Police find still in Batesville house 6/7/13

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 7, 2013

A whiskey still was found inside this building behind a business on Highway 51 South. The Panolian photo by John Howell

Police find whiskey still in Batesville house

By John Howell

Batesville police responding to a domestic disturbance call Wednesday night discovered a whiskey still. Right in the middle of town. We are not making this up.

Police Lt. Billy Sossaman and Deputy Chief Don Province had the goods in hand at BPD Thursday morning — a beer keg welded to a regular size kitchen pressure cooker set atop a propane-fueled crawfish cooker burner.

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“That’s where they cooked the mash,” Sossaman said.

“This was a high-tech operation,” said Province, pointing to an after-market automotive or marine thermometer that had been crudely affixed to another smaller boiler also confiscated at the site.

Both officers were unable to suppress grins at the incongruity: “This is the first time I ever remember a whiskey still inside city limits,” Province said.

Sossaman said that responding officers Wednesday night eventually included Sgt. Gary Morris, Patrolman Greg Jones, Lt. John Miller and Capt. Jimmy McCloud.

“When they first saw it, they thought they had stumbled onto a meth lab,” Province said. “Then they saw the copper coils and recognized that it was a still.”

One end of the coiled copper tubing was attached to the top of the pressure cooker to capture vapors from the cooking mash, Sossaman said. The coil then wound through five-gallon buckets filled with water, cooling the vapors which condensed and flowed from the tubing’s end as spirits. Sufficient coiled copper tubing was on hand to have allowed a second distillation, allowing a “double-rectified” product.

Police on Thursday morning had not determined the street address of the building where the still was found. The building stands between Willa Street and Highway 51. It can be accessed from Westmoreland Drive via a drive that also leads from Highway 51. It was originally constructed as a shop building, officers said, and converted into an apartment.

Batesville officers contacted officers of the Mississippi Alcohol Beverage Commission division of the Mississippi Department of Revenue who will handle the investigation.

ABC Deputy Chief Rusty Hannah confirmed Thursday that officers arrested Toby Allen Helms during their investigation. Charges are pending, Hannah said.

The Panola County jail log states that Toby Allen Helmes, 7420 Dummy Line Road, Batesville, age 36, was placed in custody.

Police Chief Tony Jones said that the ABC officers took the liquid evidence into custody. Jones showed photos that officers made of the finished product they have found stored in quart jars in the apartment’s refrigerator. Two jars of clear liquid and two jars of amber liquid were visible amid Willliams Country Sausage and Port Side Fish Sticks.