Columbus meth labs damaging to children's health and property - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Columbus meth labs damaging to children's health and property values

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Phillip Kernodle Phillip Kernodle
COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

On Thursday afternoon, detectives concluded a month-long surveillance operation and entered a house on Rose Avenue in Columbus, suspected of containing a meth lab.  

It ended with the arrest of 41-year-old Phillip Kernodle on meth trafficking, illegal weapons possession, and other drug-related crimes. 

To keep detectives from disrupting or damaging the house, police said Kernodle voluntarily showed them areas in the kitchen and bedroom where he was keeping over 90 grams of methamphetamines.  Police also recovered packaging, scales, and other drug manufacturing materials. Neighbors said they are relieved to see police making this type of arrest.

"I've seen some people who do it and it's not a good thing.  I wouldn't anyone around me or my kids to do it- especially when someone is making it.  I've heard about places blowing up.  That should tell you right there that it's not a good thing," said Gary Brown.

A veteran real estate agent in the Columbus area said he's been in business for over 40 years and only one of his tenants was discovered to be running a meth lab in 2006.  But even that one incident caused a major ordeal for his company.  He said the only thing worse than trying to sell a house where a meth lab was present is trying to sell one where a person was murdered.

"That could be devastating.  If you owe $100,000 on a piece of property and you can't sell it, you're at zero," said John Daniel, of Broadmoor Realty.

He had to spend thousands of dollars to hire professional cleaners to remove all traces of meth and the value of the house decreased dramatically.

"Fumes from the cooking process get everywhere: into the air conditioning ducts, onto the ceiling, curtains, drapes, carpets, walls, everything.  I understand that a young person or a young child could become addicted very easily just by breathing in the fumes inside the house. So, you just don't want to take that chance," said Daniel.

 Police said the total street value of the drugs found in the house is over $14,000.

Despite investigators claims that they observed drug activity at the house over a period of 30 days, Kernodle's defense attorney Mark Shelnutt believes it wasn't enough reason to obtain a search warrant.  He said police need to conduct a "controlled buy" where an officer or informant makes a drug purchase at the house, using marked bills.

He also said his client is the caretaker of several infirm patients, and that is why he had possession of their prescriptions of oxycodone and hydrocodone.

"There's nothing illegal, as long as the medicine is in the proper bottle, and is legitimate medicine, there's nothing wrong.  I mean, my goodness, if I go pick my aunt's medicine up at the store, there's nothing wrong with that at all," said Shelnutt.

As for the weapons, Shelnutt said his client was keeping them as collector's items.  Police argue that the nature of a sawed-off shotgun prevents it from being considered a collectible.  The lead investigator also said one of the guns was reported stolen from Phenix City.

Police allege Kernodle was producing methamphetamines while his elderly parents and teenage son were living in the house, putting all of them at risk.  He is the only person who police are charging with a crime.

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