine labs weren’t sure what they had found on Maupin Avenue. Whitley described it as a fully equipped science lab, with manure and oats and other additives.
Whitley was struck by the stark difference between the outside and inside of Earnhardt’s house.
“Outside it looks like little suburbia ó a church mouse’s home. … It looked like crap on the inside, the stink … a mushroom lab,” Whitley said.
“Given the amount of stuff, the dozens of test tubes, the Mason jars, it was way above personal consumption. There was a lot of stuff there.”
Police say there is no danger to the neighbors but have taken steps to ensure the house is cleaned thoroughly.
Whitley said the city’s codes enforcement office and the Rowan County Health Department will clean up the house.
This is not the first time police have been to Earnhardt’s home.
In November 2007, he held authorities at bay for nearly an hour after a fight with a neighbor.
He fired several shots at the neighbor. When police responded, he refused to surrender.
He eventually surrendered and was placed under $100,000 bond on multiple charges, including possession of marijuana. Police seized several weapons and marijuana.
A month later, he was charged with intimidating a witness related to the earlier fracas.
According to the N.C. Department of Correction, Earnhardt received a suspended sentence in November 2008 with 60 months of probation.
Discovery of the mushroom lab came through a routine welfare check.
Earnhardt’s father had been unable to contact him for at least two days. When he went to his son’s home, he found the car there, along with several days’ worth of mail in the mailbox.
Unable to get a response, he called police, who went to the house with medical responders.