Preliminary hearings for four of the five people arrested in an alleged methamphetamine manufacturing case within the last two weeks in Elkins were scheduled in Randolph County Magistrate Court Thursday.
The hearings for April D. Kenney, 30, and Jeffery R. Corley, 48, were held simultaneously. According to court documents, police went to the residence they share in Bowden on June 4 and found an active methamphetamine laboratory.
Corley was arrested June 4 and is charged with operating a clandestine laboratory to manufacture methamphetamine. Kenney, who was arrested June 3, is charged with one count of possession of precursor to manufacture methamphetamine.
On Thursday, both Corley and Kenney waived their rights to a preliminary hearing, and their cases will go forward to the circuit court. Their attorneys requested that their bonds, which were each set at $50,000 cash only, be modified. Both are being held at the Tygarts Valley Regional Jail.
Attorney Dwight Hall, representing Kenney, said she has family in the area and a brief criminal record. He also noted that she has two infant children. Kenney began sobbing when her children were mentioned.
Attorney Raymond Lamora, representing Corley, said his client has a young child, and has no history of violent crime. Lamora pointed out that no weapons were found at the alleged crime scene.
Prosecuting Attorney Michael Parker said he "strongly opposed" bond modification. "Methamphetamines are a scourge on our society," he said.
Hall said that he felt the state's case is "a holding mechanism" until the federal government "picks it up, if they're interested."
Magistrate George M. Riggleman denied the bond modification requests.
Steven "Pacco" B. Miller, 39, of Harman, was the only one of the four defendants whose preliminary hearing was held Thursday. Miller is charged with operating a clandestine laboratory to manufacture methamphetamine.
During Miller's hearing, Deputy A. Vanscoy of the Randolph County Sheriff's Department testified that when he arrived at the Bowden residence of Kenney and Corley on June 4, Miller had a lithium battery on his person, along with methamphetamine in his back pocket.
Vanscoy said he saw what "appeared to be an operating lab" in an outbuilding on the property, and called the state police.
Trooper D.R. Wolford Jr., a certified clandestine laboratory technician with the Elkins detachment, testified Thursday that when he approached the outbuilding "I could smell a strong odor. It kind of burns."
Wolford said he dismantled an operating meth lab in the building that included "a couple pop bottles." The person or persons operating the lab were using the "shake and bake method," he said.
"There were visible gases coming off both bottles," Wolford said.
Law enforcement officials around the country have warned that the "shake and bake method" is extremely dangerous, because the bottles sometimes explode, causing a flash fire. Several people have reportedly died who were holding a "shake and bake" bottle when it exploded.
Questioned by attorney Lori Gray, representing Miller, Wolford said the lab was not portable.
Gray then said that the charge against Miller should be dropped, because the lab equipment "obviously" belonged to the residents, Kenney and Corley, and not Miller.
Riggleman ruled there was probable cause for the case to move forward to the circuit court. Miller's bond remains at $50,000 cash. He is being held at the Tygarts Valley Regional Jail.
Shalae Brooke Studer, 21, of 1860 Beverly Pike, Elkins, was granted a continuance Thursday. Her preliminary hearing will be at a later date.
Studer is charged with one count of possession of precursor to manufacture methamphetamine. Her attorney, Jim Hawkins, asked that her bond be lowered from $50,000 cash only to $25,000 cash, property or surety.
Hawkins pointed out that Studer has no prior felonies on her record. He noted that the fifth defendant in the case, Brian Keith Hammer, 58, of 1120 S. Henry Ave., Elkins, has "the same charge" but has a lower bond, set at $25,000.
"There should be parity among bails," Hawkins said.
Parker said he opposed any bond modification. Riggleman denied Hawkins' motion.
Studer is being held in the Tygarts Valley Regional Jail.
Hammer's preliminary hearing is upcoming.