The Harrah Police Department responded to a welfare check regarding children living in unacceptable conditions, and what they found was an empty home with no running water or electricity, and a fully-operational methamphetamine lab.
Harrah police public spokesman Phil Stewart said Harrah police officers were sent about 4 p.m. to 18084 N.E. 27th Street in Harrah from an anonymous phone call alleging there were children living in the home in deplorable conditions, Stewart said.
Stewart said when he and other officers got on scene, the back door was left wide open so they wanted to make sure there wasn’t a burglary in progress going on, which also gave them probable cause to enter the home. He said no one was found, but the environment was uninhabitable and alluded to the fact that this could be used as a “cook house,” but couldn’t confirm that suspicion at that point.
“During that quick check to determine if any people were inside, a door was found that was unordinarily secured,” he said.
The officers then developed a perimeter around the house, so a detective could obtain a search warrant for the property. While officers at the scene were waiting for the search warrant to come back, the father of the children and suspected owner of the house, Robert Allen Smith, 35, pulled up and was then taken into custody.
“We were able to gain access to that door just to determine if there were any human beings in that bedroom and at that point we discovered a fully-functional meth lab on the other side of that door,” Stewart said.
Stewart said once the door was breached and the meth lab was visible it was clear that it was a fully-functional meth lab, and he added that he hadn’t seen one like this since 2003. He called the meth lab a pseudo-ephedrine red phosphorus reduction lab. He described it as a large lab and when he first started seeing these types of labs in the 90s they were enormous, the size of a garage.
“I haven’t seen a meth lab of that nature in a number of years,” he said.
He said although these types of meth labs aren’t commonly seen today, they remain one of the most explosive types.
“The one that we saw yesterday, while confined to a bedroom, took up rather large areas of the bedroom,” he said. “A lot of glassware involved and often times those will be pint-sized jars, but you will see lots of two-layer liquids in them and all of those liquids are toxic.”
Officers also found two hydrogen chloride gas generators which tell the officers what phase of the operation it's in. Stewart said the generators indicated to the officers that the suspects have taken salt and sulfuric acid and mixed that together and when combined that makes hydrogen chloride gas, and when that gas is bubbled it makes methamphetamine powder.
Page 2 of 2 - Stewart is certified in meth lab instruction and has even taught meth lab schools and said he felt comfortable in the fact that there wasn’t an explosion risk.
A short time later the suspected mother or step mother of the children, Larinda Jean Austin, 46, drove up to the house with the three children in her vehicle, Stewart said. When she noticed the police cars, she turned around and tried to leave the scene, but Stewart was able to stop her and put her into custody.
Stewart said at that point the Oklahoma Department of Human Services was contacted and so were relatives.
“We want DHS there to check on the welfare of the kids and make sure they don’t need to go to the hospital as a result of a meth lab exposure, which is a common problem,” he said. “If there is a relative that DHS deems trustworthy then they will release those children to the relative rather than putting them into a shelter.”
Stewart said the investigation began at about 4 p.m. and ended at about 2 a.m., adding that it is very labor intensive and each item has to be catalogued and tagged for evidence.
The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs were called and they sent out a special meth clean up team to dispose of the meth-making materials and waste.
Stewart said this particular meth lab had the capabilities of running three or four smaller meth labs.
Smith and Austin are going to be charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, possession of CDS, possession of pre-cursor chemicals, possession of CDS-meth in the presence of a minor and any other appropriate charges the Oklahoma County district attorney’s office advices to charge them with, Stewart said.
The investigation is ongoing, he said.