Absarokee man denies running meth lab in home, 4 counts of endangering children

By: 
Marlo Pronovost
Thursday, April 11, 2019

An Absarokee man remains in jail after denying running a methamphetamine lab, tampering with evidence or a witness and endangering children.

Brett Garrett Vandever, 32, appeared in district court last week and pleaded not guilty to felony counts of operating a clandestine lab, four counts of endangering the welfare of a child and one felony count of tampering with evidence or a witness.

Stillwater County Attorney sought — and was granted — the previously set $50,000 bond amount to be held in place, telling Judge Matt Wald that Vandever had already violated Wald’s orders by contacting his wife after being told not to.

Vandever allegedly called his wife 12 times from the booking room at the jail immediately following his initial court appearance.

“He can’t seem to abide by the rules,” Rohde said at the hearing.

Wald agreed, saying he “had no comfort level” that Vandever understands and will follow court orders.

As of Wednesday, he remained jailed.

THE CASE

Multiple reports of possible meth lab activity were made to the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office in March, leading to a joint investigation by the county and the Montana Department of Criminal Investigations Bureau (DCI). A search warrant was executed on March 31 on Vandever’s home and shed. Recovered items included two firearms, sport drink bottles containing unknown residue and apparent burn marks, a clear tube with tape and residue, a plastic bottle cap with a drilled hole and tape, camp fuel, liquid fire, Lye, a lithium battery, water softener salt, a propane torch and an unknown liquid contained in a mason jar, according to court documents.

Two people were interviewed who told investigators that Vandever had spoke of making meth previously. One person said he was almost positive that Vandever’s wife and four children were in the home asleep when Vandever was “cooking” meth, according to court documents. His children range in age from 9 months to 15.

Prosecutors also alleged that despite being told by Judge Wald to not make any contact with his wife, he called her 12 times in one day — nine of those calls were successful and each lasted three minutes, according to court documents. In one call, he instructed his wife to get the firearms out of the house.

“This is an admission that the defendant, a convicted felon, was in possession of guns, knew he wasn’t supposed to have guns, and is asking (his wife) to dispose of the guns in an effort to hide evidence and make them unavailable in the event of further investigation by either the SCSO or the Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) Bureau,” Rohde wrote in court documents.

According to court documents, Vandever had previously been “seriously injured” in a meth lab explosion in Billings.

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