Meth maker at Forler Motel found guilty

Published 9:38 am Thursday, November 1, 2007

By Staff
CASSOPOLIS – A meth manufacturing operation in southwest Cass County faces a potential life sentence for his meth-related activity in a Niles hotel earlier this year.
James Owens, a man staying at Forler's Hotel in Niles, was found guilty Wednesday of operating/maintaining a methamphetamine laboratory, maintaining a building or structure used for manufacturing methamphetamine and operating/maintaining a methamphetamine laboratory, possessing equipment and/or chemicals used or to be used in manufacturing methamphetamine and habitual fourth offender.
"This volatile mix has no place in our community. Others were put in peril. Mr. Owens needs to be off the street to protect the public," Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz said.
Jurors came back with guilty verdicts on two felonies – operating a meth lab, operating a hazardous waste lab and manufacturing meth.
Because of his lengthy record, including Indiana convictions for theft, burglary and voluntary manslaughter, the defendant faces a maximum of life in prison.
Testimony at trial indicated that Michigan State Trooper John Moore went with Berrien County Parole Officer Ira Green to inspect a possible tip of a meth lab with a parolee, James Owens.
Upon seeing Owens, Trooper Moore searched and detained him.
Consent was gained to access the motel room where Owens, his girlfriend and her 10-year-old daughter had been staying. Multiple components to manufacture methamphetamine were present in the room. Lt. Dale Hinz of the Michigan State Police testified that all of the components to manufacture methamphetamine were present in the motel room.
Owens took the stand and claimed he was trying to unclog the drains in his bathroom using a homemade Drano mixture.
Owens also admitted that he had smoked methamphetamine prior to being arrested.
Assistant Prosecutor Tiffiny Vohwinkle argued to the jury that the defendant was playing games with the criminal justice system and that Owens had no explanation for why he had coffee filters and a coffee grinder with pseudophedrine in it as there was no coffee pot found within the motel room.
After the jury returned the guilty verdicts at approximately 4 p.m., the defendant was also found not guilty of child abuse. Owens is set for sentencing before Circuit Judge Michael Dodge on Nov. 30.