Meth operation busted in St. Augustine

Deputies say raid was one of largest meth busts ever in St. Johns County

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – A meth operation that included multiple cookers inside a home was dismantled Wednesday in what the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office called one of its largest meth busts.

Deputies and SWAT team members served a search warrant at a home on Ravenswood Drive near Masters Drive, which is blocks away from Crookshank Elementary School. The school was not placed on lockdown, district officials said.

Deputies said they found multiple meth cooking labs in the home, which had been under investigation for some time.

Four men and a woman were inside the home when the raid took place. One man ran away as deputies approached, but the other three are in custody.

The men arrested were Adam Barber, 34, Christopher Hicks, 28, and Christopher Demarco, 22. They were all charged with possession of methamphetamine.

The woman, 47-year-old Angela Price, was taken away in an ambulance because she was sick, deputies said. She was booked after she was released from the hospital and was charged with manufacture and possession of methamphetamine.

Investigators spent hours sorting through everything from water bottles to paint cans to pinpoint exactly what was going on inside the home.

Even after the investigators clear out, the home will remain blocked off because it's considered not livable.

“You don’t want to see that anywhere. Unfortunately, in every neighborhood, it can be in the nicest neighborhood or the poorest neighborhood, it’s there,” neighbor Dennis Conley said.

Conley has been living in the neighborhood for more than 25 years. He said it’s upsetting that the raid had to take place down the street from his home and just blocks away from an elementary school.

“It’s sad that it’s not an age thing anymore. You see young people doing it. You see older people doing it,” Conley said. “It’s just sad that people have developed into that nature that think it’s just normal, and in the real world, it’s not normal.”

The narcotics unit, the special investigative unit, and the special hazards operations team worked for hours taking items outside into the yard and processing each material, all while the suspects sat by and watched.

“With all the stuff that’s in this particular house, we have to figure out exactly what is trash that’s been used that is not hazardous versus the stuff that is hazardous, chemicals and stuff that can be harmful to the environment or harmful to the people,” said Sgt. Mike Hartsell, of the Clandestine Lab Team.

Hartsell said the sheriff’s office takes fingerprints and DNA from the evidence, so investigators can connect it to the suspects. Those suspects were taken away after they were decontaminated.

The sheriff’s office said this is one of the largest, if not the largest, meth lab it’s busted in the county.

Hartsell said about 20 meth labs are busted every year.

“The last couple of months, we seem to see an upswing of labs,” Hartsell said. “We’ve had quite a few in the last couple of weeks, so hopefully, it will be another couple of months before we find another one.”

The sheriff’s office said the men and woman will face charges of possession of meth or manufacturing meth or both.