2 charged with manufacturing, trafficking meth after mobile lab discovery in Beaufort

mmcnab@beaufortgazette.comSeptember 23, 2013 

Two people were charged with manufacturing and trafficking methamphetamine in Beaufort Monday after Beaufort County Sheriff's Office investigators determined the pair had a functioning mobile meth lab in their car, according to a Sheriff's Office news release.

Ronald Joseph Rowe, 38, and Kathryn Elizabeth Stephens, 26, both of Augusta, Ga., were charged after investigators determined the 1992 Geo Metro the two were in at the Pigeon Point boat landing was a functioning mobile meth lab.

While conducting a regular patrol of the boat landing and surrounding area at about 8:30 a.m. Monday, a Beaufort police officer approached the car after noticing a large amount of trash around it, Beaufort police chief Matt Clancy said. When she got closer to the car, Rowe and Stephens began trying to hide the meth-making materials.

Rowe and Stephens were both arrested for littering by Beaufort police, Clancy said. They were charged Monday afternoon with the trafficking and manufacture offenses after an analysis of the substances collected from the car tested positive for the presence of methamphetamines, the release said.

The Sheriff's Office drug investigation section, certified in handling potentially hazardous materials, secured the scene, but a state-contracted hazmat team was called in to remove the chemicals, Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Sgt. Robin McIntosh said.

Access to the landing was restricted to emergency personnel from both the road and the water while the investigation was conducted. Members of the Sheriff's Office Environmental Crimes Unit patrolled the area to reroute boat traffic.

Some nearby residents, like Elizabeth Newberry, were asked to temporarily leave their homes until the area was secured. Newberry said she asked police officers what was going on after seeing sirens and police cars outside her home. Police told her they were dealing with a meth lab and hazardous chemicals and advised her to leave her house temporarily.

Newberry said she left for about 90 minutes before being able to return home. She called the incident "bizarre," but said the police did a good job of handling the scene.

Geri Rogers, who lives a few houses down from the boat landing's access road, said she first worried that a neighbor might have died after seeing the sirens earlier in the morning. Rogers said police told her and other neighbors that they had found a rolling meth lab at the boat landing.

"It's a quiet neighborhood," she said. "This doesn't happen here."

Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.

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