Meth lab uncovered; local man arrested

A Columbus man accused of operating a methamphetamine lab out of his home has been arrested.

The home of Tony E. Gibson, 53, of 1126 California St. was searched Wednesday morning by members of the Indiana State Police Methamphetamine Suppression Team, according to a news release.

Several components that can be used to make the illegal stimulant were discovered in a hidden compartment in the basement, the release stated.

Following the arrest, police located a young child and took her to Columbus Regional Hospital to be examined for possible exposure to chemicals from the lab, State Police spokesman Sgt. Stephen Wheeles said.

Gibson was described as guardian of the elementary school-age girl, who was in class when the house was searched, Wheeles said. She has been turned over the Child Protective Services, he said.

Gibson faces charges of dealing or manufacturing methamphetamine as a Level 3 felony and possession of methamphetamine as a Level 6 felony.

If charged and convicted, he could receive a sentence of 3½ to 18½ years in prison and fined up to $20,000.

In addition, he faces two misdemeanor charges, possession of drug paraphernalia and maintaining a common nuisance.

The investigation began when State Police trooper Robert Hutson received information about possible criminal activity going on in Gibson’s home that was sufficient to obtain a search warrant, the release stated.

Four fellow State Police troopers assisted Hutson, along with members of the Columbus Police Department, Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department and Child Protective Services.

Beside the drug lab component, officers also found methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia in other parts of the house, the release stated.

After extensive questioning, Gibson was booked into the Bartholomew County Jail at 4:33 p.m. Wednesday, with the initial bond set at $237,500 surety or $23,750 cash bond.

However, by Friday morning, bond was reduced to $175,000 surety or $17,500 cash bond. Jail officials said they expected Gibson to be released from jail by late Friday afternoon.

The office of Bartholomew County Prosecutor Bill Nash will determine what formal charges, if any, will be filed against Gibson.

Gibson, a former Clifford resident, was arrested in January 2007 for possession of methamphetamine and maintaining a common nuisance. Six months later, he received a suspended six-year prison sentence from then-Bartholomew Superior Court 1 Judge Chris Monroe.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.