Baker County authorities found a teenager chained in a room Wednesday afternoon when they raided a mobile home where an “elaborate” marijuana cultivation was set up, Sheriff Joey Dobson said. Troy Howell, 29, of Crews Road, was charged with aggravated child abuse and cultivation of marijuana. His 18-year-old nephew was chained up to keep him from fleeing the premises and telling authorities about the pot-growing operation, the sheriff said.
Dobson said more than 100 marijuana plants and 15 pounds of processed marijuana were found growing in and around the mobile home owned by Howell. “Troy had basically tied a chain to the axel of the trailer and ran it under the floor and actually tied him [the teen] up around the neck in his bedroom there,” Dobson said. He said there were several signs of abuse on the teen including marks around his neck, head, shoulders and back.
Dobson said the chained youth had access to a chime in the bedroom to alert someone that he needed to go to the restroom or needed something to eat while he was being kept captive. Investigators went to Howell’s home after his 13-year-old niece, who also lived at the home along with another nephew, 15, told officials at Baker County Middle School about the marijuana-growing operation. School employees then called the Sheriff’s Office, which responded about 4 p.m. Wednesday. Dobson said investigators didn’t know what to expect when they looked into the case.
“It was really an elaborate situation,” he said. “He had all kinds of indoor equipment grow lights. … Apparently he was distributing this marijuana and selling it by the pound.” Dobson said investigators were still trying to get an exact count on the number of marijuana plants at the mobile home, located in a northwest part of the county in a cluster of mobile homes and houses.
It’s not clear if Howell had custody of the teens, Dobson said, and investigators are still trying to determine how Howell became the guardian of the teens. The chained teen was examined by medical workers, Dobson said, before he was released to the Florida Department of Children and Families, which has taken custody of all three teens.
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