LOUDON COUNTY (WVLT) – On Sunday, investigators discovered a mobile meth lab in the parking lot of the Lenoir City Wal-Mart.
Retha Nyoka Ward, 34, James Christian Arrowood, 34, and Jason Wayne Green, 31, were all in the Loudon County Jail on Sunday evening, facing pending charged related to promoting, making and possessing methamphetamine.
Additionally, their home county of Roane already had felony warrants issued for each of their arrests, two of which were for meth related charges.
According to Loudon County’s Sheriff’s Department, the bust began just before 2:20 PM, when Wal-Mart security cameras observed Ward trying to shoplift a belt from the clothing department.
Store security guards confronted her, and then called the Lenoir City Police Department.
When they arrived on scene, officers noticed that some of the other items Ward had allegedly shoplifted were also items used to manufacture meth.
The sheriff’s department was then called in law enforcement officers quickly located Ward’s car.
Inside it was what they described as a small “one pot” mobile meth lab, along with meth making ingredients that included red phosphorus, iodine crystals, pseudoephedrine tablets and various paraphernalia.
Ward and another of the suspects who was in the car were taken into custody.
A third joined them after a bystander witnessed him fleeing the scene on foot, and alerted police.
Sheriff’s deputies said it was their first mobile meth lab bust in about four months.
"The smaller labs are getting more and more popular,” said Sgt. Billy Hall with the LCSO. “Just due to the fact that legislation has been put into effect and the enforcement we are doing, smaller meth labs are becoming very common. You just get your ingredients, do it while you’re driving down the road, show up at your buddy's house with a gram or two, and you're good to go."
Other mobile labs have turned up in public in the past, including in campers, on an overpass, and even in the parking lot of a Dairy Queen.
Lenoir City Police and the sheriff’s deputies were joined by the Lenoir City Fire Department in cleaning up the lab.
Sheriff’s officials said the scene was quickly decontaminated, leaving no members of the public exposed to toxic fumes.