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Police say boy was in 'extreme danger' at Tilton meth lab
TILTON - The 3½-year-old child who was taken into protective custody by police in Wednesday night's meth lab raid was found sitting with his mother near a lethally explosive one-pot meth cooker that was about to produce a new batch of the drug, police said.
The meth cooker was so dangerous that authorities had to carefully remove it and explode it outside the home at 263 Laconia Road, where members of a regional meth drug task force arrested seven adults shortly after 8 p.m.
"The boy was just a few feet away, in extreme danger," said Tilton Police Chief Robert Cormier. "The (police) lab guys had to move the cooker out very carefully and then explode it outside. It could have gone off any time.
"We put our lives in danger just going in that room," Cormier said.
The child is now safe, but Cormier said his presence in the meth cooking room may be a sign of a new trend. A child was also present in one of the task force's meth lab raids in Thornton a few weeks ago, he said.
"The same kind of situation with a youth involved," he said.
Among those arrested in last night's raid was the boy's mother, Debra Ann Miller, 44 of Tilton, who was charged with criminal liability for another and with endangering the welfare of a child.
Also charged were James Joyce, 41, of Salisbury, for felony manufacture of a controlled drug, and Michael Caissie, 49, of Bristol, for possession of controlled narcotics. Dandeneah Gabrielle, 21, and James Dragon, 31, both of Belmont, were each charged with criminal liability for another.
Marie Chacon, 55, was charged with endangering the welfare of a child, while Hon Luu, 52, was charged with criminal liability for another; and Debra Ann Miller, 44, was charged with criminal liability for another and with endangering the welfare of a child. Miller, Luu, and Chacon told police they were residents of the house.
All but Caissie were arraigned in Franklin District Court Thursday, court officials said. Cassie will be arraigned next month.
Cormier, who served as a police officer in Plymouth before becoming chief in Tilton, said drug enforcement officers in other states have told Granite State police officers that meth labs seem to be on the upswing in the Norrthern New England area, as they were when one of the first meth lab raids in the state was conducted in Thornton in 2004, he said.
"It's a problem from my town up through Thornton, it's been a problem for a long time, and now it appears to be getting worse," he said.
One reason meth labs are rising again is the arrival in recent years of one-pot meth cookers.
"They are portable and you can put all the ingredients in a backpack," Cormier said.
Another problem is that experienced meth makers are teaching other meth makers how to make the drug and are doing so at an alarming pace.
"One cook teaches another cook, and soon we have a network of cooks," he said. "We're seeing more cases where we find one lab and then find there are two just like it made by the same cooks."
Cormier urged residents to keep an eye out for signs of meth labs and their makers. Signs of the ingredients used are often found in trash cans: things like Coleman fuel, Draino, alkaline batteries, and the signature vessels used in making the drug - clear plastic soda bottles with white powder in them.
"If your trash looks unusual, it doesn't hurt to call your local police to be sure," he said.
Reporting a meth lab may save lives, including the lives of meth makers and users, Cormier said. People in other states have died from meth lab explosions.
"And once you get addicted, your life expectancy is about one year," he said.
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