A Florida couple appeared in court today facing multiple charges after authorities found a 9-year-old girl at the scene of a burning garage police say was used to make meth.
A fire crew responded to the garage in Orange City, Volusia County, just before 4 p.m. Friday after receiving an emergency call from a neighbor.
"When we arrived on scene, we found smoke coming from the garage area," said Bill Snyder of Volusia County Fire Rescue.
Responders then noticed a young girl walk out of the home that was attached to the garage, which contained meth-making materials. The girl said she was left at home alone after school, authorities said.
As firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze, the girl's mother, Melissa Berry, 35, and her live-in boyfriend, Jonathan Coburn, 35, arrived home.
Fire crew members donned hazmat suits to enter the house and retrieve the meth materials, which included several containers of chemicals. The crew were sprayed down afterwards to avoid contamination by fumes or equipment.
The girl, whose name was not released, was unharmed and said she had no idea a fire had broken out in the garage, police said. She was taken to the hospital as a precaution and was staying with relatives.
Berry told officers she was at work and Coburn said he was at the store when the fire started.
Both were arrested and charged with manufacture of methamphetamine, arson of an occupied dwelling, cultivation of cannabis and child neglect. In court, the pair denied any knowledge of the meth-making equipment or marijuana plants found in the home.
A neighbor told ABC affiliate WFTV in Orlando he was shocked to learn of the discovery on his street.
"It's a pretty decent neighborhood here," Ray Brasells said. "[I was] surprised to know that a meth lab was that close to the house."
Authorities said while the lab wasn't very big, it still posed dangers, especially to the child in the house.
"If she would have breathed the fumes and stuff from an active meth lab, it could have hurt her pretty badly," Snyder said.
- Crime & Justice
- Society & Culture
- Bill Snyder