CIRCLEVILLE - A man convicted of operating one of the largest and most elaborate local meth labs in recent history was apprehended in Hocking County on Friday after being on the run since early April.
Ronald L. Hedges, 46, of 6365 Hitler Road #2, is currently charged with failure to appear in addition to his original charges of aggravated possession of drugs, illegal assembly or possession of chemicals for the manufacture of drugs and trafficking in drugs.
He was set to be sentenced on the original charges April 1 in Pickaway County Common Pleas Court but skipped out on his bond and has been on the run ever since, according to Robert Radcliff, Pickaway County Sheriff.
Hedges was located and taken into custody about 7 p.m. Friday in a camping trailer at a campground site near state Route 180 and U.S. Route 33 in Hocking County, Radcliff said.
"We had about 12 of our people down there, along with the Hocking County Sheriff's Office, the U.S. Marshal Service and the Fairfield-Hocking Major Crimes Unit," Radcliff said. "He wouldn't come out at first, so we had to use non-lethal force into the trailer, and he finally came out."
Once outside, Radcliff said Hedges was taken into custody without incident.
A female, Tawnya M. Kight, 37, of Kingston, also was arrested at the scene and charged as a fugitive from justice by the Hocking County Sheriff's Office, he said.
"The female was arrested on charges related to him skipping out on bond," Radcliff said. "She's been obstructing our efforts to try to locate him."
Radcliff said deputies have been actively working with other agencies to locate Hedges since the day he failed to appear for sentencing.
An undercover operation led to the original search warrant April 9, 2014, at the Hitler Road #2 residence, which was found to be rigged with warning alarms and surveillance cameras. Multiple guns and blasting caps also were discovered on the property in addition to the methamphetamine, he said.
The operation was so large that investigators could not neutralize it on the scene. The chemicals were packed and turned over to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) for processing.
The Pickaway County Sheriff's Office was joined in that effort by the U.S. 23 Major Crimes Task Force, the Ohio Organized Crime Unit, and the Ross, Pike and Franklin County Sheriff's offices. The Clearcreek Fire Department assisted with clean-up at the scene.
While his first case from April was pending in Pickaway County Common Pleas Court, Hedges was arrested again Aug. 15, 2014, after another search warrant led to the discovery of a "substantial amount" of methamphetamine at the residence that investigators said was already packaged and ready for use.
The two cases were combined at a hearing Jan. 26, in which Hedges pleaded no contest to all charges. He was found guilty by Judge P. Randall Knece, who ordered a pre-sentence investigation prior to the sentencing hearing set for April 1.
Hedges' wife, Beth A. Hedges, 53, also pleaded no contest to her charges on Jan. 26, which included two counts of attempted illegal assembly or possession of chemicals for the manufacture of drugs. She was sentenced April 1 to 36 months in state prison (suspended) and a $10,000 fine. She also must serve three years of community control and received a six-month driver's license suspension.