Chris Collins
The Baker City Herald

A Baker City couple were arraigned on multiple drug charges Thursday after police uncovered an illegal drug operation in their rented Fourth Street apartment during a Wednesday search of the residence.

“We had some information of drug activity so we got a warrant,” Police Chief Dustin Newman said Thursday. “What we expected we were going to find is exactly what we found.”

Baker City Police officers, with assistance from the Oregon State Police, Baker County Sheriff’s Office and federal law enforcement officers, served the search warrant at 12:45 p.m. Wednesday at 1604 Fourth St. They arrested Andrew Ferns, 34, and Cheris Owens, who lived in Apartment 2 of the building.

District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff said Ferns, who is being held in lieu of $235,000 bail, was arraigned Thursday on seven counts:

• Unlawful manufacturing of more than 8 grams of methamphetamine

• Unlawful possession of more than 10 grams of methamphetamine

• Unlawful delivery of more than 10 grams of methamphetamine

• Unlawful manufacturing of psilocybin mushrooms

• Unlawful possession of psilocybin mushrooms

• Unlawful delivery of psilocybin mushrooms

• Unlawful possession of 12 grams or more of psilocybin mushrooms

Owens is being held in lieu of $190,000 bail, Shirtcliff said.

She was arraigned on four charges Thursday:

• Unlawful delivery of methamphetamine

• Unlawful manufacturing of methamphetamine

• Unlawful delivery of more than 10 grams of psilocybin mushrooms.

• Unlawful possession of psilocybin mushrooms

Shirtcliff said a grand jury will be convened to consider other charges against Ferns and Owens, including whether the crimes took place within 1,000 feet of a school.The apartment house is in the vicinity of both South Baker Intermediate School and Baker Middle School.

Shirtcliff said Ferns has moved to recuse Judge Greg Baxter from sitting on his case. Ferns is scheduled to appear in court to enter a plea on Feb. 27.

Owens, who did not ask for Baxter to be removed from her case, is scheduled to enter a plea in court on March 4, Shirtcliff said.

Newman said the apartment building was evacuated because of the danger posed to occupants by the drug lab.

The initial entry team decontaminated themselves at the Baker City Fire Department where they showered and washed their clothing and cleaned their equipment.

Ferns and Owens were taken first to St. Alphonsus Medical Center to be decontaminated before they were taken to the jail. Baker County Emergency Management also provided a mobile decontamination unit, Newman said.

A trained Oregon State Police clandestine laboratory team was contacted and responded to Baker City, from various areas, including Salem, Medford, Bend and Pendleton, Newman said. The team completed the search of the apartment using specialized safety equipment.

A hazardous material disposal company with representatives from Kennewick, Washington, and Philomath responded to remove the dangerous materials and properly dispose of them. The operation and cleanup was completed about 4 a.m. Thursday, Newman said.

At this time the apartment has been posted with placards stating it is unlawful for anyone to inhabit the premises due to the operation of an illegal drug manufacturing laboratory and health concerns for anyone who might occupy the residence. Those who do not obey the posting could be charged with first-degree criminal trespassing, Newman said.