Sheriff: Hixson 'meth house' is a public nuisance
HIXSON, HAMILTON COUNTY, TN. (WRCB)-- Mary Lou Mathley's neighbors made themselves conspicuous by the noise and the traffic.
"Once those turkeys get a toehold in the neighborhood, you can kiss the neighborhood goodbye," she says.
Her sentiments echo what Hamilton County deputies have been saying about the compound at 8818 St. John's Road since before she moved to Hixson.
"Going all the way back to 2001, we've had problems with meth in here," Lt. Max Templeton says.
The Hamilton County Attorney's Petition to Abate A Public Nuisance, recounts more than two dozen arrests on that property over the past ten years.
The most recent was for possession of meth paraphernalia in February. Possession of meth components brought one bust last October, another in September, and two in March.
The record shows arrests for assault in February 2010, hit-and-run in October 2009, theft, credit card fraud, burglary, a pit bull attack, and another slew of meth charges including a full-blown lab seized in October 2001.
"That's why we're locking up these homes today and stopping this situation," Lt. Templeton says.
Thursday morning, deputies with the Narcotics, Patrol, Fugitive and CID units executed the Nuisance Order and arrested three people on warrants.
Co-owners Brenton D. Ledford, 26, and his sister Danielle Ledford,28, face charges of manufacturing methamphetamine , conspiracy to manufacture meth, conspiracy for theft over $5,000 and possession of paraphernalia.
An Eyewitness News camera crew toured the property about two hours later. Deputies had boarded the windows in a clapboard house, a log cabin and a tool shed. Bags overflowing with garbage filled the back porch. Debris littered the side yards.
"All the property is pretty much a wreck, tragically," Lt. Templeton says.
A collection of toys makes clear, a little boy had been living here.
"This child was three," Lt. Templeton says.
"I think that's rotten, that they would expose a child to that stuff," Mathely says.
Deputies have placed the boy in the custody of relatives.
Investigators credit neighbors with helping to build their case.
"Seems like when we put the Neighborhood Watch signs up, it really ticked off the cul-de-sac folks," Mathely laughs.
Deputies believe the signs didn't slow the illegal traffic as much as redirected that.
One undercover investigator led our camera to a trail in the woods behind the Ledford's home. It leads to the backroad of a subdivision that adjoins Sequoyah Hills.
"It was an open market for dealing drugs," the investigator says.
The Sheriff's Office and County Attorney Rheubin Taylor tell Eyewitness News that they may try to utilize Tennessee's Nuisance Law more frequently.
The order, issued through Hamilton County Chancery Court, requires the Ledfords to show cause as to why they should not be compelled to clean up their property, or to allow the county to sell the property to recoup costs for cleanup.
A hearing date hasn't been set.
But Mathely's glad her neighbors are gone; if only for the moment.
"If they want to blow themselves up that's fine," she says.
"But don't take a child with them."