State News

Last 2 suspects in alleged Cumberland child labor case in custody

Posted January 17, 2018 2:26 p.m. EST
Updated January 18, 2018 11:07 a.m. EST

— Two remaining suspects being sought in connection with an alleged Cumberland County child slavery ring are in custody, officials confirmed Thursday.

Earlene Elizabeth Hayat, 64, and Daffene Edge have surrendered to deputies, authorities said.

The two were among 10 people alleged to be part of what has been described as an "alternative religious group" that forced children as young as 9 years old to work for little or no money in the fish markets and grills they use to fund their operations.

John McCollum, who ran the fish markets, Brenda Joyce Hall, Cornelia McDonald, Pamela Puga Luna, Irish Williams, Kassia Rogers, Shirnitka McNatt and Shirley McNatt, all have been charged with operating a continuing criminal enterprise, involuntary servitude of a minor, obtaining property by false pretense and conspiracy.

Hayat has been charged with engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise. It was not immediately clear what charges Edge faces.

Investigators have said Hayat and Edge were followers of McCollum, whom authorities said were known to threaten the children with violence or loss of their food if they refused to work.

McCollum, who is jailed on a $1.1 million bond, told authorities he doesn't think he committed any crimes.