MOUNT VERNON — When Charles Hurlow of Murray Road went to get in his truck Monday morning, it wasn’t there. The truck was usually parked under a security light, and he didn’t initially suspect it had been stolen.
“I thought maybe my wife had let one of the kids use it,” Hurlow explained. “It was 4 o’clock in the morning. She said she hadn’t. I told her it was gone. It was a weird feeling.
“I feel a little invaded. We live in small-town Mount Vernon. How in the world does a guy in Cambridge come up here to steal a truck?”
The truck was not just stolen, but was used to transport meth lab components in Noble County. It began Monday with a chase and search of a man driving the truck — a 1979 Chevy — who fled the Ohio State Highway Patrol after a crash on Tunnel Hill Road in Noble County. The ensuing search involved the OSHP, the Cambridge and Byesville police departments, a canine unit from the Cambridge Police Department, the Noble County Sheriff’s Office, a hazmat team and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.
According to Sgt. Kay Perkins of the Cambridge OSHP post, the chase began when Trooper Scott Buxton ran a registration check on the truck on Interstate 70, and determined it had been reported stolen in Knox County. The driver of the truck exited at the Ohio 209 exit and continued south on Ohio 209.
Buxton followed the vehicle and tried to initiate a traffic stop when it entered a Kmart parking lot. The driver pulled out of the lot and continued south on Ohio 209 toward Byesville. The OSHP Cambridge post alerted local law enforcement agencies of the situation.
“The driver continued through Byesville and onto Ohio 821 and on into Noble County,” Perkins said.
The chase continued onto Tunnel Hill Road, where the trooper momentarily lost sight of the vehicle due to curves in the road. The driver failed to negotiate a curve and the truck ran off the road, hitting a tree stump. The driver exited the vehicle and fled to a nearby wooded area.
“When the trooper regained sight of the truck, it was already stopped and there was no driver,” Perkins said.
At this point troopers discovered the bed of the truck contained components of a meth lab, including a tank of what was believed to be anhydrous ammonia. Perkins said they looked in the cab of the truck and saw components of a meth lab.
“It looked like he was taking it someplace to cook his meth,” she said. “At that point it was out of our hands, and we called the BCII.”
Scott Duff of the meth lab unit at the BCII said the agent at the scene said there was an air tank in the truck.
“That is typically indicative of anhydrous ammonia,” he said. “Anhydrous ammonia is one of the key ingredients we see in people trying to make methamphetomine. We also found some pseudophedrine empty blister packs. That is, of course, the driving force in meth. We also found some glassware, for doing mixtures. But the most glaring thing was the tank with the hose coming off of it.”
Duff said the hazmat team came in to clean up, but did not mess around with the tank.
“Those things, air tanks, propane tanks are not made to hold anhydrous ammonia,” Duff explained. “It becomes very volatile. I don’t want to downplay it at all. It could have been a very serious situation. We come in, we make the lab safe and then we call in folks to haul the stuff away.”
Duff also said the OSHP is the lead agency in the investigation.
Perkins said there had been no arrests as of press time, but authorities did have a person of interest they wanted to talk to.