By CHRIS HARRIS, CJ Staff Writer Commonwealth Journal
The idea of a meth lab found in a cemetery might be a sobering metaphor for the fate awaiting those who ingest the deadly drug, but it also made for a shocking discovery on Saturday afternoon.
Police and firefighters responded to The Somerset City Cemetery to investigate a mysterious dufflebag that turned out to contain the components needed to make the drug methamphetamine.
Cemetery manager Tricia Neal said that she had been looking around in the wooded area at the back of the cemetery on Saturday at around 1 p.m. to try to find broken headstones that, she had learned, might have been dumped unceremoniously in the weeds in recent years.
Instead, what Neal came across was the suspicious dufflebag.
“I didn’t want to touch it,” said Neal, “so I called 911. They sent the police, who called for the (Somerset) fire department after they found out it was a meth lab.”
At first, authorities believed that the meth lab might be active. A closer examination revealed that it was not, however, and more likely a case where the components had been used elsewhere and then dumped in the woods.
Authorities were not sure at the time if the property on which the meth lab was found belonged to the city cemetery or Norfolk Southern Railroad, as the tracks were just on the other side of the wooded patch.
Sgt. Mike Correll of the Somerset Police Department noted that the bag contained the usual ingredients needed to make meth, including lighter fluid, lithium batteries, tubing and syringes, and also that another individual bottle containing the precursors to making meth was found a short distance away.
Correll added that there are no suspects at this time.
He said that while the Somerset Cemetery area has not been the site of any previously-known meth-making activity, it’s not unusual to find such operations in remote wooded areas like this one.
“That’s one of our biggest fears, because it’s so clandestine,” he said. “It’s hard to patrol, and catch (meth-makers) in the act.”
Correll added that the isolated location of the meth lab didn’t pose a danger to those visiting the cemetery, but that exposure to the materials at short-range could prove hazardous. As such, the fire department carefully removed and inspected the items, and planned to destroy what they could eventually.
Neal said that the officers did find the broken headstones she was originally searching for while looking for the meth equipment.