Trial date set in drug case for former manager of Walla Walla motel

Dena R. Turner is accused of aiding and abetting another person's meth lab.

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WALLA WALLA -- The trial for a woman charged in connection with the alleged discovery of a large methamphetamine lab at the Walla Walla Vineyard Inn in May is set to begin Sept. 20 in Walla Walla County Superior Court.

Dena R. Turner, the motel's manager at the time, pleaded innocent last week to the charge of complicity to the manufacturing of meth. She allegedly was aiding and abetting co-defendant Clifford E. Chew, 56, who is accused of operating the lab.

Chew, of Pendleton, pleaded innocent May 31 to three felony charges. He's accused of manufacture of methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a school bus route stop, possessing pseudoephedrine with intent to manufacture meth and possession of the controlled substance with intent to deliver. His trial is set for Aug. 29.

Turner -- who had been released from the County Jail after her arrest -- was scheduled to enter a plea at the same time as Chew, however she didn't show up. Her attorney, Jerry Makus, said she apparently was arrested in Oregon on suspicion of drunken driving.

A warrant then was issued and she was returned to the Walla Walla County Jail on Aug. 10.

The meth-lab investigation began after police reportedly received credible information Chew was planning to manufacture the substance in room 106 of the Vineyard Inn, 325 E. Main St.

A search warrant was obtained and the Walla Walla SWAT Team forced entry into the room about 6 p.m. May 18. Chew escaped out the back door, but was apprehended nearby, officials said.

Officers reportedly recovered many items used to manufacture meth, in addition to the finished product. Containers with tubing and copper rods, chemicals, coffee filters, five boxes of Sudafed pills and digital scales were among items allegedly seized from the room.

The lab reportedly was one of the largest ever discovered in Walla Walla County. However, Chew's attorney, Jim Barrett, maintains in court documents that based on what confidential informants told police and a time line provided by officials, Chew could not have begun actually manufacturing meth before he was arrested.

Turner, 38, allegedly allowed Chew to store four 64-ounce bottles of ammonia in a freezer in her room near the main office.

She also gave Chew her master key card allowing access to several other units, failed to register him as a guest and didn't collect money from him, according to a police report filed in court.

Attorneys for both defendants have filed motions to suppress evidence in the case based on alleged irregularities regarding the search warrant police obtained.

Terry McConn can be reached at terrymcconn@wwub.com or 526-8319.

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