Acting on a tip, Montgomery County Constables took down a "shake and bake" meth lab in a New Caney motel in the wee hours of Saturday morning.
Arrested were 34-year-old Kerry Lee Datray, of Cleveland, and 38-year-old Wayne Paul Walters of Lufkin. Each was charged manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance and possession or transport of chemicals with intent to manufacture a controlled substance, both of which are first degree felonies punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison.
Sickeningly, a juvenile was found along with these crudely-inked morons. (Seriously, WTF is up with those tats? Facial / neck tats are extreme by definition, but would you just scribble random crap on there?) Apparently Datray and Walters were unable or unwilling to get a sitter while they engaged in their sordid, dangerous little motel party. The kid was whisked off by Child Protective Services, hopefully to a better life far from the crystal meth ghettos of the Piney Woods.
Among several other felony convictions, Walters pleaded guilty to manslaughter last January and was paroled this March, according to public records. Datray has a felony credit card abuse charge on her record.
This bust is part of a larger trend in the meth trade. After the 2005 federal crackdown on over-the-counter pseudoephedrine products, meth cooks quit making big batches of the stuff at the isolated, stinky sites most of us think of when we think "meth lab."
It all seemed to be working so well, at least for a while. In 2003, cops nationwide took down a staggering 17,400 meth labs. By 2006, they could only find 7,347.
But now more and more speed freaks are making their own crude small-batch variety of the stuff, using a method that requires little more than a few cold pills, an astounding assortment of dangerous, but easily available household chemicals, and a plastic coke bottle.
Today's meth aficionado simply dumps all this stuff in the plastic bottle, shakes it up, and voila, insta-party. The shake and bake method doesn't even require a heat source anymore - so it's no longer even accurate to call people who use it meth "cooks." And in contrast to the big-lab days, when people would make enough to both use and peddle to others, often these new-school meth cooks whip up just enough for the duration of a single bender.
But here's the rub. Making this stuff is still extremely dangerous, and one can only imagine what Breaking Bad's Walter White would think about both the resulting product and the methods used to obtain it. You don't get the impression that people like Datray and Walters are coming up with blue ice.
What have resulted are a bunch of fires. Using the new formula, batches of meth are much smaller but just as dangerous as the old system, which sometimes produces powerful explosions, touches off intense fires and releases drug ingredients that must be handled as toxic waste.
Cops in the South and Midwest have been dealing with this a lot over the last few years. A Missouri state trooper told a Mississippi newspaper that any oxygen left in the bottle can create a giant fireball, and characterized the typical shake and baker as less than scientific in their method. "You're not dealing with rocket scientists here anyway. If they get unlucky at all, it can have a very devastating reaction."
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Last week we reported on meth fires in a motel and a private home in Lufkin, each likely because of shake and bake labs. (We missed the other three meth labs Lufkin cops took down in one 24-hour period last week.)
Authorities in several other states have dealt with sometimes lethal flash fires erupting out of these crude little operations. All it takes is a tiny slip, such as unscrewing the top off the bottle a little too fast.
Back before the pseudoephedrine laws went into effect, these fires often took place in ramshackle out-buildings in the sticks. Now they can happen anywhere - motels, basements, bedrooms...Some cops have reportedly caught crank fanatics working up batches in cars. This has brought the resulting mayhem - the fires and the toxic chemical residues - much closer to innocent people.
And the law of unintended consequences wins again.