Two chemistry professors charged with ‘Breaking Bad-esque’ meth production

Arrests were made after ‘reports of an underdetermined chemical odour'

Johnny Diaz
Monday 18 November 2019 13:20
Bateman and Rowland are associate professors of chemistry at Henderson State University
Bateman and Rowland are associate professors of chemistry at Henderson State University

Authorities in Arkansas charged two chemistry professors in connection with the production of methamphetamine, comparing it to the award-winning series Breaking Bad.

The instructors, Terry D Bateman and Bradley A Rowland were charged with manufacturing methamphetamine and using drug paraphernalia, the Clark County Sheriff’s Department said.

Meth is a highly addictive drug that can be manufactured illegally with chemicals, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bateman and Rowland are associate professors of chemistry at Henderson State University, a liberal arts school of about 3,500 students in Arkadelphia, about 70 miles southwest of Little Rock.

The professors went on administrative leave as of 11 October, Tina V Hall, a university associate vice president of marketing and communications, said.

Ms Hall said that the school’s Reynolds Science Centre had been closed on 8 October because of “a report of an undetermined chemical odour”.

Testing revealed an elevated presence of benzyl chloride in a lab, she said.

Benzyl chloride is used to produce certain dyes and pharmaceutical products, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Short-term effects from inhaling it include irritation of the skin, eyes and upper respiratory tract.

“Benzyl chloride is an inexpensive and versatile chemical that is used to make many other useful drugs and molecules,” Eric E Simanek, a professor of chemistry at Texas Christian University, said.

Stephen J. Madison, who is on the chemistry faculty at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, said that benzyl chloride could be used to help make methamphetamine.

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Henderson State University’s on-call environmental services company conducted remediation work in the building, which reopened on 29 October, Ms Hall said.

The arrests called to mind the wildly popular Breaking Bad series, which ran from 2008 to 2015.

The drama followed Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher played by Bryan Cranston who becomes an Albuquerque, New Mexico, drug lord when he can’t afford his cancer treatments.

The New York Times

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