United States v. Smith
On July 14, 2004, four adults and two children turned up at an emergency room in Dyersburg,
Tennessee, all of them smelling of chemicals, four of them suffering from significant burns. The
group consisted of Gregory Lumley, his fiancee Jessica Singletary, John and Debra Smith, and the
Smiths’ two children, Alexis (age three) and Breanna (age seven). Extensive burns covered
Lumley’s back and left arm. John Smith had burns on his hands and wrists. Debra Smith exhibited
significant burns on both arms and her left leg. Alexis Smith had burns all over her chest, arms and
legs. In view of the seriousness of the injuries, medical personnel transported Lumley, Mrs. Smith
and the child to Memphis hospitals for further treatment. All three of them survived.
Suspecting that the group’s burns stemmed from a methamphetamine cooking incident gone
awry, police drove to Lumley’s house to investigate. Once there, they noticed hazardous fumes
emanating from the mobile home along with the odors of ether and burned human flesh. Just outside
the residence, officers discovered a can of camp fuel, a plastic container of muriatic acid, a flame-
scorched stainless steel bowl and a burned scrap of children’s clothing. Inside the house,
investigators found a small stash of marijuana as well as various implements and ingredients
typically used in the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine.
Local drug-task-force agents questioned the four adults separately. All four of them said that
they had been heating camping fuel or ether in a stainless steel bowl, that the bowl had caught fire,
that Smith had grabbed the flaming bowl and that Smith had either dropped or thrown it, spilling its
contents and burning his hands and Lumley’s back in the process. The four adults told conflicting
stories, however, about how Mrs. Smith and the child ended up with burns.
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