Charge dropped in Walla Walla meth lab case

The decision to drop the case against Dena R. Turner was made after evidence was suppressed last month.

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WALLA WALLA -- Suppression of evidence has led to dismissal of a criminal charge against a woman police say was involved in a large methamphetamine lab at the Walla Walla Vineyard Inn last spring.

Dena R. Turner -- the motel's manager when meth lab components reportedly were found in a guest room May 18 -- was accused of complicity to the manufacturing of meth.

Officials claimed she aided and abetted co-defendant Clifford E. Chew, partly by allowing him to store four 64-ounce bottles of ammonia in a freezer in her room -- the manager's room -- near the main office.

But last month, Superior Court Judge John Lohrmann decided evidence related to discovery of the ammonia couldn't be presented to a jury if Turner's case went to trial because law enforcement officers exceeded the scope of a search warrant when they found the bottles.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Gabriel Acosta said at the time the case against Turner, 38, would continue with other evidence. But he since decided to ask that the charge be dropped. Lohrmann signed the dismissal order Thursday and Turner was released from the County Jail.

Acosta explained in an interview this morning that Turner was not the primary defendant in the case. "And although we could have used other evidence against her, the ammonia was the key evidence and we thought without that it would have been difficult to get a conviction," Acosta said.

Technically the charge could be refiled if further evidence is uncovered.

Chew, 56, of Pendleton, is charged with 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.

Officials say they recovered many items used to manufacture meth in a search of room 106 of the motel at 325 E. Main St., allegedly occupied by Chew. That evidence was not suppressed and his trial is set for Oct. 18.

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

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