SUN CITY, Ariz. -- Two meth labs were discovered in a Sun City house three children younger than 16 call home.
Maricopa County sheriff's deputies made the shocking find when they went to the home in the Crossriver area of 118th Avenue and Williams Drive, which is just south of the Loop 303 curve, to arrest Lancelot Lipe, 29, for allegedly assaulting a deputy last week.
One of the methamphetamine labs was in the house. The other was in the garage.
According to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, Lipe was cooking meth just a few feet from where his three daughters play. His youngest child is 6. His oldest is 15.
"Fortunately, they weren't in there at the time," Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said while at the home Monday night. "On the other hand, it's unfortunate if they were in there while he was making the drug."
"This is somewhat unusual to see a lab this large, especially in this type of neighborhood," Arpaio continued. "It wasn't just remnants of a lab. It's a working lab. It was bubbling. So, you can't get any more working than that. This is an active -- active -- laboratory in progress."
Arpaio said both labs were in plain sight when deputies went into the house and the garage.
It's not clear how long the labs had been in use or how much meth had been made. Arpaio said investigators found a small amount of meth in the lab that was inside the house.
One neighbor said he often saw Lipe and his wife sitting in the garage.
"You would walk by their house and they would shut the garage door," Bob Taschette said. "When you drove by you would see them sitting in the garage, but if you walked by it, they would shut it."
While meth, which can be snorted, smoked, injected or swallowed, is relatively easy to make, it is quite dangerous because of the volatile, corrosive, and flammable chemicals involved.
There is a very real danger of setting off an explosion if those chemicals, often solvents used to purify the ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, which are found in cold medications that are available behind the counter at any pharmacy, are not handled properly. Such explosions and subsequent fires are often how meth labs are discovered.
In addition, the fumes given off by meth production are hazardous. Almost 6 pounds of toxic material is created for each pound of meth cooked, according to a 2001 Sierra Magazine article on "meth country" by Marilyn Berlin Snell.
An MCSO team in haz-mat gear cleaned out the hazardous chemicals after arresting Lipe. They were on the scene all night and into the early morning hours.
There is now a bright pink sign on the garage door warning everyone about the hazardous chemicals that were inside.
In addition to the assault charge, Lipe now faces with multiple drug charges and the possibility of child-endangerment charges.
Arpaio said Lipe "somewhat" cooperating with his deputies.
According to MCSO records, Lipe's wife, Brenda, also was arrested and booked on drug charges. She could face child-endangerment charges, as well.
Arpaio, who spent several years with the Drug Enforcement Administration in Arizona, said his detectives will gather more details about what was going on in the Lipe home as the investigation continues.