Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

March 2, 2013

Two Jasper County residents face meth-related charges

Jackson Adams
Effingham Daily News

NEWTON — Two individuals accused of stealing anhydrous ammonia in Effingham County will stand trial for methamphetamine-related charges in Jasper County after security video and a cellphone linked one of them to the anhydrous plant and led authorities to what appeared to be a home meth lab in Wheeler.

Rachel Ault, aka Rachel Priest, 37, of Newton and Daniel Pickens, 30, of Wheeler were both indicted by an Effingham County grand jury last week on three counts of possessing or attempting to possess anhydrous ammonia, a key component in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

In Jasper County, Pickens also is charged with meth conspiracy, aggravated participation in meth manufacturing, participation in meth manufacturing and unlawful possession of meth production materials, while Priest is being charged with methamphetamine conspiracy, aggravated participation in meth manufacturing, participation in meth manufacturing, unlawful possession of meth manufacturing materials and use of property.

Illinois State Police agent Brandon Grzechowiak was the sole witness called by Jasper County State's Attorney Kevin Parker Thursday. Grzechowiak worked with the Effingham County Sheriff's Department in investigating Pickens' involvement with anhydrous being taken from an undisclosed plant in Effingham County. Authorities observed Pickens on security cameras at the plant 11 times, with a few appearances showing a truck that was identified as belonging to Pickens.

Grzechowiak testified that a cellphone also was found at the plant in December. Text messages and pictures on the phone led investigators to identify the phone as belonging to Pickens with messages alluding to the trading of Sudafed, a component in the production of methamphetamine, for the finished product.

Aerial photographs also were taken of Pickens and Priest's residence at 10727 200th Avenue in Wheeler. Pickens' truck, which appeared on surveillance stills at the anhydrous plant, was sited there, the agent said.

Grzechowiak also testified that Illinois State Police investigators, with a meth response and SWAT team, executed a search warrant on the residence Jan. 31, finding several items related to methamphetamine production, including a hot plate, cans filled with coffee filters which tested positive for methamphetamine, and hydrogen chloride generators. Pickens and Priest were then arrested, the agent said.

Judge Wm. Robin Todd ruled there was probable cause for the case to go to trial. Pickens will be back in Jasper County Court at 10 a.m. April 23 for a final pretrial and Priest will appear at 9:45 a.m. on March 21 for another pretrial.

Pickens and Priest also will make first appearance with counsel in Effingham County on the anhydrous theft charges. Pickens is scheduled to appear in court at 10 a.m. March 25 while Pickens's hearing is set for 10 a.m. March 14.

Both face mandatory prison sentences if convicted.

Jackson Adams can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 131, or jackson.