Weaver, Alabama: Eleven year old Kristen Michelle Kelley was changed forever on February 13, 2009 – that was the day that she drank hydrochloric acid from the Sprite soda bottle that she found on the ground just outside of her cousin’s trailer.
(picture) Kristen, like other children who are living with meth addicts and meth cooks, may soon be forgotten by the news media, but for the children who have been hurt by meth and meth labs forgetting what happened isn’t always possible.
Kristen’s cousin, Wayne Thurman Tubbs, 42, was no where to be found when the police arrived to question him. They did find something inside his trailer though – 6 meth labs. A warrant was immediately issue for Tubbs’ arrest with charges attached that included: first-degree manufacturing of a controlled substance, chemical endangerment of a child, and first-degree assault – if Kristen survived. During the days following the accident, doctors couldn’t be sure that she’d survive. Four days after the accident, Wayne Tubbs turned himself in to police.
What happened to Kristen on the day will linger in their memories, long after her accident nephew of her parents, 42-year-old Wayne Thurman Tubbs, will live with his decision; a decision that police allege was to run a meth lab deep in the woods of Weaver, Alabama in Kristen’s own backyard. If a jury finds him guilty of his arrest charges – assault, chemical endangerment of a child, and manufacturing meth, he is likely to spend much of life in prison. But, one day he may be able to walk out of prison after the punishment phase of his crime has been completed. Kristen, on the other hand, will never forget what happened to her the day she found the Sprite bottle while playing in her backyard.
Wayne Thurman Tubbs, according to news articles about the incident, is 42 years old – old enough to know that storing hydrochloric acid in a Sprite bottle is not a good idea. The problem is, Tubbs was undoubtedly not thinking, not in the way that you and I would that is, when he put that acid in that Sprite bottle. He certainly wasn’t thinking the day he put that Sprite bottle outside where his niece would find it. But, he’s not the first meth lab cook to show that being high on meth and running a meth lab destroys your ability to make good decisions.
Meth lab cooks toss around dangerous chemicals like they’re baking a cake. Ignorance is bliss, they say, but not when you’re trying to manufacture a chemical and you’re not a chemist. What are meth lab cooks thinking anyway – “I don’t need a stupid degree to make meth” ? Perhaps. Methamphetamine’s ability to flood the brain with dopamine distorts their ability to understand that the huge profits they’re making from selling methamphetamine could end up costing them their life as well as the lives of those they cherish most in life – their children, nieces and nephews, their grandchildren, their parents, their friends, their girlfriends, their boyfriends, their spouses and friends. Meth has no conscience. Those who are high on meth don’t either, they are ruled by those “feel good” feelings that get when they’re high on meth. They’re ruled by the meth money that bought the new flat screen tv in the living room and the pile of cash that’s hidden under the floor in the back bedroom closet. Meth and meth manufacturing have a way of making you believe “the world is your oyster”. Meth and greed go hand-in-hand.
Tubbs is not the first meth lab cook to think that setting up a meth lab in the woods is a good idea, either. Meth labs continue to thrive in rural areas, whether it’s in the deep south, the northwest, or in the heartland where thick wooded areas and remote locations provide them with the anonymity they need to run their drug manufacturing operations. In Tubbs case, his meth lab shop didn’t work out they way he planned it. For meth lab cooks, their plans never work out the way they think they will. Someone always gets hurt.
Storing meth lab chemicals in plastic bottles that typically hold soda, milk, and juice is often done by meth cooks. The unfortunate situation that happened in Weaver, Alabama could have happened anywhere in the country where meth labs are prevalent.
It’s not unusual for police to find meth lab chemicals stored in the kinds of bottles we use everyday which in some cases are stored in refrigerators; refrigerators that can be opened at any time by anyone – even those too young to understand that you shouldn’t drink anything from bottles in your refrigerator when you’re thirsty.
Yet, meth has a way of forever changing what’s “normal” for a child living in a home where meth is abused or has been manufactured.
Curiosity is also what’s “normal” for children. Exploring their world is how they learn about it. Unfortunately, children in homes where meth is used by family members and friends of their family, learn that soda bottles can be used for alot of things like storing meth lab chemicals and smoking from them behind the garage or in the living room when your friends stop by for a visit.
What those children aren’t taught by their parents though is what they really ought to be learning – that the garage where they like bounce their balls and the barn where they like to play hide-and-go-seek and their bedrooms, living rooms, and the kitchens of their house where they spends hours, weeks, months, and years of their lives are full of chemicals that can hurt them. Many of them won’t learn that until years later when the doctor wonders why they have a rare form of cancer or damage to their lungs. Their parents don’t tell them anything about that. They do know they’re not supposed to touch certain bottles in the refrigerator or go in to certain rooms or buildings. Their parents made that quite clear. But, when you’re a child, sometimes curiosity gets the best of you and you need to find out why your parents think some things are so important. After all, what harm can it do to take a puff out of the Sprite bottle that mom and dad puff on all the time, right?
We can all do something to protect children and ourselves
The unfortunate turn of events that happened in Weaver, Alabama are replayed over and over again in meth labs all across America, not only to children who live in active meth lab homes but to children who live in former meth lab homes too. Innocent families who buy and rent homes that were previously used as meth labs face the risk of being harmed by the chemical toxins that still remain in their contaminated homes.
Home owners and renters should watch for any bottles or chemicals burns found outdoors. Bottles containing muddy residue or burned grassy areas may actually be telltale evidence of a meth lab.
Do not pick up any materials if you find them. Remember what you see is not always what you get! Chemicals used to make meth, as Kristen unfortunately found out include hydrochloric acid. You don’t have to drink hydrochloric acid for it to do permanent damage. It burns skin very easily!
Call your local police or Sheriff’s department and let them handle the situation. If the materials you find are from a meth lab, they will call in a specially trained Hazmat team to safely remove them.