Illinois women charged with cooking meth in church

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HILLSBORO, IL (KTVI) - Montgomery County Sheriff Jim Vazzi calls it a first.  He says his department has never arrested two women on meth making charges at a church.  Police say Judith Hemken, 53, and Tiffany Burton, 26, snuck into a small, rural church near Hillsboro, IL Tuesday night in order to make meth.

A witness reported seeing one of the women walking into the Waveland Presbyterian Church with a cigarette.  He thought the women looked out of place and contacted police.  The women left but were arrested after police stopped a vehicle matching a description from a witness.

The women are now charged with participation in manufacturing methamphetamine in a church.   Hemken was jailed on a $200,000 bond.  Burton’s bail was $100,000.   Police say the women had no known connection to the church.

Meth crimes near a church or school carry tougher penalties.  Vazzi says if the women are convicted, they could each face a prison sentence ranging from 9 to 40 years.

“You got to respect the churches, and apparently they don’t think they have to,” said John Chappereal.  He lives across the street from the church.  Chappereal was pleased to hear about the potential for a tougher penalty.

Vazzi believes the number of meth related calls started to slow in recent years for his department.

“I think it’s coming back,” said the sheriff.   He suspects a rise in heroin prices and the accessibility of meth making ingredients are to blame.

Vazzi praised the witness in this case who called police.

“This is what helps,” said Vazzi.  “Citizens and police working together in cooperation.”