Exclusive: Meth lab found in crash wreckage

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email | Twitter

FORT MITCHELL, AL (WTVM) -  Officers who got called to a head-on collision between a car and tractor trailer on Highway 165 Friday found a messy scene. Oil and diesel were all over the road but chemicals of another kind also caught the attention of police.

"A deputy arriving on the scene noticed that the vehicle involved actually had what he thought was a meth lab in the trunk," said Lieutenant Heath Taylor, Chief Investigator for the Russell County Sheriff's Office.

"In the trunk were numerous chemicals found for a shake-and-bake meth lab. It had all been used up- the chemical reactions had already occurred so it wasn't dangerous at that point. It appeared to us that he was actually trying to dispose of the lab at the time of the crash," said Mike Loyless, who heads up the Russell County PAIN Narcotics Task Force.

Police say the driver, 40-year-old Mark Renfroe from Cottonton, AL, now faces a long list of drug charges.

But investigators say his method of making meth is nothing new. In fact, they say shake-and-bake labs have become the main way local cooks make the drug because they're portable and the chemicals are easy to get.

"It could have been very bad. Lithium reacts violently with water and today it was pouring down rain," Loyless said.

"He's certainly putting everyone on the road in danger when you're driving with a meth lab in the trunk of your car. It just goes to show how prevalent these labs are in this area. We were just lucky this time it wasn't worse," Lieutenant Taylor added.

Mark Renfroe is listed in stable condition at the Columbus Regional Medical Center.

The driver of the tractor trailer was not injured.

Alabama State Troopers are investigating what caused the accident but tell News Leader 9 it appears Renfroe lost control of his car for some reason, crossed over into oncoming traffic and hit the logging truck.

Agents say not only were the remnants of the lab found in his trunk but also the finished product, ecstasy pills, prescription pills, a syringe, and a pipe, leading them to believe he was also using the drugs.

Russell County Investigators say Renfroe is no stranger to the system. They tell WTVM he has been convicted several times for meth in the past.

©2010 WTVM. All rights reserved.