Attorney: Kids taken from McCollum Ranch could be reunited with family by the weekend
One of three families who had children taken from McCollum Ranch just days before Christmas will have to wait at least another day for a reunion, according to the attorney representing them.Posted — Updated
The McCollum Ranch in Godwin is named for John McCollum, who led his own “alternative religious group” which operated several John C’s Fish Markets and mobile grills in Cumberland County. Adults in the group were charged with forcing children of group, some as young as 9 years old, to work full time in the fish markets with little or no compensation, lifting heavy boxes, keeping fish iced, cutting fish and cleaning, as well as performing construction and maintenance on the mobile grills after hours, authorities said.
McCollum and nine others were arrested in January, following an 11-month investigation. He was charged with operating a continuing criminal enterprise, involuntary servitude of a minor, obtaining property by false pretense and conspiracy.
But on Dec. 21 at the ranch, Gwendolyn Hall said she was watching her grandchildren while their mother was at a job interview.
Hall said 30 minutes after her daughter, the children's mother Adrieanna Hall, left, armed sheriff's deputies and DSS workers conducted a raid at her home. However, Sheriff Ennis Wright said it was not a raid. He said the operation was planned by the Department of Social Services and that his deputies were there at DSS's request.
WRAL was not allowed in the courtroom on Thursday, but Allen Rogers, who represents the family, said DSS was concerned about the condition of the homes on the ranch where Hall lived.
Rogers said that children were removed from the farm during the initial investigation 17 months ago, but things have changed since then.
He said the children were taken last week because DSS alleged that they were in the presence of people who had been "criminally charged."
"And they allege that the property was injurious because there was plastic on the windows and because they questioned the walls having been made with some plywood," he said.
But Hall says some of the damage was caused by recent hurricanes and not having made repairs yet shouldn't be a crime.
"...for you to come in there and try to belittle where I live. I'm a resident there. I live there. That's my home. So, basically, you're telling me because I live there that I cannot have my grandchildren there," Gwendolyn Hall said.
"I would never put my children, my grandchildren in harm's way, or my children, or anybody else's child."
District Court Judge Lou Olivera has order a site survey of Andrieanna Hall's home in Dunn that could clear the way for her to get her two children back tomorrow.
Two other families also had children taken last week from the ranch.
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