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Alleged squatters arrested on meth charges

Jeff Bobo • Mar 20, 2007 at 1:39 AM

CHURCH HILL - Hawkins County deputies nabbed a couple last week who'd allegedly broken into a mobile home they were considering renting and began manufacturing methamphetamine inside.

The arrests of Charles Cress Oaks, 36, and Joan Kate Ellis, 50, no known address, occurred last Thursday at 526 Church Lane, Lot 2, Church Hill. Tipsters informed the Hawkins County Sheriff's Office Narcotics Unit that meth was being made there, and deputies arrived at the residence Thursday afternoon to conduct a "knock and talk."

In a knock and talk deputies simply knock on the door and speak to the occupants as they attempt to determine if there is probable cause to conduct a search for narcotics activity.

"As we approached the trailer the odor of ether was very strong, along with ammonia nitrate lying in the driveway," HCSO Detective Gary Murrell stated in his report. "Lithium battery casings and burned blister packs were on the deck."

Oaks answered the door after awhile of knocking by the deputies. Consent to search the residence was given by the owner.

Inside the deputies allegedly found a meth lab, lab components, and based on the odor inside the residence deputies determined a cook had taken place recently.

Ellis and Oaks were charged with manufacturing meth and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The Wednesday before the arrests, Ellis had been shown that same mobile home as a potential renter by the owner. Ellis was told she would have to return with her husband, identification, and a down payment before a lease could be considered.

Church Hill Police Chief Mark Johnson said no lease had ever been signed, and Ellis and Oaks had no right to be in the residence.

Johnson said that because there was a meth "cook" allegedly inside the residence it will likely either have to receive a decontamination or be condemned. The value of the mobile home was set at $20,000.

While the county lodged the drug charges, the Church Hill Police Department additionally charged Ellis and Oaks each with aggravated burglary and vandalism over $10,000.

"I don't know how much it would cost to do a cleanup of the residence, but it would probably be more than the residence is actually worth," Johnson said. "Basically the mobile home is ruined. I know I wouldn't want to stay there after a meth lab had been operating there."

Ellis and Oaks were lodged in the Hawkins County Jail Monday on $50,000 bond.

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