Wayne County man arrested after car breaks down on alleged trip to get meth materials

Wednesday, July 15, 2009 ~ Updated 5:23 PM

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- A "road trip" into Poplar Bluff to buy items for the alleged manufacture of methamphetamine sent a Piedmont, Mo., area man to jail after officers stopped to assist him when his vehicle overheated on U.S. 67 North.

At around 4:30 p.m. Monday, SEMO Drug Task Force Officer Scott Johnston said, he and Butler County Narcotics Investigator Wesley Popp were out in the county "checking some locations. As we were coming down (Highway) 67, we observed this vehicle had the hood up and appeared to be having trouble."

Johnston said he and Popp turned around and stopped to assist the motorists parked on U.S. 67, just north of the Missouri State Highway Patrol's Troop E Headquarters.

"We began talking to them and obtained their names," Johnston explained. "Deputy Popp was familiar with one of the last names and commented on it as far as being a pseudo(ephedrine) buyer, so we continued to talk to them about where they were coming from (and) where they were going to."

Randy Gene Harris of the Piedmont area and another man reportedly had been heading back to Wayne County when their vehicle overheated.

"There were some inconsistencies during the conversation, and I asked for consent to search the vehicle," Johnston said.

Harris, he said, gave him permission to search the vehicle.

"Earlier in the conversation, both denied any knowledge of methamphetamine or what it took to make it," Johnston said.

As Johnston prepared to begin his search, he said, Harris told him he had to unlock the door first.

As Harris unlocked the door, "I observed him make some unusual movements (and) intentionally pull items up against the back seat," Johnston said. "As I was completing the car search, I leaned the back seat forward."

Johnston said he found bags from local retail stores, which contained a bottle of lye, lithium batteries, three boxes of pseudoephedrine pills and cold compresses.

The cold compresses, he said, are what manufacturers are using to obtain their ammonia nitrate fertilizer replacement for the cooking process.

In the trunk, Johnston said, was a gallon of Coleman fuel.

The second man, who was released after being interviewed, told officers he and Harris allegedly had come into Poplar Bluff for the purpose of purchasing the items.

"He stated they weren't going to manufacture; (the items) were to be delivered," Johnston said. "Each one was getting $100 or $200 to purchase these items and deliver them where they were going to be manufactured.

"That was their purpose ... to make a road trip to purchase the items to be used in manufacturing methamphetamine. They then were paid well for it."

Harris, 26, was booked at 5:15 p.m. Monday at the Butler County jail on suspicion of possession of precursors with intent to manufacture.

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