16th Judicial District Drug Task Force Chief Scott Russell said he is fed up with methamphetamine users and manufacturers.
"If you are using or making methamphetamines in Fulton or Izard County, we are coming after you. If you are doing this around kids, we'll hunt you down; I don't care if you're in the woods or hiding in a cave, we will find you," he said.
An angry Russell spoke after area law enforcement officers arrested Luetta Sue Benedict, 47, of Salem and Larry Eugene Bell, 40, of Salem April 1 on a variety of drug charges including manufacture of a controlled substance, methamphetamine, endangering the welfare of a minor, and possession of firearms within reaching distance of drug components.
Russell said his department received information that a red phosphorous methamphetamine lab was in operation at Benedict's residence in northern Fulton County and children were living there.
Officers from the 16th Drug Task Force, Arkansas State Police and Fulton County Sheriff's Office raided the residence.
Inside the residence they found a clandestine methamphetamine lab, numerous components used in the manufacture of methamphetamine, methamphetamine, marijuana and firearms.
Benedict was arrested and her two children, ages 11 and 12, were taken into custody by the Department of Human Services, Russell said.
He said when he arrived at the residence, a white male fled into an abandoned house adjoining the property. The male was found inside a bathtub and was identified as Bell. Officers found the "reaction vessel" or precursor substance to methamphetamine, Russell said.
Russell said Bell's 15-year-old wife, Luetta Bell, was found in the residence and would have been charged as an adult in connection with the raid, but because of her age she was adjudicated to the Fulton County Juvenile Court.
Bell and his wife were previously charged in November 2003 with manufacturing methamphetamine.
Russell said the residence was filthy and infested with cockroaches. There was spoiled food on the counters, muriatic acid and other substances in the kitchen, he said.
"It was one of the filthiest houses I've ever conducted a raid in," Russell said.
He said this was already the 33rd methamphetamine lab bust by the task force in 2004. "I want the community to know we're doing everything we can to bust these labs and the people responsible for operating them. I want the people who are operating these labs to stop or they better move out of this area," he said.
Benedict and Bell are being charged with the manufacture of a controlled substance, a class Y felony, with an enhancement of 10 years for manufacturing methamphetamine in the presence of a minor; possession with the intent to deliver a controlled substance methamphetamine, a class Y felony; simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms, a class Y felony; use or possession with the intent to use drug paraphernalia, a class C felony; possession of pseudoephedrine, ephedrine or phenylpropanolamine with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine, a class D felony; endangering the welfare of a minor child, a class A misdemeanor; and possession of a controlled substance, marijuana, a class A misdemeanor.
Benedict is being charged with an additional count of felony possession of a firearm, a class B felony.
Bendict's bond was set at $25,000 and Bell's bond was set at $100,000. Neither had posted bond at press time. Bell and Benedict will be arraigned April 12 in the Fulton County Court.