Magistrate hears fifth meth charge

A hearing for the fifth person arrested for allegedly operating a methamphetamine lab Dec. 29 at a Wilson Street residence in Elkins was held in Randolph County Magistrate Court Thursday.

Magistrate George “Mike” Riggleman found probable cause to bind 28-year-old Phillip Ander Moyers, of Elkins, to a Randolph County grand jury at the conclusion of Moyers’ preliminary hearing.

Moyers, 31-year-old Michael Leon Bennington of Buckhannon, 51-year-old Brian Keith Hammer, 47-year-old Barbara Ann Spiva and 44-year-old Angela Faye Miller were each charged with operating or attempting to operate a clandestine lab, a felony, and with manufacturing or delivery of controlled substance, also a felony, Dec. 29 after police allegedly found methamphetamine precursors, methamphetamine and residue from shake-and-bake meth “cooks” inside a residence located at 462 Wilson St.

On Wednesday, Riggleman bound the cases of Spiva, Hammer and Bennington over to Circuit Court, but found no probable cause in Miller’s case.

Spiva, Hammer, Bennington and Moyers are each being held in the Tygart Valley Regional Jail on a $50,000 cash-only bond.

At Thursday’s preliminary hearing, Randolph County Sheriff’s Deputy D.L. VanMeter testified that on Dec. 29, he and Trooper M.J. Wilson with the Morgantown detachment of the West Virginia State Police were attempting to serve a warrant on 22-year-old Samantha Armentrout, who was alleged to have been a passenger in a red or maroon Pontiac Grand Prix.

When the officers spotted a car matching that description pull in behind Barbara Spiva’s residence at 462 Wilson St., Spiva let them in and gave them consent to search her condominium for Armentrout. Upon allegedly discovering methamphetamine precursors in the upstairs bathroom, the officers asked Spiva, Miller, Bennington and Hammer to remain seated on the living room couch while they scoured the residence. The officers testified that they found a variety of meth precursors in the bathroom including rock salt, lithium batteries and drain opener; several abandoned “one-pot cooks” or shake-and-bake meth labs in the master bedroom closet; and what appeared to be refuse from cooking meth in the basement of the condo.

In the midst of their investigation, VanMeter said he heard “something or someone moving around upstairs” and saw a shadow.

That’s when VanMeter encountered Moyers, who was walking out of the master bedroom and into an adjacent, smaller bedroom.

“I asked him what he was doing, and he said he was looking for an inhaler,” VanMeter testified. The deputy said he also overheard Moyers say he was “the significant other” of Spiva.

“I understood through my investigation that he lived (at 462 Wilson St.) also,” he said.

VanMeter asked Moyers where he was when Wilson had initially gone upstairs to look for Armentrout, and Moyers told the deputy he was in the attic, VanMeter testified. The officer noted that the only entry to the attic was located in the master bedroom.

Moyers’ attorney, Chris Cooper, wanted to know if either the trooper or the deputy had any evidence directly linking his client to the materials related to the manufacture of meth that were found in the bedroom, master bedroom closet and basement.

“Did you personally witness my client operate a clandestine drug lab?” Cooper asked VanMeter.

“No, I did not,” the deputy replied.

Wilson testified that he’d run an NPLEx scan on Moyers which tracks pseudoephedrine purchases and found that Moyers had no such purchases. Assistant Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney Lori Gray asked about the results of the NPLEx scan he’d run on Moyers’ “significant other,” Spiva.

Wilson said Spiva had, on two occasions, purchased medications containing pseudoephedrine in December and was blocked from buying on her third attempt.

Senior Trooper D.R. Wolford with the Elkins detachment of the WVSP and a certified clandestine lab technician also testified Thursday, saying that he and Wilson had removed “five five-gallon buckets and two 35-gallon tubs” of materials related to making meth from Spiva’s residence.

“Based on your education and training, is it your opinion that there was a clandestine meth lab there in that home?” Gray asked Wolford.

“Yes,” he replied.

Gray argued that there was “clear and overwhelming evidence” that probable cause should be found in Moyers’ case, given his location in the home at the time officers arrived and his relationship with Spiva.

Cooper countered that Moyers’ mere presence was not enough to incriminate him.

“Being a witness to a crime does not mean you’re a criminal,” Cooper argued. “All three witnesses called could not say that Mr. Moyers actively cooked anything.” Citing Wilson’s testimony that Moyers hadn’t bought any pseudoephedrine products, Cooper suggested Moyers “was in the wrong place at the wrong time and may even have the wrong friends.”

“But we do not have enough evidence to continue having him incarcerated,” he said.

Riggleman disagreed.

“Mr. Cooper, I am finding probable cause, and I am binding him over to Circuit Court,” the magistrate said.

“Then, he should have been charged with conspiracy,” Cooper argued, exiting the courtroom. “He shouldn’t have been charged with active manufacture of methamphetamine if that’s the case.”