Reed Skelton was kicking it back on a Saturday night in his hotel room, sipping beer and watching porn, when the methamphetamine he was brewing in the bathroom exploded.
The flash fire blew out the windows and severely injured Skelton. In the chaos that followed, 156 guests were evacuated from the Baymont Inn and the sprinklers went off, contributing to about $120,000 in damage.
As the number of meth labs has spread in recent years from the West Coast and Southwest and infiltrated midwestern states such as Indiana and Kentucky, they are being found more in hotel rooms -- perfect for "meth cooks" on the go, even if they are locals.
They are found not just in seedy motels but also in chain hotels that cater to businesspeople and vacationers -- much like the Baymont Inn, in a newly developed area on Evansville's west side.
"It does create a mess, and to be honest with you, I'm surprised more people haven't gotten blown up or burned by these things," said Spencer County Sheriff Sheldon Tharp, who has found at least two meth labs in motels in his rural southern Indiana county this year.
To get a room, the "cooks" often use stolen identification or pay someone with drugs or cash to use their ID, said Armand McClintock, who oversees the Indianapolis office of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
Inside, the fumes from the cooking meth -- made mostly with household cleaners such as drain cleaner -- can be lethal, and the labs can explode.
The leftover waste is toxic. For every pound of drug made, there are typically five pounds of hazardous waste, McClintock said. The cooks usually get rid of it by pouring it down the sink or toilet.
The biggest danger is the number of weapons the cooks tend to carry. But there are other hazards, Tharp said.
A Doberman pinscher met Spencer County Detective Jeff Meredith when he responded to a call in February at the Scottish Inn north of Dale, 70 miles west of Louisville off Interstate 64.
A woman fled the room, but a man on the bed had a sawed-off shotgun at his feet and a handgun was found under his mattress -- and there was a rifle leaning against the heater, Meredith said. There were no shootings.
"They had more firepower than we had," Tharp said.
General Manager Brad Meyers said the motel, now called the 231 Ambest Plaza Motel, is no longer having problems with meth cooks. He said the staff is more diligent in looking for signs of meth cooking and is reporting anything suspicious, such as the smell of anhydrous ammonia, commonly used to make the drug.
The explosion at the Baymont Inn could have been much worse had the fire hit several jars of flammable liquid in the room, said Sgt. Mike Lauderdale of the Evansville-Vanderburgh Joint Narcotics Task Force.
"It would've taken out the back side of the motel," Lauderdale said.
Reed, 24, was hospitalized with severe burns. After his release, he pleaded guilty to meth-related charges related to the explosion. He was sentenced in January to seven years in prison, followed by three years in a drug treatment program.
Authorities confiscated 1,260 labs in Indiana last year, compared with six labs in 1995. Of the 1,260, 17 were found in hotels or motels, said Sgt. Todd Ringle of the Indiana State Police.
Last year, 309 of the 10,305 meth labs reported to the DEA were in hotel and motel rooms, according to the agency's El Paso Intelligence Center. The national numbers are incomplete because not all labs are reported to the DEA.
Officers from Lauderdale's task force have met individually with hotel owners and managers to teach them how to respond should they find a meth lab.
Across the Ohio River, the Kentucky Hotel and Lodging Association had the Kentucky State Police speak at an annual meeting on the same topic. Last year, 10 labs were found in Kentucky hotel or motels room, according to the state police.
Tom Schroeder, a national spokesman for Baymont Inns & Suites, said the explosion appeared to be an isolated incident and did not warrant a change in policy within the chain.
Meyers said the staff at the Ambest Plaza has also started to examine whether local people were frequenting the motel.
"That's something that immediately raises eyebrows," Meyers said. "That person very well could be doing something illegal."