'New recipe' leads to local meth lab explosion

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By Susan Sharp

A LaFollette man was severely burned last week after his alleged meth lab exploded.

Police were initially made aware of the fire when the Campbell County Sheriff’s Department was

“We sent Deputy Franklin Ayers by the residence to assess the situation,” said Sheriff Robbie Goins. “When Ayers arrived he immediately asked for a detective.”

Ayers determined a detective was needed because it was an outbuilding that was burning — not a mattress as first reported.

He also saw a man, Randall S. Johnson, 38, 160 College Hill Road, LaFollette, standing in the yard, shirtless and burned.

“When we arrived the Campbell County Rural Fire Service was there,” said CCSD Capt. Brandon Elkins. “It took 1,700 gallons of water to put the fire out.”

Fire temperatures were so extreme the siding on a nearby trailer melted off like wax, Elkins said. 

When police interviewed Johnson he reportedly admitted he had been attempting to make meth, Elkins said, but deviated from his standard method of cooking. 

“He told us he previously cooked his meth with gas. But this time he was attempting the ‘shake and bake’ method, Elkins said.

During the cooking process the lab exploded causing Johnson to receive chemical flash burns on his face, neck, arms and hands, according to the arrest warrant.

“What he said to us was had been cooking the meth when he heard a pop and then saw a flash. That is when the fire started,” said Elkins.

Even though Johnson thought he had extinguished the blaze it had actually moved under the building. After Johnson went in the trailer he noticed the outbuilding was totally engulfed in flames, Elkins said.

A subsequent search of the home by police revealed multiple packages of ammonia nitrate, battery packages and other items used in the manufacturing of meth, the arrest warrant said.

He was arrested and charged with arson and initiation of the process intended to manufacture meth.

Johnson has spent time in federal prison for similar offenses, records show. 

In 2008, he was sentenced to 21 months with a probation sentence of three years following his incarceration. Federal court records indicate he was released early from probation due to his compliance and clean drug screens.