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Meth makers use hotel rooms to cook the dangerous drug

The cooking process can be highly explosive; many guests may not know what their rooms were used for

February 20, 2013|Mary Moloney, KSPR News Reporter | mmoloney@kspr.com

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Methamphetamine users check into hotels and motels to make the dangerous drug. Within two weeks, police busted two people cooking meth in separate hotel rooms at the Extended Stay Hotel.

Prosecutors charged Rex Humphrey and Brandon Hinkley with several felonies. Wednesday night, Humphrey sat in jail while Hinkley is out on bond.

According to drug agents, meth makers go to hotels and motels to cook the drug for several reasons. They can hide their habit from loved ones and can keep dangerous chemicals out of their homes. For those around the hotels where meth busts occur, the trend is troubling.

"It was shocking to even hear about it, being honest," said Dennard Turner as he stood in front of the hotel.

Turner is five days away from graduating from the University of Phoenix. Before he enrolled in school, he stayed at the Extended Stay.

"It concerns me as a citizen as well as a student of criminal justice that meth labs can be housed in a hotel," said Turner. "Just scary."

According to court documents, officers went to the Extended Stay Hotel to investigate a report of an active meth lab. Once inside, they found Humphrey and more than 50 items used in the meth-making process. A detective wrote the strong chemical smell almost immediately irritated his throat and eyes.

Humphrey was not alone in his room. He had his 7-month-old son and the son's mother with him. When questioned by police, the mother of the child said she kicked Humphrey out of their house about a month earlier after a meth lab he made blew up in his face. She said she was inside the hotel room to visit Humphrey.

Humphrey told police he took items from the "old meth lab" into the hotel room with him. A narcotics investigator confirmed the hotel room contained an active lab.

A month before the arrest, police said a different lab blew up in Humphrey's face.

"The problem with meth lab fires is the unknown chemicals that are in them. They can be in containers that can cause explosions," explained Phil Noah. "Pressure builds in that vessel and for some reason the cook doesn't vent it correctly or forgets to vent it, just that method alone could cause an explosion or a fire very quickly."

In Brandon Hinkley's case, investigators found meth making materials in the hotel room, including pseudoephedrine pills.

The threat of hotel guests making drugs is apparent to those who work in the hospitality industry. Many major hotel chains have a checklist posted of warning signs to detect drug makers.

Among the warning signs are guests who part their vehicles away from the office area, people who have a local address but need a room for many days, lack of photo identification, inconsistent documents, and requested rooms away from the guest check in.

Those at the Extended Stay Hotel said the rooms are free from meth materials. For all hotels, employees have to keep all eyes open to stop the problem.

"Drugs in general have been my major concern for years," said Turner. "It's a cancer that's in the United States that just will not go away."

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