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Baby burned in suspected Hoke meth lab

While breaking up a suspected methamphetamine lab Thursday morning, Hoke County deputies found a 4-month-old child suffering from chemical burns, authorities said.

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RAEFORD, N.C. — While breaking up a suspected methamphetamine lab Thursday morning, Hoke County deputies found a 4-month-old boy suffering from chemical burns, authorities said.

The baby was taken to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center in Fayetteville for treatment, but his condition was unknown.

Sheriff Hubert Peterkin said the burns appeared to have occurred a while ago, and the baby was crying and appeared to be in a great deal of pain Thursday morning when deputies raided a mobile home at 165 Water Splash Road, off U.S. Highway 401 east of Raeford.

"According to the injuries, the child should have been cared for a long time ago," Peterkin said. "Just from where the burns were on the child, it appears they were handling the child and handling the chemicals."

Two people were arrested at the mobile home, and four others were arrested at the Old Raeford Inn nearby.

Samuel Junior Weatherford, 46, and Michelle Lynn Tiller, 42, both of 165 Water Splash Road, were charged with manufacturing methamphetamine and maintaining a dwelling for controlled substances. The names of the other four people arrested hadn't been released as of Thursday evening.

Peterkin said the baby didn't belong to any of the six people arrested, and investigators haven't determined where his parents are. The baby has been placed in the custody of the Department of Social Services.

The drug operation appears to have been operating for several months, the sheriff said, noting that his deputies received a tip about it last week and began investigating.

"It's a mess. It's not livable. It's basically just like a big lab," he said. "(They were) trying to increase the amount of (meth) cooking each week. It was picking up."

The man who owns the motel and the trailer park is cooperating with investigators, Peterkin said, adding that the man apparently had no knowledge of the drug activity.

Pam Jones, who works at the ABC Learning Center across U.S. 401 from the motel, also was unaware of a drug lab operating within sight of a day care that looks after 50 children each day.

"It's a very secret operation, but I'm glad it's over with. Hopefully, the baby will be all right," Jones said.


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