LENOIR NC — A hunt for ghosts and a call for help ended with three men in trouble Monday night and charged with making methamphetamine.

According to a news release from the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office, it all started when Sonny Clay Hyatt, 39, of 303 Laurel Street in Hudson, called 911 in the middle of the night and told a dispatcher he was lost deep in the woods off Goat Farm Road in the Baton community. Deputies responded to the area and used the GPS coordinates from Hyatt’s cell phone to locate and bring him out.

Other than being slightly dehydrated, scratched up, and a little distraught from the long hike through the woods, deputies suspected there was more going on and began questioning Hyatt. He said he and two other friends, Thomas Glenn Imler Jr., 38, of 2746 Corral Lane in Lincolnton, and Eric John Schmidt, 31, of 1004 Falcon Court in Lenoir, decided to go walking in the woods off Goat Farm Road because of the haunted tales, but eventually ended up lost and separated from each other, according to the release.

As deputies were talking with Hyatt, several text messages came to his cell phone that said Imler and Schmidt had found their way out and caught a ride back to Hyatt’s apartment, the release said.

The deputies, still not convinced of his story, got Hyatt to admit that he and his friends had been using methamphetamine. The deputies also learned that a possible meth lab could be at Hyatt’s home. Sheriff’s Office ICE agents and special agents with the SBI were called in to help with the investigation, the release said.

Hyatt gave officers consent to search his apartment, where they found and seized a “one-pot shake and bake”-style meth lab and other precursor chemicals used to make meth. Schmidt and Imler were also found inside the residence and taken into custody without incident, according to the information from the Sheriff’s Office.

A handwritten recipe for making meth was found in Imler’s shorts pocket.

A chemist with the SBI also responded to the scene to help process and safely discard of the lab, the release said.

The lab was capable of producing up to 2.5 grams of meth each cook. ICE Agents conducted research into the NPLEX (National Precursor Log Exchange) Log and discovered that one of the suspects had recently been buying ephedrine products. Another suspect said he had been denied a purchase. Ephedrine is one of the key ingredients needed to make meth, the release said.

The release said the three men had gathered all the necessary ingredients to cook meth and, fearful of being caught doing it at the apartment, decided to go into the woods off Goat Farm Road. Hyatt drove them using Schmidt’s car, and they walked deep into the woods during the night looking for a place to start the process.

“The suspects, being fairly inexperienced, caused the cook to fail and got into an argument over it,” the release said. “They went their separate ways with Imler and Schmidt taking what was left of the lab and equipment with them.”

Imler and Schmidt found their way out and called another friend who gave them a ride back to Hyatt’s apartment, taking the meth lab with them. Each suspect had a different role in the cook and all three were arrested on meth-related charges, the release said.

“You hear every excuse imaginable,” said Caldwell Sheriff Alan C. Jones. “These criminals would have us believe they were looking for paranormal activity in the woods at night and simply got lost. We didn’t fall for that story at all.”

Hyatt, Imler and Schmidt were each charged with one count of felony manufacture methamphetamine and one count of felony possession of methamphetamine precursor chemicals. They were taken to the Caldwell County Detention Center and each placed under a $50,000 secured bond. Their first appearance in district court is set for Thursday in Lenoir.

Caldwell County Sheriff's Office said they are always in search of any information involving the use and distribution of illegal controlled substances. Information and assistance will be kept confidential. If you have any information concerning illegal drug activity in Caldwell County, contact the Caldwell County Sheriff's Office ICE Unit at 828-757-1178; Lenoir Police Department’s Narcotics Division at 828-757-2145; or Caldwell County Crimestoppers at 828-758-8300.

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