CIRCLEVILLE - A man who was convicted of operating a large methamphetamine lab and then failed to appear for sentencing will spend the next 11 years behind bars for the crimes.
Ronald L. Hedges, 46, of 6365 Hitler Road #2, pleaded no contest and was found guilty Wednesday to the felony charge of failure to appear in addition to his charges of aggravated possession of drugs, trafficking in drugs and illegal assembly of chemicals for the manufacture of drugs.
He was sentenced by Judge P. Randall Knece to 11 years in state prison at Orient, as well as forfeiture of $3,154.68 and firearms and a six-month driver's license suspension.
Hedges was set to be sentenced on the original charges April 1 in Pickaway County Common Pleas Court but skipped out on his bond and was on the run until captured about 7 p.m. May 15 at a Hocking County campground.
He was taken into custody by deputies from the Pickaway County Sheriff's Office, along with the Hocking County Sheriff's Office, the U.S. Marshal Service and the Fairfield-Hocking Major Crimes Unit.
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.
An undercover operation led to the original search warrant more than a year ago at the Hitler Road #2 residence, which was found April 9, 2014, 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.
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 faced charges in connection with the meth operation. She 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.