Evidence of meth operation found

It was good police work that led law enforcement Saturday to a Sherwood Drive residence in which they found evidence of a large meth operation.

That's according to Wayne County Sheriff Travis Hutchinson, who said the afternoon execution of a search warrant at 636 Sherwood Drive was the culmination of an ongoing investigation that started with a reported theft from a Mount Eaton gas station Monday evening.

Tuesday morning, the suspect vehicle was located at a Wooster residence, which had been the site of prior suspicious activity, said Deputy Paul Gramlich, noting the gathered intelligence was not a surprise considering it was lighter fluid, a common component in the manufacture of methamphetamine, that reportedly was stolen from the gas station.

A search warrant was obtained Friday evening, and was executed Saturday with the assistance of Wooster Police Department, Medway Drug Enforcement Agency and Wooster Fire Department.

While officers announced their presence, initial attempts to gain entry to the home were unsuccessful, and members of the Sheriff's Special Response Team had to force entry to both the front and back doors. It was at the back door they encountered two men and two women attempting to flee, said Sgt. Joe Copenhaver.

They'd expected to find all four there, said Copenhaver, noting all had past criminal convictions for violent offenses -- from felonious assault to aggravated robbery. All were taken into custody and transported to Wayne County Jail on preliminary charges of illegal assembly of chemicals for the manufacture of meth and manufacturing meth. Formal charges are expected to be filed in Wayne County Municipal Court on Monday.

One woman, the same believed to be on surveillance video from the gas station, also was arrested on a probation violation. Zenia Randle is awaiting sentencing on July 20 in Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Court, where she pleaded guilty earlier this month to kidnapping and abduction.

"This was a good haul," said Hutchinson of the four arrests and evidence seized by virtue of the warrant.

The search and cleanup effort at the property continued into Saturday night; however, preliminary search of the home revealed product used to make meth, evidence of recent cooks, suspected finished product and hypodermic needles, said Copenhaver, adding officers also identified other suspected stolen property.

"I couldn't be more proud of these guys. They work hard. It started with what was just a minor theft offense, but a good investigation led to a meth manufacturing operation," said Hutchinson, giving top kudos to Gramlich, who came to the department from Brimfield Township in December.

"Right now, I think Wayne County is being served by some of the most dedicated and best trained deputies we've had in years," said Hutchinson, adding the department was hit hard with the retirement of many veteran deputies.

Published by the-daily-record.com

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