CENTROPOLIS Just weeks after moving to the rural Franklin County town of Centropolis, a man and woman face charges of operating a methamphetamine lab from their trailer.
It's no secret to longtime residents of this unincorporated town of less than 150 people that the population has been changing in recent years.
``We've had a set population for a long time, but as the old people died or moved away to retirement homes, that opens up some of the houses for other people,'' said Gene Gilliland, who runs the only business in the town of 53 houses.
``Some of them do have long hair, and you say, `OK, what kind of druggie are you,' but that's just a joke,'' said Gilliland.
In the case of a couple who moved in less than two months ago, however, Centropolis residents aren't laughing.
Armed law enforcers raided the couple's trailer home Wednesday night, breaking up what they say is a methamphetamine lab. While no meth was being made at the time, it was apparent to authorities that the popular drug was being produced there.
``When we hit them, it was all in a box, what we call a box lab, but they had all the ingredients and all the equipment necessary to make it,'' said Capt. Brad Gilges, who's in charge of narcotics investigations for the Franklin County Sheriff's Department.
Robert Geisler, 34, and Joy Catron, 38, were both charged Friday morning with manufacturing methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine and one count each of felony and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia. They remained in the Franklin County Jail in Ottawa on $30,000 bond. They face a court hearing on Wednesday.
The sheriff's department searched the trailer again on Thursday, after stolen items were found during the raid. Gilges didn't have information on the particular items that were recovered, but he said three residential burglaries and one theft have been cleared by the discovery.
``Several handguns and a few rifles were seized, and some turned out to be stolen in burglaries,'' Gilges said. ``We still believe there's more stolen property involved that we haven't been able to identify yet.''
Charges on the stolen property had not been filed as of Friday afternoon because the investigation was ongoing.
Gilliland said the couple had bought pop, bread and milk in his convenience store/garage, Gilliland Goodyear Tire and Engine, and the couple pretty much ``kept to themselves.''
``As far as day-to-day life, even though these people are cooking meth, they just act like normal people,'' Gilliland said.
The Centropolis arrests demonstrate what drug investigators have known for a long time: Rural areas are attractive to meth cooks because they need the privacy to make the drug, which is cheaper and easier to make than crack and heroin. The high also lasts longer.
``Just in the last month, we've knocked off two meth labs, one at a motel in Ottawa and this one,'' Gilges said. ``We're contributing this to the ease of obtaining the ingredients, the ease of the cooking process and the lack of strict laws.''
Missouri's Legislature recently passed laws increasing penalties for possession of meth, and Kansas lawmakers have discussed following suit. In the meantime, however, law enforcement agencies expect some meth cooks to drive their labs across the state border into Kansas.
``We are seeing an increase in meth activity,'' Gilges said.
Agencies involved in the raid were the Tri-County Drug Enforcement Unit, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation's Clandestine Lab Unit, Franklin County Sheriff's Department, and the Ottawa Police Department's Special Tactics and Response (STAR) team, similar to a SWAT team.
-- Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.