4 arrested in Butler County meth lab bust

Three children removed from home in Morgan Twp.

Four adults are in custody and three children moved to safety after an alleged meth operation was shut down Thursday night.

Around 7:30 p.m. Thursday, an anonymous tip led undercover agents to a large meth lab being operated at 5821 Layhigh Road in Morgan Twp., according to the Butler County Sheriff’s Office.

A search warrant was executed and agents found three children residing at the residence, as well as chemicals and supplies to manufacture methamphetamine. Agents also confiscated a rifle and shotgun and other drug paraphernalia, according to sheriff’s officials.

The sheriff’s office arrested four adults that are all being held in Butler County Jail.

Paul Ritter, 47, is charged with manufacturing drugs, a first-degree felony, and possession of drugs (meth), a second-degree felony. His wife, Linda Ritter, 57, is charged with permitting drug abuse.

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Paul Ritter’s brother, John Ritter, 50, is charged with fifth-degree felony possession of drugs (meth).

Linda Ritter’s daughter, Ammy Bingle, 38, is charged with three counts of child endangering, a first-degree misdemeanor. Bingle’s children — boys ages 8, 10 and 15 — were removed from the home by Butler County Children Services, according to Sgt. Mike Hackney.

“The chemicals used to make these dangerous drugs are extremely toxic and children should be nowhere near them,” said Lt. Lance Bunnell.

The case remains under investigation by the sheriff’s Butler Undercover Regional Narcotics (BURN) task force, and additional charges are pending.

Hackney, supervisor of the BURN unit, said agents cleared the scene sometime past midnight. He said an investigation leading up to the search warrant lasted about two weeks.

“He had a layout of equipment, glassware and supplies; it was pretty meticulous,” Hackney said. “There were drugs inside the house but the setup was out of the detached garage.”

Hackney said there were indications those arrested had been both using and selling the drugs, but to what extent is not known yet. Hackney said less than an ounce of drugs were found at the scene but the real concern was the safety of residents and neighboring houses.

Sheriff Richard K. Jones said the illegal, make-shift operation “looked like something out of a movie.”

“It’s not a secret how dangerous the components to make drugs are; houses have exploded and people have died over this kind of malicious stupidity,” Jones said. “These kids were placed in absolute serious danger because of these senseless criminals.”

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