Trial date set for man in Walla Walla meth case

But although Clifford E. Chew was in court Tuesday, the manager of the motel, who also has been charged, missed the date.

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WALLA WALLA -- A man charged with operating a large methamphetamine lab at the Walla Walla Vineyard Inn pleaded innocent Tuesday afternoon in Walla Walla County Superior Court.

Clifford E. Chew, 56, is set for trial July 18 on three felony charges including manufacture of methamphetamine, possessing pseudoephedrine with intent to manufacture meth and possession of the controlled substance with intent to deliver.

Dena R. Turner, the motel's manager when the lab allegedly was discovered last month, also was arrested and is charged with complicity to the manufacturing of meth for allegedly aiding and abetting Chew.

Turner, 37, later was released from the County Jail on a bail bond and also was scheduled to enter a plea in court Tuesday afternoon. But she didn't show up.

Her attorney, Jerry Makus, said his office was notified that she was arrested in Oregon over the weekend on suspicion of drunken driving. Walla Walla County Superior Court Judge John Lohrmann then authorized issuance of a warrant for her return to the Walla Walla County Jail.

The drug investigation began after police reportedly received credible information Chew was manufacturing meth 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. on 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.

Turner 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.

Officials say Chew, who reportedly lives in Pendleton, is a career criminal with a history of more than 35 felony arrests and convictions.

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

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