Two women face felony drug charges after allegedly using a rural church as cover for making methamphetamine on Tuesday.
Judith L. Hemken, 53, of Litchfield, and Tiffany L. Burton, 26, of Hillsboro, were charged with participation in manufacturing methamphetamine in a church. Bond for Hemken, who was additionally charged with felony aggravated fleeing police, was set at $200,000 and Burton's bond was set at $100,000. Due to enhanced sentencing guidelines because the alleged meth lab was in a church, if convicted they could be punished by between nine and 40 years in prison.
Neither woman has a connection or affiliation with the church, according to Undersheriff Rick Robbins of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office. Hemken was on probation for felony drug charges to which she had just pleaded guilty on July 24.
Hemken and Burton were arrested on Tuesday evening, Aug. 26, at Waveland Presbyterian Church, five miles south of Hillsboro, after catching the attention of a passerby.
According to the sheriff's office, at about 5:30 p.m. a caller noticed a vehicle and a female outside the church and called 911 after another female ran out of the church and both left in the vehicle.
Sheriff's deputies, headed down to the church, spotted and stopped the vehicle and two women and held them for further investigation. During that investigation, the sheriff's office and South Central Illinois Drug Task Force found a clandestine meth lab in the basement of the church and arrested both women.
While the meth lab was being dismantled, a fire started from the lithium and moisture from a sink drain, but law enforcement on the scene were able to put out the fire with no injuries.
Montgomery County Sheriff Jim Vazzi commended the citizen who stopped at the church and called police after observing suspicious activity.
"It's citizens like this who make our county a safer place to reside," Vazzi said.
Waveland is a 171-year-old small rural congregation that hosts weekly worship services at 10 a.m. every Sunday.