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By Sally Voth - firstname.lastname@example.org
An alleged King Street meth lab was shut down by town, state and federal officers Wednesday afternoon in Strasburg.
Investigators also came across traces of bomb-making materials during their search, Chief Tim Sutherly said Wednesday night.
Philip Eugene Chadwell, 22, of 710 E. King St., was arrested and charged with manufacturing methamphetamine. More charges are pending, Sutherly said.
"He was arrested because they saw the evidence of the methamphetamine precursors at the site," he said.
Town police had gone to Chadwell's home as part of a Winchester Police Department investigation into larcenies they thought he may have information about, Sutherly said.
"When they got to the residence, they saw the precursors for meth," he said. "He readily admitted he was making meth."
Sutherly said a search warrant was obtained to search the home, and the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug Task Force's methamphetamine response team, which included members from the Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office, was called in. A special meth clean-up crew was also summoned to the site.
Police didn't just find the makings of a meth lab while in the home, Sutherly said.
"Also inside was evidence of bomb-making, and he admitted to making the meth and making the homemade bombs," he said. "We called in the state police bomb unit to ensure there was nothing dangerous there.
"There was only trace evidence of that at the scene. He admitted to making homemade bombs and exploding them. He was making some serious stuff. There's no indication that he had malicious intent. He was just curious to see if he could do it."
Throughout Wednesday afternoon, undercover task force officers, town officers and Drug Enforcement Administration agents were working outside the home. Police tape blocked off a small area around the run-down white two-story house.
Beneath a tent in the backyard, various chemicals, including drain cleaner and several containers of acetone, and Mason jars were laid out on a blue tarp. Hazardous materials disposal providers contracted out of Roanoke donned protected clothing, gloves and booties and carefully put the materials into metal barrels, which were then sealed.
Two young boys could be seen walking around the home later in the afternoon, with one coming out of the front door. A man could be heard telling a neighbor the search involved his stepson.
Sutherly said if there were children under a certain age living in the home at the time of the alleged meth manufacturing, Chadwell could face enhanced charges. The items were found in the suspect's bedroom, he said.
Sutherly said Chadwell hadn't been under drug task force investigation before Wednesday.
"He was totally under the radar," he said. "Apparently, he was just starting and trying to develop his meth business. According to him, he went to George Mason University studying chemistry."
Chadwell told investigators he'd made several batches, but hadn't produced any actual methamphetamine, Sutherly said.
"I'm just glad that the officers were alert to enough to know what they were looking at and acted appropriately," he said.
A red DEA sign was posted on the home's front door before officers left. It warned that a clandestine drug lab and/or hazardous chemicals had been seized from the home, and that some hazardous materials could still be on the site.
"Please exercise caution while on these premises," it stated.
Chadwell is being held in the Shenandoah County Jail on a $10,000 secured bond.