Police find three meth labs

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 22, 2011

By Shelley Smith
SALISBURY — Authorities have charged a Salisbury man who they say was operating three meth labs in two counties. The first was found in the trunk of a Honda Accord. The second, inside a safe in the man’s home. And the third, at his girlfriend’s house in Charlotte.
Richard Lee Jones, 39, of 135 Hilltop Lane, was charged with possession with intent to sell methamphetamine, manufacturing methamphetamine, possession of precursor chemicals, maintaining a vehicle for controlled substances and possession of drug paraphernalia. After authorities searched his home, Jones was additionally charged with possession of precursors with intent to manufacture methamphetamine, maintaining a dwelling to keep and store drugs, possession with intent to manufacture, sell and deliver a schedule II controlled substance and two counts of trafficking in methamphetamine. Thursday night, he was in the Rowan County jail under a $250,000 bond.
The investigation began in March after the Mooresville Police Department contacted the sheriff’s office, and investigators began watching Jones, authorities said.
Later the sheriff’s office learned that Jones would be delivering methamphetamine somewhere in the Atwell community Wednesday night, and authorities spotted and stopped Jones, finding the mobile meth lab in his trunk.
Authorities took Jones’ car back to his Hilltop Lane home and secured the scene, watching it overnight until the SBI and waste removal teams arrived Thursday morning.
Thursday’s search of the home found another “box lab,” which authorities say is a mixture of household chemicals and medications in a two-liter bottle, inside a safe, along with 10 handguns, seven rifles, two assault rifles and three shotguns, 4 grams of finished methamphetamine, 200 milliliters of liquid methamphetamine and $400 cash.
Alisha Philemon, who lives across the street from Jones, said she’s very disturbed to know what’s been going on in her neighborhood, just 50 feet from where her two children play.
“We had no idea whatsoever,” she said. “That stuff could blow up at any minute and the fumes could harm us.”
Philemon said her husband, who grew up in the house where her family now lives, has known Jones for 15 or more years.
“It’s just weird,” she said. “You think you know him, but everything you thought wasn’t true. You never know who lives around you.”
Jones’ next-door neighbor, Christy Green, had only been living in the home for a short time, and had only met Jones a few times.
“We really had no suspicion whatsoever that anything was going on,” she said. “It was a real shock to come home last night, especially with the kids here.”
Green plans to take care of Jones’ dog, Casey, for the time being.
The lab in Charlotte was discovered Thursday morning at Jones’ girlfriend’s house on Nevin Road. The name of the girlfriend was not available, but she and Jones will face additional charges out of Charlotte.
Jones’ arrest was a joint effort between investigators from the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, Iredell County Sheriff’s Office, SBI, Mooresville Police Department and Salisbury Police Department.