Couple Suspected of Operating Drug Lab Jailed
An unemployed couple who were raising their four children in a Port Hueneme house filled with a sea of dirty laundry and trash have been arrested on suspicion of possible child endangerment and making methamphetamine.
Guy W. Cole, 39, and his wife, Tammi D. Cole, 36, remained in custody Wednesday night at Ventura County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bail each. The couple were jailed about noon Tuesday after officials responded to an anonymous tip.
Police are investigating whether a makeshift lab found in a garage attached to their white blue-trimmed house at 1555 N. 6th Place was the site of drug sales, according to Sgt. Jerry Beck of the Port Hueneme Police Department.
Inside the garage, authorities found glass beakers, scales, packaging materials and chemicals used in making the drug, and an unidentified residue believed to be methamphetamine, Beck said.
Betty Cole, who lives in the home next to her son, was given temporary custody of her grandchildren after the couple were arrested. She said her son was only trying to provide for his family.
“My son was forced into a situation where he couldn’t work and he grasped onto a situation where he could,” she said. “I don’t condone it at all.”
She said her son was disabled while playing football at Port Hueneme High School in the 1970s.
Betty Cole said she didn’t know anything about a drug lab and said the arrests had devastated her.
“I don’t like this. It’s bad for the children to see this stuff,” she said.
Guy and Tammi Cole are scheduled to be arraigned today on several counts of child endangerment, manufacturing a controlled substance and maintaining a site for drug sales, according to a jail official. Court records show that Guy Cole was due in criminal court next week in a previous, unrelated case for allegedly violating probation.
Beck also said he was investigating whether the couple had violated laws against the production of illegal drugs near grade schools. Park View Elementary is within about 1,000 feet of the Cole residence, he said.
Guy and Tammi Cole’s house has been red-tagged as a “dangerous or life-threatening environment,” said Jim Smith, a Port Hueneme building official who was called to the scene.
Most of the interior walls of the home had been gutted, and electrical wiring dangles throughout the house. Although the power had been shut off in the residence, police said the couple had illegally hooked up wiring connected to electrical lines outside.
“I thought it was pretty remarkable that nobody had been hurt,” Smith said. “There were clothes and mattresses and sleeping material throughout almost every room, and the place looked like they had been using the fireplace. Here they had all these combustibles within a foot or two of the fireplace.”
Beck described the home’s condition as “the worst house I’ve seen in 22 years in law enforcement.” He said the residence was filled with trash, rotting food, soiled mattresses and overturned furniture.
“It was so bad, it’s hard to describe,” he said. “When I walked through, it wasn’t like I was just stepping on piles, I was elevated a couple of feet. . . . In some places it was five feet.”
The neighborhood, about a mile from the eastern boundary of the Naval Construction Battalion Center, is filled with young children and well-maintained single-family homes and lawns. On the outside, the Cole home has a trimmed green lawn, a wooden park bench and a black-colored water fountain in the shape of bears.
Wednesday afternoon, the Coles’ youngest children, a boy and a girl ages 2 and 3, played with toys in their grandmother’s living room. The Coles also have a 14-year-old daughter who is in eighth grade at a nearby junior high school, and a 16-year-old son who was being home-schooled.
The oldest son said he and his siblings had been mainly staying at their grandmother’s house for the past two months.