WRAL Investigates

Robeson woman stung by DEA destruction of backyard hive

Posted November 20, 2015 7:03 p.m. EST
Updated November 20, 2015 7:07 p.m. EST

— A Robeson County woman is demanding the federal government pay her for a beehive the Drug Enforcement Administration destroyed during a recent raid on her neighbor's property.

"This is my sanctuary," Denise Campbell said of her 7-acre spread in St. Pauls.

On Oct. 27, Campbell said that sanctuary was violated as DEA agents swarmed her neighbor's property.

"I noticed there were men back here at the fence," she said.

A wooded area separates her property from her neighbor's, but she said agents crossed the property line to investigate a beehive she had out back as a possible hiding place for drugs or money.

"They readily admitted to me their agents lifted the lid," she said. "Common sense tells me, if you lift the lid to a honeybee, you're going to get stung."

Beekeeper David Garrett tended to the hive, which he described as a thriving honey producer with 60,000 to 80,000 bees valued at more than $1,000. After the raid, he said, the hive was wrecked.

"The hive was literally over on its side," Garrett said. "The bees, they were dead. The honey was destroyed."

Campbell said she respects the job of the DEA but the agents went too far. She said she would have gladly helped agents examine the beehive if they had asked her.

"You came onto my property, and you didn't have permission to come onto my property, and you vandalized it – you destroyed it," she said.

A DEA agent initially suggested she hire an attorney if she wanted restitution, she said.

"I felt like I was being bullied," she said. "I didn't do anything wrong except go to work that day."

William Baxley, assistant DEA special agent-in-charge in North Carolina, declined comment on the raid but said that Campbell wasn't dismissed by his agents.

"If someone can show our agents made an error, we will, of course, make it right, but, there is a process. We need proof," Baxley said, adding the government needs more photos and details about the value of the hive to consider a claim.

Campbell said she plans to rebuild the hive as she presses for restitution.

"This is private land, and you destroyed it, and now you've got to be held accountable," she said.