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Two arrested on meth manufacturing charges

By Gazette staff
March 11, 2015

ELKHORN—A couple arrested in Walworth County on suspicion of manufacturing methamphetamine were using a home brew method called shake and bake in their apartment.

Heather Opper, 27, and Joshua Kieckhefer, 32, both of village of Darien, were arrested Tuesday and are being held at the county jail. The two will make their initial appearances in court Thursday, said Walworth County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Jeff Patek. 

The sheriff's office wouldn't say how officials became aware of Opper and Kieckhefer's operation, but Patek did say the investigation was not jump-started by complaints from neighbors.

Opper and Kieckhefer face charges of manufacturing methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia, child neglect, possession of methamphetamine paraphernalia in the presence of a child and possession of waste from manufacturing methamphetamine. Opper also faces charges of felony bail jumping and possession of marijuana. 

Kieckhefer was arrested at the couple's apartment, 37 First St., No. 2, after a search warrant was executed Tuesday morning by the county drug unit, Delavan Police Department, Division of Criminal Investigation and Drug Enforcement Agency. Opper was arrested during a traffic stop in Delavan.

Authorities found between eight and 10 soda bottles in various sizes, pseudoephedrine tablets, meth paraphernalia and other ingredients to make meth. Some remnants of the meth cooks and meth itself were found in the bottles, Patek said. 

The size of the couple's operation and questions as to whether the two were cooking the meth to sell it or for personal use are still under investigation. Authorities believe the suspects are not connected to another criminal organization.

The shake and bake method combines grounded pseudoephedrine tablets, water, Coleman camp fuel, lithium strips, distilled water and other chemicals in a bottle. It is then shaken for a period of time before the meth separates from the liquid and is filtered out. It is a highly flammable and dangerous method.

Authorities have been investigating the couple for several weeks, Patek said, and it appears the two have been manufacturing meth for several months.

Meth and meth related arrests are uncommon in the county.

"The last one we had was a couple years ago," Patek said. "So when they do pop up we hit them pretty hard and pretty quick. The courts are very tough on the people doing this because of all the hazards and dangers involved."

A clean-up team has cleaned the apartment, and the landlord and public health department have been notified, Patek said. There is no concern for public health, he said.