Couple Face Charges After Breaking Into Quarantined Meth House

Billy Jean Smart, Robert Alder Due In Sessions Court Thursday

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - by Judy Frank

A 27-year-old man who allegedly broke into a house quarantined as a meth lab to retrieve his Playstation and other belongings is scheduled to explain himself to a Hamilton County judge Thursday morning.

Exactly how Robert Lee Alder’s possessions wound up in the house at 3609 Forest Highland Drive is not detailed in court documents. However, an arrest report filed in April by Chattanooga Police officers indicates that Alder lived at that address.

The house is one of three in Hamilton County that have been quarantined as meth labs so far this year.

The other two properties are located at 4208 E. 12th Ave. and 3205 E. Through St.

Under Tennessee law, which took effect in March 2005, police are empowered to quarantine former meth labs. The designation must be recorded on the deeds to the properties, which must remain vacant – and cannot be sold – as long as the quarantines remain in effect.

Alder was not alone when he broke into the Forest Highland Drive house, according to police reports which indicate he was accompanied by 24-year-old Billie Jean Smart.

The reports indicate that officers investigating the incident spoke with Shannon Morrison and she “advised that Robert Lee Adler . . . would know more about it . . . (and) that both Mr. Robert Lee Adler and Ms. Billie J. Smart had gone to get their stuff from the house at 3609 Forest Highland Drive.”

When police entered the couple’s room, they reported, they spotted a Playstation and a stack of games that were supposed to be at the quarantined property.

Adler “then advised both him and Ms. Smart had gone over there and cleaned his stuff out,” according to the police report.

Both Alder and Smart have extensive arrest records here and in neighboring counties. On July 5, for example, Sessions Court Judge Ron Durby – the judge who is also scheduled to hear the “violation of quarantine” charges against the pair – bound over several meth-related charges against them to the grand jury.

The three houses quarantined this year in Hamilton County because they had been used as meth labs are just the tip of a meth-related iceberg, according to the Registry of Properties under Order of Quarantine maintained by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
 
According to the TDEC Registry, Hamilton County has a total of 39 quarantined properties – some of which have been so listed since 2006. Owners, regardless of whether they had anything to do with the meth labs, are responsible for the cost of remediation, which can run into tens of thousands of dollars.
 
In some cases, individuals have purchased homes and learned later that they had been used as meth labs. The problem is particularly prevalent in foreclosed homes, according to authorities, where potential buyers do not have access to the histories of the properties they are buying.
 
Neighboring counties also are not immune from the growing problem. Properties on the TDEC Registry include:
 
36 in Bradley County.
 
One, located at 20 Blaylock Lane in Palmer, in Grundy County.
 
Eight in Marion County.
 
One, located at 338 W. Cartwright cut through in Whitwell, in Sequatchie County.
 
More information on the locations of quarantined properties in Tennessee can be obtained at www.tn.gov/environment/dor/pdf/quarantined.pdf.


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