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Authorities Say Kids In Car While Meth Cooked

Couple Faces Reckless Endangerment, Meth Charges


Two children not even old enough to go to preschool faced a potentially dangerous lesson in Rutherford County. They were playing in their parents' car while methamphetamine was being cooked on the back seat, according to the Sheriff's Department.

Rutherford County narcotics detectives had gotten a tip that meth was being manufactured inside a car at a West Jefferson Pike home in Walter Hill. The moment they saw two small girls playing in and around the vehicle, they had enough, so they made their move.

"That's when he stuck his hands in the air and said, 'You've got me. I'm busted,'" said Sheriff Robert Arnold.

Sheriff's officials arrested the girl's mother, 23-year-old Patricia Nicole Smith, and her 34-year-old boyfriend, Christopher Michael Rucker, who's from Nashville.

"We are seeing a rise in these mobile meth labs, what we call shake-and-bake," Arnold said.

Authorities said the couple was using the shake-and-bake method -- a quick and easy way to make meth for personal use.

"(The method) is made up of a Coke bottle, several Coke bottles, and lithium batteries and other ingredient," said Arnold.

Narcotics officers said they also found muriatic acid and ephedrine, which is found in over-the-counter cold medicines.

"The chemicals that come off of it, (there is) the potential for an explosion," said Arnold.

Authorities said the 2- and 3-year-old girls had direct exposure to methamphetamine inside the car. They were taken to a hospital to be decontaminated before being taking into the Department of Children's Services' custody. The girls are now staying with relatives.

The sheriff said the shake-and-bake method would have yielded about 4 grams of methamphetamine, a street value of $300-$500. But it cost taxpayers thousands of dollars more to clean up the mobile meth lab.

"The price tag to clean this up, going to the taxpayers, is probably tens of thousands of dollars," said Arnold.

Smith and Rucker are facing reckless endangerment and meth charges and remain in jail.

January 14, 2011
By Larry Flowers