Following a month-long investigation that included extensive surveillance work by members of the sheriff’s office Emergency Response Team (ERT), authorities arrested four suspects this week in a major methamphetamine lab operation.
The suspects — two men and two women — were arrested Tuesday on outstanding felony and misdemeanor warrants, according to Detective Cpl. Scott Briggs of the county’s narcotics task force.
The investigation centered around a house off of Lollar Branch Road near Stanton where investigators said the suspects allegedly were cooking substantial amounts of meth.
“Over the last 30 days we’ve been getting complaints from concerned citizens about a possible meth lab operation and narcotics activities there,” Briggs told The Missourian.
Briggs said the suspects had their own surveillance cameras trained on the road to watch out for law enforcement. The decision was made to use ERT officers to maintain surveillance of the property and track the habits of the suspects.
“We began surveillance on the home and identified four suspects,” Briggs said. “We were familiar with them from previous cases.”
The suspects arrested and held on outstanding charges are:
• Dylan D. Carter, 32, Crawford County, held on Crawford County charges of counterfeiting and possession of anhydrous ammonia.
• Crystal Haney, 23, Robertsville, held in Crawford County on charges of possession precursor chemical with intent to manufacture methamphetamine and manufacturing methamphetamine.
• Christopher Grant, 30, Stanton, held on a no-bond warrant for violating probation.
• Sandra Loughridge, 31, Stanton, held on a misdemeanor stealing charge.
Briggs said the suspects were connected with St. Louis gang members who pay people to purchase pills containing pseudoephedrine to get around the legal limits. They then sell them at inflated prices to meth cooks.
“They (local suspects) were getting 30 to 50 boxes (of pills) at a time,” Briggs said.
About 11 p.m. Monday, task force and ERT members set up a perimeter around the house on Lollar Branch and about 12:30 a.m. they detected a strong chemical odor in the area, Briggs said. A couple of hours later, the decision was made to raid the property and Loughridge was taken into custody, but Grant ran into a barn and refused to come out.
Briggs said Grant then set a fire inside the barn and climbed up to a loft area. As the fire grew, Grant jumped from the loft and was taken into custody by waiting officers.
Pursuit in Sullivan
The search then began for Carter and Haney, who were not at the Stanton home.
Briggs said about 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, Sullivan police observed the couple’s vehicle leaving a motel on the north I-44 outer road and began a pursuit. The chase crossed over I-44 and ended when the car crashed into a traffic light standard, Briggs said.
Carter attempted to flee on foot but was caught a short time later in the city park. Police found about 2 ounces of crushed pseudoephedrine tablet and about 2 ounces of methamphetamine inside a black bag Carter attempted to hide when he fled from officers, Briggs said. That evidence was turned over to the task force.
At the Lollar Branch house, investigators seized meth lab components and chemicals, Briggs said. They also seized an assault rifle and several handguns.
“The neighbors said they would shoot guns at all hours of the day and night,” Briggs said.
Task force investigators plan to seek state charges in order to hold the suspects in custody until the case can be reviewed by the U.S. attorney’s office for possible federal indictments, Briggs said.