Man convicted in meth lab case
After his arrest nearly four years ago, a local man now faces 24-and-a-half years in prison for making meth in a Clyde home.
Detectives believe Kevin Crawford Gunter, 46, was responsible for several meth labs found across Haywood County long before he was caught in the act on Jan. 15, 2010. At the time, Gunter was wanted for failing to appear in court on a felony probation violation, but because he did not have a permanent address, officers were having trouble locating him, said Assistant District Attorney Jeff Jones.
But when Probation Officer Jerry Presnell received information that Gunter was staying at a home in Clyde, he acted quickly with detectives from the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office to confirm his location on Birdview Drive.
When detectives entered the home, they encountered Gunter walking from one of the bedrooms with a pair of cutting pliers in his hand and a lithium battery and coffee filters with a white, powdery substance on his person.
While Gunter was being taken into custody, Probation Officer Jerry Presnell noticed a strong chemical smell while clearing the house. Peering into the garage, he saw a clear glass jar with a coffee filter on top and a cloudy liquid inside.
Having training in meth lab investigations, Schick suspected the items were a working meth lab and called in a clandestine lab response team from the State Bureau of Investigation.
“In one of the bedroom they located an anhydrous ammonia apparatus, which condenses ammonia so that it may be used for the manufacturing of methamphetamine,” Jones said.
They also found empty pseudoephedrine, a lithium battery package and other items used to manufacture meth. Several items were seized for testing at the state crime lab, which later indicated the presence of meth.
Prosecutors scheduled Gunter’s trial for August 2011, at which time he failed to appear in court. He wasn’t located by law enforcement until 19 months later in Bristol, Tennessee.
Nearly four years after his initial arrest, Gunter’s case finally went to trial during the week of Nov. 18.
Defense attorney Hunter Murphy argued that his client had only been at that home two and a half days and could not have been responsible for the meth lab.
"We acknowledged that he did have meth on him, but it was a small amount," Murphy said.
After hearing from detectives and expert witnesses from the state, the jury deliberated eight hours before returning a verdict of guilty of manufacturing meth, conspiracy to make meth, possession of meth precursor materials and a lesser included offense of possession of meth. He was found not guilty of trafficking meth by manufacturing.
Ultimately, Gunter was sentenced to between 18 years and four months to 23 years and six months in prison for the charges.
At sentencing, Sgt. Det. Mark Mease with the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office testified that Gunter was one of the few people in the area who cooked using that particular method.
“Intelligence from law enforcement shows that Gunter was potentially tied to other labs that had been discovered across the county,” Jones said. “Aside from homicides and rapes, in the eyes of law enforcement Mr. Gunter has been public enemy number one for a number of years. It wasn’t until this case that they could catch him engaged in criminal conduct that carried substantial penalties.”