Columbia County Sheriff's Deputy Keith Warner was reading the newspaper early Tuesday when he saw a familiar face.
According to Columbia County Sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris, Warner read an article in The Augusta Chronicle that showed a picture of Kelly E. Barton, 24. He remembered going to her home in the 400 block of Belglade Road near Grovetown on a domestic-dispute call in June.
Kelly Barton, who was sought in connection with a hotel fire in Augusta, was captured in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Warner went back to the home - which was being rented by Barton - but it had been abandoned. A strong aroma of chemicals was there, and a room was found burned from a previous fire. Methamphetamine-making materials also were discovered.
"The immediate area was then evacuated," Morris said.
The evacuation lasted only a few hours, neighbors said. Morris said no methamphetamine was found.
One day later, Barton and Marvin Lee Boyd, 22, of Hephzibah - who were both wanted in connection with a fire inside a room at Shoney's Inn on Washington Road - were captured. Barton was arrested in Tuscaloosa, Ala., after a tip led to her capture. Boyd surrendered at the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.
Police say they believe that the fire at Shoney's Inn might have been started by an accident involving a methamphetamine lab.
And they say the fire at the Belglade home could be tied to the hotel blaze.
"(The fire) may have been more of a case of attempting to destroy evidence as a result of the previous incident at Shoney's Inn," Morris said. "That's our suspicion, but of course the exact cause of the fire is still under investigation."
Morris said the Grovetown case is considered a possible arson and is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Warrants have been issued for Ms. Barton and Mr. Boyd for manufacturing methamphetamines, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, criminal damage to property first degree and misdemeanor possession of marijuana.
Gwenette Thomas, who lives next to the Grovetown home, said Barton probably got a good day's head start.
"About noon, I saw them pull a truck up to the back and start loading a bunch of cardboard boxes and a washer and dryer," she said. "That's the last time I saw them."
She added, "I'd see them coming and going a lot, but there were so many of them I never knew who was living there."
She said the occupants of the house had moved in only a few months ago. Recently, she said, her son had noticed tinfoil on the home's windows. And Thomas said she had been wondering about a side door that was constantly left open.
Thomas said that Tuesday's incident caused her to worry about her neighborhood, which is less than a mile from Brookwood Elementary School.
"It's going down quick," she said.
But cases involving methamphetamines and Barton are nothing new to Columbia County.
In January, a methamphetamine lab was discovered at an Old Evans Road home. In that case, Stanley Ray Gracey, Joseph N. Crook and Barton were arrested on methamphetamine charges. Barton also was arrested for possession of the drug ecstasy.
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