|Cops bust marijuana grow house, find evidence of teen held captive|
|The Press - News|
|Written by Joel Addington|
|Thursday, 27 October 2011 11:31|
The sheriff's office went to the Crews Road residence of Troy Howell yesterday about 4 pm on a tip he was growing pot. What police found there was evidence that his nephew, 18, was being held captive and Mr. Howell was operating an elaborate marijuana growing operation.
Chuck Brannan, the sheriff's office chief investigator, said Mr. Howell, 29, lived with the teen and two of the young man's younger siblings, ages 13 and 15, in a mobile home near a second trailer used for cultivating and processing marijuana at 18831 Crews Rd.
Police found evidence that the 18-year-old was chained up in a padlocked bedroom with a door bell mounted to the wall so he could alert Mr. Howell for food or use of the bathroom, the investigator said.
The chain was attached to the trailer's axle and run up through the floor. The teen was not chained up when officers arrived.
"He just walked outside and talked to us with [Mr. Howell]," said Inv. Brannan, adding that the youth indicated he'd been held captive for "a few months."
The victim had bruises on his head and shoulders and his eye was swollen shut, Inv. Brannan said. He was taken to Fraser Hospital for treatment. The other siblings were placed in the custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Mr. Howell faces charges of aggravated child abuse, felony possession of marijuana and cultivation of marijuana, among other charges.
School officials alerted the sheriff's office to Mr. Howell's residence and alleged pot growing.
His criminal history in Florida includes traffic and minor drug violations.Inv. Brannan said police seized 9 pounds of processed pot, likely taken from 90 marijuana plants found in another room minus their buds. Also seized were six plants the investigator said were cloned to grow the others and an illegally sawed-off shot gun.
The property was very secure with the blacked-out windows, electrical fencing and video surveillance that could be monitored from inside both mobile homes.
"It was a pretty elaborate growing operation ... with one room devoted to growing, another room for chemicals and fertilizer and another room for processing," said Inv. Brannan.
Mr. Howell rented the property from its owner, Jean Edwards of Orange Park. He resided there for three or four years, Inv. Brannan said.
Inv. Brannan said Mr. Howell got custody of the teens after their father died.
The children's mother, Shannon Smith, and grandmother, Deborah Grigsby, both of Lima, Ohio, said the late James Howell, the children's grandfather, had custody of them until his death in 2009. They said they believed the kids were in a safe, stable environment until news of the abuse was posted online.
"I don't care what happens to him," said Ms. Grigsby. "I just want to get my grandchildren back here where they belong."
Judge Joey Williams denied Mr. Howell's bail during first appearance the afternoon of October 27.
See next week's edition for more details.
|Last Updated on Friday, 28 October 2011 13:33|