Four Arrested, Three On Warrants After Lamont Meth Bust

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By Chris Earl

LAMONT, Iowa - Four months after a Buchanan County Sheriff's Office deputy noticed an unusual order outside of a camper, four people are in custody on felony meth charges with warrants issued to three more people.

On Thursday, the Sheriff's Office said two men and two women are in the county jail in Independence after a drug raid on August 20 in a camper near a house at 855 Prospect Street in Lamont.

Those in custody:
Booker J. Melver, 34, Arlington
Jessica Pirtle, 18, Lamont
John Burgess, 43, Manchester
Addie Craver, 35, Guttenberg

All are facing charges of manufacturing methamphetamine, a Class B felony in Iowa. Burgess and Craver are facing their second or subsequent charges on these offenses.

Law enforcement agents have issued warrants for three others:

Antony Pirtle, 41, Lamont
Zachary Pirtle, 21, Lamont
Matthew S. Davis, 35, Dundee

Deputy Cory Hartmann of the Buchanan County Sheriff's Office said this operation was not of a large scale. Yet this, once again, shows the concerns of meth labs in the region and how one deputy detected evidence inside just from the scent.

"For the general public, when they pick up on ether or smell any of those types of things, call your local law enforcement agency, they could be used in the manufacture of meth," said Hartmann.

In neighboring Fayette County, Sheriff Marty Fisher said that the meth labs are down from a peak about ten years ago but the recent trend is that they're returning in the area. His department knows about the concerns as, in late November, a meth lab bust on East Franklin Street led to felony drug charges against two people.

A report from the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement revealed 382 "clandestine laboratories seized" throughout the state in 2012. Black Hawk County had, by far, the largest number of these hidden labs discovered with 72.

Lt. Corbin Payne, of the Tri-County Drug Task Force and the Waterloo Police Department, acknowledged the battle drug agents are fighting through the region. He said smaller meth labs with the "one pot method" of making meth are prevalent.

"The small labs are easier to conceal in the garbage or, often times, thrown from vehicles into roadside ditches," Payne wrote via e-mail.

The consensus among all law enforcement officers interviewed for this report is that most of the meth use is taking place within the region and not being trafficked out in long distances.

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