Peabody couple charged with producing meth

Staff reporter

The house and sheds look like any structures in any neighborhood in Marion County.

Unbeknownst to neighbors, behind the doors and windows a toxic and potentially explosive batch of drugs is brewing.

For the past several years, law enforcement officers have been waiting for an opportunity to seize and end a methamphetamine lab in Peabody.

And on Jan. 29, it happened.

Marion County Sheriff, Peabody Police, and Marion Police departments executed a search warrant at 7:23 p.m. at 907 Locust, Peabody.

According to Marion County Sheriff Lee Becker, officers breached or forced their way into the front door of the residence and arrested David Orcutt, 54, and his wife, Debbie Orcutt, 55.

During the search, two active "cooks" were found in two outbuildings adjacent to the residence which identified two actual meth labs.

Officers worked through the night to process the scene.

Shortly after midnight, Peabody EMS and Peabody Fire Department were paged to the scene to standby as officers processed the lab.

A hazardous material unit was on scene to inspect the house and dispose of hazardous materials.

The search and seizure ended at about 4 a.m. Jan. 30.

The Orcutts were transported to Marion County Jail where they were booked and charged with manufacturing methamphetamine and possession of methamphetamine, Becker said.

So, how did law enforcement get their big break?

Not wanting to divulge information because of confidence issues, Becker said the law is on the side of justice.

"State statutes help with buyers having to give and show identification when purchasing ephedra," Becker said.

Since the passage and signing of the Sheriff Matt Samuels Chemical Control Act, SB 27, individuals who purchase ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, except in liquid or gel capsule forms, have to provide a photo ID, showing their date of birth and sign a log prior to purchasing the cold medicine.

With this law in place, local law enforcement was able to track activity that led to the arrests of the Orcutts.

Recent countywide thefts of anhydrous ammonia also has kept law enforcement alert to increased meth lab activities.

In the case of this Peabody bust, there were many indications of an illegal operation.

Among the items on the couple's property were anhydrous ammonia, muratic acid, camping fuel, generators, and gasoline. Some production also was taking place in the house with the majority in the two outbuildings.

Common, everyday coffee filters were used to strain the drug with hollow plastic pens used for snorting the drug.

"This definitely was an operation," Becker said.

Recovered in the seizure was approximately seven to 10 grams of meth, Becker said.

Statistics of epidemic proportion?

The National Association of Counties recently released information that indicates there might be a meth epidemic.

— Forty-seven percent of 200 responding hospitals said that meth is the top illicit drug involved in cases at their hospitals.

— Seventy-three percent reported that emergency room cases involving meth have increased in the past five years and 68 percent reported continued increases during the past three years.

— Niney-four percent of responding emergency room officials in Nebraska estimated that up to 10 percent of their cases involved meth, followed by Kansas and Minnesota with 83 percent of their hospitals reporting that up to 10 percent of their visits involved the drug.

— Eighty-three percent reported that people with a meth-related emergency are often uninsured.

— Fifty-six percent reported that costs have increased at their facilities because of the growing use of meth.

The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services Addiction and Prevention Services division tracks admissions into treatment programs for methamphetamine addictions.

Data was collected from treatment programs receiving grant funding from SRS for addiction and prevention services.

— In 1995, there were 468 admissions with a primary problem of methamphetamine. In 2005, there were 1,997 admissions.

— In 1995, methamphetamine as the primary problem accounted for 2.4 percent of all alcohol and drug abuse treatment admissions. In 2004, it accounts for 10.6 percent of admissions and 12.78 percent of admissions in 2005.

— In 2005, 43.16 percent of all methamphetamine admissions were female.

— In 2005, 5.57 percent of the women who entered treatment with a primary problem of methamphetamine were pregnant at the time of admission.

— In 2004, 88.58 percent of all admissions with a primary problem of methamphetamine were Caucasian.

— In 2005, methamphetamine admissions peaked for males and females between the ages of 20 and 24.

— In 2005, 56 percent of all admissions were patients 29 years of age or younger and 36 percent were 24 years of age or younger.

What is meth?

According to Kansas Department of Health & Environment, meth is a synthetic amphetamine or stimulant that is produced and sold illegally in pill form, capsules, powder, or chunks. Meth is extremely addictive and can be smoked, snorted, injected, or eaten.

Some common street names for meth are "crank," "crystal-meth," "glass," "ice," "speed," "zip," and "quartz."

Methamphetamine attacks the central nervous system and causes the brain to release dopamine, a natural chemical that makes a person feel pleasure. Dopamine is vital to normal brain function. The presence of meth in the brain causes the brain to release an enzyme that destroys the surplus dopamine in the brain. Over time, this enzyme will destroy the brain's ability to produce dopamine. The use of meth results in a permanent altering of the brain's natural chemistry.

In other words, meth causes brain damage.

Each time a meth user uses, it requires more meth to achieve the same high that was initially experienced. The more methamphetamine consumed, the bigger the "crash" when the drug wears off.

Meth users may sleep for long periods of time or experience what is called "tweaking" when they are "crashing." A "tweaker" is paranoid, delusional, and very agreessive.

Meth dangerously increases a user's heart rate and blood pressure. The extra energy can lead to convulsions and tremors, stroke, heart attack, coma, or death. This drug is more harmful than cocaine and heroin, is highly accessible, and cheaper to produce.

Meth lab components

Some ingredients or equipment that may indicate meth lab activity are pool acid/muratic acid, lye, acetone, brake fluid, brake cleaner, iodine crystals, lithium metal/lithium batteries, lighter fluid, drain cleaners, cold medicine containing pseudoephedrine or ephedrine, ethyl ether (starting fluid), anhydrous ammonia, sodium metal, red phosphorus, and coffee filters.

When a house or building is used for the manufacturing of methamphetamine, great caution should be followed in cleanup which should be done by trained professionals.

As in the case of the Orcutt property at Peabody, law enforcement wore special protective suits and gear to avoid contact with the potentially lethal chemicals and drug.

Cases have been reported where children and adults living in a house or other structure that formerly contained a meth lab encountered lingering health problems. There is little research about the health effects from long-term exposure to the contaminants left behind after a meth lab is dismantled.

Exposure to meth residues may cause symptoms similar to those experienced by meth users. Meth affects the central nervous system and will increase heart rate and blood pressure. Exposure to volatile organic compounds may cause symptoms such as nose and throat irritation, headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, and breathing difficulties. Benzene, a potential meth chemical, is a carcinogen.

Play it safe

Residents are encouraged to report suspicious activities to local law enforcement. Odors, empty containers of possible ingredients, and suspicious behavior could indicate a potential lab.

And, like anything, it takes time for authorities to form a case.

"We have been working on this Peabody case since 2002," Becker said, and he appreciates the diligence of all involved.

"The community, volunteers, and officers made this type of situation manageable," he said.