09/27/13 Prosecutors and police think a local jury put a stop to one of Marshall County’s largest methamphetamine cooks when it convicted Travis L. Chizum on Wednesday evening. A Marshall County jury deliberated a little over an hour on Wednesday, after which it found Chizum guilty of Manufacturing Methamphetamine, Conspiracy to Manufacture Methamphetamine, Possession of Methamphetamine, Possession of Precursors with the intent to manufacture Methamphetamine, and Maintaining a Common Nuisance. After hearing two days of testimony, the jury returned its verdict to presiding Judge Robert O. Bowen of Marshall Superior Court No. 1. Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Nelson Chipman represented the State, and South Bend attorney Gary Griner represented Chizum.
The jury heard the case started when officer John Weir of the Plymouth Police Department traveled down an alley in the 1000 block of N. Plum St. in January of 2013 and smelled a powerful chemical and ammonia odor coming from a garage structure. Weir knew from experience and training the smell is commonly associated with the manufacture of methamphetamine. He began an investigation that included surveillance of the building he suspected was the source of the smell. That surveillance lasted over a month as he watched numerous persons with known criminal and drug related backgrounds frequent the premises. His investigation identified the owner of the building and that Travis Chizum was the occupant. Then a final tip came when an individual who was being arrested for paraphernalia offered to show where he purchased methamphetamine and it was the same building. Weir drafted a search warrant that was approved by a judge and a raid was conducted on March 7, 2013 by Plymouth Police Officers, with assistance from the Indiana State Police and Marshall County Police.
Arrested at the scene on March 7 was Adam Wagers of Grovertown, Dianna Watson of Syracuse, and Kimberlie Frazier and Jordan Bunton both of Plymouth. Wagers has since plead guilty to manufacturing methamphetamine and received a 14 year sentence with 4 years suspended. It soon became clear to investigators that Watson, Bunton and Frazier had just arrived at the premises just prior to the police. Watson has since plead guilty to possession of methamphetamine and visiting a common nuisance. Frazier and Bunton’s cases remain pending. Watson and Bunton testified at the trial that Travis Chizum had left only minutes before the police arrived with the search warrant. It was their testimony that proved crucial in linking Chizum to the manufacturing operation.
Frazier failed to appear at the trial after having been served with a subpoena. A warrant for her arrest was previously issued in an unrelated case and remains outstanding.
The Indiana State Police Meth Eradication Team was called upon to assess the site and inventory the meth production related items. Trooper Keith Bikowski identified meth related items in over 100 photographic exhibits shown the jury by Prosecutor Chipman. Three exhibits analyzed by the State Police Laboratory to contain methamphetamine were also entered into evidence, along with the logs documenting the individuals’ pseudoephedrine purchasing history in pharmacies in Plymouth, Knox, South Bend, Valparaiso, Rochester and Iowa. Pseudoephedrine is an essential ingredient for the manufacture of methamphetamine. It was explained that the national computer based log is what people sign when purchasing over the counter cold medicine that contains pseudoephedrine.
Indiana State Police Trooper Brandon McBrier began testimony on Tuesday by explaining to the jury with a Power Point presentation the intricacies of manufacturing methamphetamine. Officer Weir then testified to the events leading up to the search warrant and its execution and the arrest of the four individuals. He also testified to the interviews he conducted with the various individuals. Trooper Bikowski then identified the photographs and told the jury they found an active lab producing methamphetamine at the time of the raid, 16 used and discarded one pot labs, and 23 HcL generators that are part of the end process.
Bikowski also testified that some of the one pots were unusually large. One such lab was created out of a garden variety fertilizer or bug spray container, over a gallon in size, and cleverly equipped with a toilet valve designed to release pressure as the meth ingredients cooked.
Marshall County Police Officer Jonathon Bryant testified how he apprehended Adam Wagers as Wagers tried to escape from the rear window of the structure. Bryant also found meth soaked coffee filters in Wagers’ pocket. Plymouth Police Corporal Bridget Hite testified how she found a bag of meth in the brassiere of Dianna Watson, and how the items were packaged and transported to the State Police Lab for analysis. Hite also provided the jury with the laboratory results.
Chipman argued to the jury that Watson and Bunton placed Chizum at the structure, commonly referred to those in the meth using community as the “shop,” just before the police arrived. From there he went to Iowa for close to two weeks. Chipman pointed out that Chizum’s pseudoephedrine purchasing activity continued in Iowa. Unknown to the jury, Chizum was arrested in a South Bend/Roseland hotel room on March 21.
Chipman stated, “The community has much to be grateful for John Weir’s relentless efforts to close down the shop from any future meth production. All of the officers in this case worked together for a successful outcome. And we are all very grateful the jury saw it the same way.”
Chizum is being sentenced by Judge Bowen in mid-October.