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Woman Suspected In Walmart Meth Lab Strikes Again

OAKVILLE, MO (KTVI) – The woman at the center of a case that gained national attention two weeks ago, when she  was arrested in a Walmart carrying what police say was a mobile meth lab, has been jailed again.  And St. Louis County Police say the same woman was doing the same thing again.

Her name is Jennifer Vaughn-Culp.  She was charged Tuesday evening with numerous counts of possession and manufacturing of methamphetamine.  St. Louis County Police say they have now picked her up twice in possession of bottles that had meth cooking inside.  It’s a process that can be incredibly dangerous.   The latest arrest came outside a U-Gas station at 6161 Telegraph Road in south county, just three miles from the Walmart where the first incident happened June 7. 

“Both times she’s in possession of a plastic bottle which we believe is used to produce methamphetimene.  We call it an active lab,” St. Louis County Officer Rich Eckhard said.  “The chemicals are chemically reacting.  There’s a danger of explosion, an exposure of vapors.  These officers confronted the same woman twice in a couple of weeks.”

A public facing photograph of Culp on Facebook looks like a distant memory compared to booking photos by county police this month.  You can look at the pictures in a photo gallery below.  

FOX 2 spoke very briefly with Culp at an apartment where she was staying on June 8th, after the Walmart arrest.  She refused to answer any questions and rushed to a waiting car.     

In the Walmart incident, St. Louis County Police say a woman, who they confirm is Culp, was accused of shoplifting along with a man, by store employees.  When police arrived to take the complaint, they saw a bottle they believed to have meth cooking inside in her purse.  The pair were taken into custody and the store was evacuated for about 2 ½ hours while the bottle was contained by narcotics detectives and firefighters. 

In Franklin County, where they’ve been on the front line of the battle against meth for several years, they say a cooking “shake and bake” meth lab is easy for a trained officer to spot.

“You can see it.  It starts out clear like this,” narcotics Detective Darryll Balleydier said pointing at a plastic water bottle.  “And you can see it’s bubbling.  It’s really reacting.  The lithium metal will be flaring, flashing off.   And it’s hot to the touch.”

He says the bottle becomes more unstable as the pressure inside builds.  If not “burped” or depressurized properly, it can be explosive.  Also, the slightest tearing in the plastic container can lead to a flash fire and vapor leakage.

Asked if it was basically a chemical grenade, Balleydier responded, “Basically?  That’s exactly what it is.  You have ammonium nitrate.  Where did they use ammonium nitrate? Oklahoma City.  That was the Oklahoma City bombing.”

As for Culp, Balleydier says he’s not surprised at all she was arrested for what county police say is the same thing.  In both Franklin and St. Louis Counties, lab testing is required on the suspicious bottles to confirm that meth is actually what is inside.  That’s a process that can take weeks or even months due to lab backups. 

“They want the lab reports.  They want to know the quantity.  The weight of the liquid that was in that vessel.  And they want to see that it tested positive for meth and/or pseudoephedrine,” he said.  “It’s frustrating because we’re dealing with people, 2,3,4 meth labs before they even get charged with the first one.”

In the Walmart and U-Gas cases, those frustrating delays looked like they might draw this process out, but charges suddenly appeared against Culp, who’s being held in the St. Louis County Jail, about 5:15pm, after the story received a day’s worth of significant media attention. 

As for two arrests for what county police describe as the same thing, addiction experts say it’s all consistent with a certain kind of behavior.  Percy Menzies from the Assisted Recovery Centers of America says it’s like having your brain hijacked by meth.

 “It’s just like the drug addict.  ‘I got caught using drugs last time but this time I’m not gonna let it happen,’” he said.  “So they have the brazenness, the complete sense of unreality, that, ‘I can do it, and that’s what gets them into trouble.’” 

Culp is being held on $100 thousand cash only bond in both the Walmart case and the U-Gas case.

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