A man being pursued by a local deputy after a vehicle chase led lawmen to the discovery of a methamphetamine lab being operated inside a doublewide mobile home in the Pea Ridge community of McDuffie County late last Saturday.
Authorities say a fifth person -- who lived at the residence where the meth lab was discovered -- turned himself in to lawmen about noon Sunday at the county jail.
Firefighters were sent scurrying to that same home at 4421 Adams Chapel Road near the intersection of Reeves Road, after a fire broke out in a bathroom of a front bedroom about 2 p.m. Sunday.
McDuffie County Fire/Rescue Services Assistant Chief Stephen Sewell said Monday that the cause of the fire remains under investigation by local and state authorities. State Fire Marshall Investigator Michael Crosby was called to the scene Monday at the request of Special Agent Pat Morgan of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Region 7 Office in Thomson.
More than 20 firefighters battled flames at the residence before managing to extinguish the fire. Considerable fire damage was done to a bathroom and
bedroom, while other parts of the residence sustained smoke damage, Assistant Chief Sewell said. It is believed that the fire started in a bathroom.
On Monday, Agent Morgan took out warrants charging all five suspects with felony drug violations.
The five suspects were identified by jail records as: Daphne Maria Palmer, 30, of the 5600 block of Goett Road, Dearing; Gregory Freeman Gay, 48, of the 600 block of McGahee Road, Stapleton; Bernard Colen Todd, Jr., 44, of Bastonville Road, Gibson; Michael Lewis Hollimon, 33, of the 1500 block of Shirley Road, Warrenton; and Ronald T. Coleman, 35, of the 4400 block of Adams Chapel Road, Dearing.
All five suspects have been charged with Violation of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act for the manufacturing of methamphetamine, Agent Morgan said.
Additionally, each is charged with possession of substances containing the over-the-counter medicine pseudoephedrine. Mr. Hollimon, meanwhile, also is facing assorted traffic charges, including fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer, driving on a suspended license, etc., records show.
The five remained behind bars in the McDuffie County Law Enforcement Center in Thomson on Monday. They now face a first appearance bond hearing before a local judge later this week.
Agent Morgan provided the following account, which led to the meth lab discovery and the arrests.
McDuffie County Sheriff's Department Deputy Marc Thompson received a call just before 11 p.m. from a dispatcher to check on the welfare of a person at a residence on Reeves Road -- a dirt road that runs off Adams Chapel Road.
Supposedly, two vehicles were parked in front of that residence. As Deputy Thompson was responding, he spotted two vehicles fitting the description of those vehicles -- one a Ford Crown Victoria and the other a pickup truck.
The deputy later turned around on both vehicles, activating his blue lights as he pursued the driver of the car.
The driver of the car, Mr. Hollimon, pulled into the Ridge Tavern, only to turn around and go back down Adams Chapel Road.
Deputy Thompson pursued Mr. Hollimon until he jumped out of the car at the intersection of Adams Chapel and Reeves roads and ran through a yard before knocking down the front door of a residence at 4421 -- the home of Mr. Coleman.
Deputy Thompson, who already had asked for assistance from other deputies, ran after Mr. Hollimon.
Once inside the home, someone was seen trying to escape out a window. A deputy stopped him.
Mr. Hollimon and three others were detained.
According to Agent Morgan, while inside the residence, Deputy Thompson, began smelling what he believed to be chemicals, which is what led to the discovery of the meth lab.
Agent Morgan described the meth lab as "a one-pot method," which means that all of the components needed to make the drug were in one container -- in this particular case -- a Gatorade bottle, he explained.
Such chemicals can be potentially explosive and have deadly consequences.
Agent Morgan and Special Agent Jamie Skelton, of the Athens GBI office, went to the scene and separated the chemicals -- a job that took about 51/2 hours and involved a search of the entire dwelling.
He said a search warrant was obtained prior to lawmen looking into the illegal activities.
A two-man team from a private hazardous materials firm from the Atlanta area also responded to the scene.
Agent Morgan said such is done in cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The local investigation remains ongoing between local and state authorities.