Pubdate: Wed, 13 Sep 2006
Source: Decatur Daily (AL)
Copyright: 2006 The Decatur Daily
Author: Seth Burkett, Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Sheriff Vows To Step Up Fight Where Children Are Endangered By Drugs

Sheriff Greg Bartlett said he plans to step up the  fight against 
parents endangering their children with  drugs, such as a Somerville 
couple who remained jailed  Tuesday, accused of raising their baby in 
a meth lab.

Of 400 to 450 methamphetamine labs raided in Morgan  County in the 
last four years, 60 to 70 percent of the  residences had children 
living in them, Bartlett said.

"We're running into these houses where these kids are  being forced 
to live in a meth lab. They're walking  around barefoot and the red 
phosphorous is being  absorbed through their skin. We've had some 
with esophagus damage from inhaling the fumes. These parents  are 
killing their kids," Bartlett said.

Bartlett could not release specific information about  the condition 
of the 5-week-old girl taken from the 631  Charest Road residence of 
Christopher Chad Jennings,  29, and Melissa Ann Jones, 32. Deputies 
responded to a  domestic violence call Sunday at the home and said 
they  found a working meth lab.

Bartlett said the Department of Human Resources claims  the children 
and takes them to a hospital for testing  and decontamination. Their 
toys, clothes and everything  from their former homes must be thrown 
away because of  chemical contaminants, Bartlett said.

They can't return to their former, toxin-filled homes.

"If their parents want them back, it's up to them to  provide them 
with a safe environment," Bartlett said.

"If the truth be told, half of them would sell their  kids for drugs. 
I don't have any sympathy for most of  these parents. We all know 
what meth does to you. And  like in the case of this guy, (Jennings), 
he's not  doing anything to get better. I've got room for him in  the 
new jail, and if it takes filling it up with drug  cases, that's what 
I'll do. What those parents are  doing is slow murder over time."

Jennings' bond was set at $1 million on the drug  manufacturing 
charge alone. According to Bartlett,  Jennings has had at least three 
prior drug arrests.  Jones also has prior arrests, authorities said.

Bartlett said a new law, the Drug Endangered Children  Act, gives 
authorities "teeth" when it comes to  cracking down on meth-users 
raising their kids in  contaminated homes.

The Sheriff's Department has made six charges under the  law since it 
went into effect in June, and Bartlett  said he hopes to expand his 
department's ability to  enforce it by obtaining additional personnel 
and other  resources.

"It's an epidemic," he said. "This has become so  serious with us we 
have recently reassigned one of our  investigators to work only child 
abuse, drug  endangerment and sex offender cases. We've got so many 
cases coming in.

"Almost every meth lab we go to, we're going to be able  to make a 
(child abuse) case, and we plan to make those  cases. One person will 
not be able to handle the  caseload, so we need to add extra personnel."

Both Jennings and Jones face charges of first-degree  manufacturing a 
controlled substance, child abuse,  possession of drug paraphernalia 
and third-degree  domestic violence. Jennings remained in Morgan 
County  Jail on Monday in lieu of $1,012,500 bond. Jones  remained 
jailed in lieu of $127,500 bond.
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