COLUMBIA CITY — Residents of a rural Columbia City mobile home community were awakened early this morning by an explosion, followed by the lights and sirens of emergency vehicles responding to the blast of a suspected methamphetamine lab that killed a woman.
According to Whitley County Sheriff Mark Hodges, Alecia L. Stine, 24, was found dead on the floor of her master bedroom.
He said a preliminary investigation indicated a chemical explosion occurred in or near a glass container, which he said was an indicator that the house, a double-wide mobile home, was being used to manufacture methamphetamine.
“Deputy Jason Spencer was the first to arrive at the scene and entered the mobile home through the front door,” said Hodges in a press release this morning.
“A strong chemical odor, possibly anhydrous ammonia, was detected by Deputy Spencer.”
Hodges said the incident was reported by a resident of the trailer park, located at 4614 E. Old Trail Road.
He said the resident called the sheriff’s department reporting injuries to the female resident at Lot 65.
The explosion sent shards of glass into the air striking the victim in the throat, neck and arm.
“It also appears the victim suffered chemical burns to her face,” Hodges said.
There was no fire in the mobile home.
“It was about 1 a.m., I was moving things in,” said Tammy Poling, who said she and her husband had just moved to Miami Village Mobile Home Park from Mississippi two weeks ago.
“I heard it (the explosion) but I didn’t think anything of it,” said Poling, who lives within several yards of the now condemned home. Next thing we knew, there were all these lights and cop cars everywhere.”
Poling expressed concern over the incident.
“You never really know what goes on inside homes,” she said.
“It was her choice and it was a bad one. I guess she had two small children,” said Poling.
Hodges said the investigation is ongoing by the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department, Indiana State Police, Whitley County Coroner, Whitley County Board of Health and Union Township Fire Department, who all responded to the scene.
According to Hodges, Spencer was treated at a local hospital for respiratory irritation due to chemical inhalation.
An autopsy of the victim is scheduled, Hodges said.
The incident is one of several in the area in recent weeks connected to the manufacture of the illegal drug, according to Sgt. Michael C. Toles of the Indiana State Police.
Toles, the North Zone Supervisor of ISP’s Meth Suppression Section, said police are waging an uphill battle in the fight against makers of the drug.
“For every one cook, they teach 10 others,” said Toles this morning in front of the taped off house.
“It’s a simple recipe and unfortunately, we’re in react mode. It’s just like any sort of criminal activity where citizen input is very important.”
Toles said approximately 1,300 meth labs have been discovered in Indiana in 2010 and he said the Hoosier state ranks near the top in the nation in meth manufacturing and trafficking.
“Unfortunately, we’re consistently in the top five,” Toles said.