Meth lab found after routine traffic stop

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Tonya Lee Hicks

A Hampton woman is facing drug charges after Carter County Sheriff’s Department officers reported finding an active meth lab in the bed of her vehicle.

Tonya Hicks, 29, 100 Sheets Road, Hampton, was arrested Monday by CCSD Deputy David Caldwell and charged with Schedule II drug violations, unlawful drug paraphernalia and driving while revoked.

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The incident started Monday afternoon when Caldwell was in Hampton for another call and noticed Hicks driving past. Caldwell wrote in the arrest report he knew her license was revoked so he followed her to the Dollar General Store where she stopped.

Hicks was initially placed under arrest for driving on a revoked license. The store manager requested the car be towed, and when officers were conducting a vehicle log, Caldwell said he uncovered several Oxycodone pills and needles in Hicks’ purse and a trash bag containing materials used to make methamphetamine.

Caldwell called the CCSD Narcotics Division who arrived at the store and continued searching the vehicle.

CCSD Investigator Harmon Duncan reported finding two “gasser” bottles, a “one-pot” meth lab, coffee filters with residue, an empty salt container and a bag containing ammonium nitrate.

“The Tennessee Meth Task Force assisted in processing this clandestine meth lab, where the cook bottle was still active with lithium reaction and the gasser bottle still in reaction,” Duncan reported.

Meth lab technicians determined the “cook” had been made within 24-48 hours prior to the traffic stop, he added.

Duncan interviewed Hicks at the scene, he said, and she reportedly denied knowing the trash bag with the meth lab was in her vehicle. She admitted to having the pills and paraphernalia found by Caldwell, Duncan said.

Duncan talked with Hicks again at the Carter County Jail. He reported she told him on Saturday, May 15, she went to Bristol to meet a man named “Kevin” to buy drugs. She met him at a convenience store in Bristol before traveling to another store where he dropped her off and took her truck for around 45 minutes. He then returned “with an unknown female talking about ‘gravel’ and did not have her marijuana,” Duncan said.

On Sunday night, Hicks reportedly told Duncan she again attempted to buy marijuana from a home in Elizabethton. She parked her truck at the end of the road where a friend’s house was located, but could not find the person selling the marijuana, Duncan wrote in the report.

“As a result of information obtained in the later interview with Hicks, it is my belief at this time that it is quite possible that she did not know a meth lab was in her truck,” Duncan wrote. “While no meth charges are being placed by me at this time, I will speak with Hicks to continue this interview in an attempt to identify suspects, or will charge her if information given by her is found to be wrongful. Further investigation will determine if meth charges will be placed on Tonya Hicks.”