Local News

Harnett County Fire Leads Investigators To Drugs, Weapons

Posted December 18, 2001

— A fast-moving brush fire led investigators in Harnett County to a hot find Monday afternoon.

Investigators said that they found a drug lab in southwest Harnett County located off of Highway 24/27 near the Lee County line.

The Spout Springs Fire Department thought it was responding to a routine call when it arrived at a shed fire on Sands Road around 2 p.m.

"When we arrived on the scene we saw the yard on fire and smoke coming from the east," Fire Chief Mary Elskamp said.

Iron bars on the shed's door and windows prompted the fire department to look inside.

"After the smoke cleared and we went in to see that things were OK, we saw some other items, some paraphernalia that alerted us. So we called deputies to come take a look at it," Elskamp said.

Soon after Harnett County deputies were called, two men in a gold Ford Contour pulled up to the scene and then fled quickly. Three deputies and a canine unit followed the men to an open field where they were chased on foot for two miles into the woods.

After 20 minutes, Raul Castillo, 26, and Santos Espinosa Valdez, 19, were taken into custody. The men were charged with trafficking cocaine and maintaining a dwelling.

After the chase, investigators returned to the shed with a search warrant. Inside, they found loaded guns and rifles and close to $10,000 in cash. They also confiscated a half-kilo of cocaine estimated to be worth $170,000.


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