Tahlequah Daily Press

January 8, 2013

Man arrested after meth labs discovered

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Cherokee County sheriff’s investigators arrested a local man Friday after discovering two methamphetamine labs in a home where several children were staying.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Waylon Tarkington and Deputy Dexter Scott responded to a home on North Sunset Valley Road Friday afternoon after receiving tips of possible drug activity. Michael Lee Umphrey, 29, allowed the deputies to come into the residence and conduct a search.

When asked about possible narcotics or related items in the home, Umphrey allegedly told deputies he had some needles and took the officers to get the items. Deputies said they later noticed a strong odor of chemicals on the first floor of the residence, and found a plate in the kitchen area with a razor blade and a white, powdery substance on it.

Tarkington asked Umphrey if there were any other items in the house that officers needed to know of, and Umphrey allegedly took them into a bedroom where a child had been sleeping. Umphrey allegedly pointed officers to a clear bottle and rubber hose attached to a bottle cap, which had been hidden in the ceiling.

Deputies contacted Sheriff’s Investigator Sgt. Casey Baker, who responded to the home. Baker said an entire meth lab had been hidden in the ceiling, including acid, coffee filters, funnels, and the finished product, meth.

Remnants of a second meth lab were allegedly found in a living room fireplace. Umphrey also had a receipt in his pocket for pseudoephedrine, according to investigators. Investigators said they also discovered a firearm in the house.

Umphrey allegedly told officers he has a drug problem, and said he didn’t want his children taken away.

The Department of Human Services was contacted and took all children in the home into protective custody.

“It’s always difficult when law enforcement officers deal with meth labs, and it makes the job even more heart-breaking when there are innocent children in the home,” said Sheriff Norman Fisher. “But I’m proud of our guys for responding and taking more methamphetamine off the streets and getting meth away from children.”

Umphrey was arrested on possible charges of endeavoring to manufacture a controlled dangerous substance, possession of a controlled dangerous substance, possession of a firearm while in commission of a felony, two counts of child endangerment, and possession of drug paraphernalia.