Accused Absarokee meth maker pleads guilty to 3 felonies

By: 
Marlo Pronovost
Thursday, August 29, 2019
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YCDF photo
          
            Brett Vandever

An Absarokee man has admitted in court to operating a clandestine methamphetamine lab, endangering the welfare of his children and tampering with a witness.

Brett Garrett Vandever, 32, pleaded guilty to the corresponding felony charges last week in the 22nd Judicial District Court. Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, three felony counts of endangering the welfare of a child, a second felony count of tampering with a witness and misdemeanor counts of criminal contempt and violating an order of protection will be dismissed.

Vandever admitted under oath that in March 2019, he was manufacturing meth in a shed near his home where his four children lived, all of whom were exposed to the dangers of such a lab. Vandever also admitted that after initially being jailed, he called a third party to discuss hiding or moving evidence.

Vandever will be sentenced on Oct. 3. Until that time, he remains in the Yellowstone County Detention Facility with bail set at $50,000.

In August, Vandever had asked District Judge Matt Wald to lower his bail so that he could get treatment and make the changes needed to take care of his family. Prosecutors objected to the motion, pointing out that Vandever was not working at the time of his arrest and therefore had no means with which to support his family. Deputy Stillwater County Attorney Tom English also noted that Vandever poses a threat to his family. Wald denied Vandever’s motion.

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 in March 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.

Vandever was arrested on March 21.

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