Deputies shut down meth lab

Kevin Spradlin Editor

December 6, 2013

Kevin Spradlin


The streets of Ellerbe are safer after an alert Richmond County sheriff’s deputy led authorities to the arrest of a suspected meth lab operator in Ellerbe.

Deputy L.D. Cowick responded to a call at 2134 U.S. Route 220 Business North for a reported shooting. Upon arrival, Cowick determined there had been a verbal altercation between John Adam Rillo, 40, and his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend. As the ex-boyfriend was leaving, he reportedly fired a shot towards Rillo. No one was injured in the issue. Police said the ex-boyfriend had left the scene prior to the deputy’s arrival.

That soon turned to be a secondary priority, however. Chief Deputy Mark Gulledge told The Daily Journal that Cowick noticed Rillo “tried to conceal something suspicious.” When the deputy investigated further, he found some coffee filters. Gulledge said based on the deputy’s “training and expertise,” Cowick called for back-up as he determined the items he found, in the manner found, could be part of a methamphetamine lab.

As a convicted felon, the law prohibits Rillo from legally owning a firearm. He was arrested and charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, possession of lithium metal, an immediate precursor chemical with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine, maintaining a house that was used for keeping and selling controlled substances and possession of methamphetamine.

Rillo also was charged with possession of two firearms, including a 9mm Glock, allegedly stolen from Jerry Rillo, and a .22 revolver.

John Rillo was previously convicted in April of 2004 in Randolph County of felony possession of stolen goods and was sentenced to 10 months in prison.

As of Friday night, Rillo was being confined at the Richmond County Jail and held on a secure bond of $35,000.

“We have had some issues here in the county, in the Ellerbe area, in the last couple months” with crystal meth, Gulledge said. “Making crystal meth is very dangerous to the people making it and dangerous to the neighborhood where it’s being made. We have a zero tolerance (for) anyone that is in that realm.”

Gulledge said the investigation is ongoing. Additional charges in the shooting incident are pending the apprehension of the second suspect.

Gulledge encouraged residents who observe suspicious behavior that could be illegal to call the Richmond County Crime Stoppers at 910-997-5454. Callers can choose to remain anonymous. Tips that lead to an arrest for certain cases could be eligible for a cash reward.