Tahlequah Daily Press

August 22, 2013

Theft case uncovers meth lab

The case connected other area criminal activity

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — jnewton@tahlequahdailypress.com

Officers from the Tahlequah Police Department and Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office have recovered several guns, tools and electronics stolen from a local family – and in the process, police discovered and dismantled a small methamphetamine lab.

Investigators said eight firearms, ammunition, several gaming consoles, tools, and jewelry were taken from the home of Darrell and Christy Byfield last week. The Byfields filed a report on the missing items, and authorities in both the police department and sheriff’s officer later received information that helped them develop a suspect: 23-year-old Johnny D. Berbee, a local man who was allegedly involved with other people in a series of local thefts and purse-snatchings last winter and spring.

Berbee was arrested recently on drug charges and jailed at the Cherokee County Detention Center.

After his name surfaced as a possible suspect in the theft from the Byfields, investigators spoke with Berbee, who allegedly confessed to committing the burglary with the help of others.

Berbee also allegedly told authorities where they could find some of the stolen items, and investigators were able to visit several locations in Cherokee County to retrieve about 80 percent of the property.

While searching for the stolen items at one location, investigators stumbled upon a small meth lab.

As the investigation continues, more arrests are possible, according to police.

Court records show Berbee has previously been charged in Cherokee County with misdemeanor possession of a controlled dangerous substance, for which he pleaded guilty; and other misdemeanors, such as public intoxication and driving under the influence.

“Like I’ve always said, working together with other agencies can accomplish so much more,” said Sheriff Norman Fisher. “I really appreciate the effort of both agencies. They worked together as a team and will continue to do so to make our community safer.”

Fisher said it’s common to find illegal narcotics with stolen property.

“If they steal your guns, there’s a good chance they’ll trade the guns for drugs; it often goes hand-in-hand,” said Fisher.