Meth compound investigation continues.
Drugs, an unsolved missing person case, and bones have been key elements for success for many television series but all of these elements were also factors in a real-life Coffee County,Alabama drug bust last week that remains under investigation.
Several members of the 12th Judicial Circuit Deferred Prosecution program were arrested Thursday after more than 100 local, state, and federal law enforcement officers made what is being called the biggest methamphetamine drug bust Coffee County,Alabama has seen in the past 20 years.
Michael W. Catrett, 48, was arrested after he was lured away by law enforcement from his property that is being called a methamphetamine compound, according to Coffee County,Alabama Sheriff Ben Moates.
The bust was the second time that Catrett’s property has been raided, according to Moates. Officers lured Catrett, whom intelligence said might pose the largest security threat to officers, to the District Attorney’s Office under the guise that he had a meeting with District Attorney Gary L. McAliley about his deferred prosecution status.
Upon his arrival to the DA’s office, members of the Alabama State Troopers took Catrett into custody.
At the same time, warrants were being executed at Catrett’s residence, leading to the arrests of Catrett’s wife Paula S. Catrett, 46, Linda S. Cantelli, 48, James C. Blaylock, 40, Renata L. Wallace, 35, Trinity A. Roberts, 26, and Dale Arnold Williams, 46.
All were taken into custody without incident, which was a relief to many officers as intelligence gathered had suggested that this might be a dangerous situation, Moates said.
Each of the individuals were charged with manufacturing of a controlled substance in the first degree and also trafficking in methamphetamines. Both charges are class A felonies.
Michael Catrett received an additional charge of distribution.
A bond was set for $1 million for each charge of trafficking in methamphetamines, $200,000 of which could only be made in cash.
A bond of $1 million was also set for each charge of manufacturing of an illegal substance.
Two additional individuals were arrested after approaching the scene during the execution of the search warrant.
Carol Michiles and Amy Redd Watson were both arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of marijuana after a search of their vehicle resulted in officers locating the narcotics, according to Myron Williams, Coffee County,Alabama Sheriff’s Department.
Of those arrested and charged, Michael Catrett, Paula Catrett, Watson, and Roberts were members of the deferred prosecution program, according to Williams.
The deferred prosecution program, also known as pre trial diversion, is similar to being on probation. If accepted by the district attorney, a defendant charged with a non-violent crime can be on the program for to years if he or she remains clean from any other criminal activity or drug abuse.
Defendants are also required to report on a at least a once a month to the program’s manager, Tonya Burke, and submit to random drug testing.
Often times if individuals have a known substance abuse problem or have failed previous drug tests, they will be required to report as often as twice a week and might also be required to join a rehabilitation program.
All four were expelled from the program after the criminal charges were filed last week.
Methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia, seven handguns, five trailers, along with many abandoned vehicles and garbage were sprawled across the four acres of land in Catrett’s name.
Searching the premises took officers 12 hours.
“At some point all the trailers, apart from the one used as a residence, were used in some part of the process of making meth,” said Neal Bradley, investigator for the CCSD. An uncommon type of glassware that that investigators have not found had not been found in any previous lab busts was found at the compound. It is used to make meth in large amounts, according to Bradley.
The glassware is illegal to possess and federal charges for possession are pending, explained Bradley.
Bones were located on the premises, including a single bone that was approximately 2 and 1/2 inches long during the search of the four-acre compound, though none were determined to be of human origin, according to Moates.
The bone was initially suspected to belong to Wayne Bryan who disappeared from his yard 11 years ago on December 15.
Though no bones have been determined to be human, investigators have not ruled out the possibility that Bryan’s remains may be found on the property, according to Moates.
Surveillance equipment was also confiscated during the search of the compound.
Cameras were mounted on trees, abandoned vehicles, and the trailers around the compound, according to Moates.
Officers were able to move in at such a rapid rate on Wednesday that the equipment was of little use to the residents of the compound.
“This is the biggest investigation in terms of the number of agencies involved and the number of people that were involved that I have ever been involved with,” said Moates.
Agencies involved include the Alabama Bureau of Investigations, Alabama Department of Public Safety, the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency, Alabama Tobacco and Firearms, the Alabama Beverage Control Board, and the Coffee County,Alabama Sheriff’s Department, according to Moates.
Work by Lt. Lance Price, Lt. Robert Chambers, and Lt. Jean Turner helped to also make this operation go smoothly, said Bradley.
Local agencies that aided also include the Enterprise,Alabama Police Department, Enterprise,Alabama Rescue Inc., Enterprise,Alabama Fire Department, and the Goodman,Alabama Fire Department.
With the number of agencies involved, there was a unity in the operation, according to Williams. “Only three people in my office knew about the investigation. We tried to keep this as quiet as possible,” said Moates.
The administrative staff and narcotics officers from the sheriff’s department met with team leaders from the other agencies to plan the execution of the warrants. “After Bradley had the warrant, we had only 10 days for the execution,” Williams said. In rebuttal to accusations that the bust was for political motives, Williams said the ABI had final say as to when the bust would occur. Hours upon hours of work went into the investigation, according to Bradley. “As far as professionalism, this investigation was the smoothest I have seen. Egos were tossed aside,” said Williams. “The operation was a culmination of a lot of work over the past couple of years,” said Moates. Officers across the agencies were ecstatic to have those persons making enough methamphetamine to have the lab described as a mega lab off the streets of Coffee County,Alabama.
Investigators searched through trailers and trash on the compound looking for weapons and narcotics.