FAYETTEVILLE, NC (WTVD) — Five of the six people still wanted in connection with an alternative religious group that allegedly forced children to work at several Fayetteville area fish markets have turned themselves in.
Delphine Wright became the latest to turn herself in, Cumberland County Sheriff Ennis Wright announced Friday evening.
According to authorities, 10 people were wanted for the crimes at McCollum Ranch.
On Wednesday, arrest warrants were obtained for several members of the ranch for continuing criminal enterprise, involuntary servitude of a minor, obtaining property by false pretense, and conspiracy.
Of the 10, John McCollum, Cornelia McDonald, Brenda Hall, and Pamela Puga Luna were arrested after the warrants were issued and are being held on secured bonds in the Cumberland County Detention Center.
Earlier Friday, Irish Williams, Kassia Rogers, Shirmitka McNatt, and Shirley McNatt surrendered themselves to the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.
Court documents reveal that like her co-conspirator, John McCollum, Shirley McNatt also had prior felony child abuse charges dating to the late 1980s, one resulting in a conviction of misdemeanor child abuse.
The latest arrest leaves only Earlene Hayat not in custody.
Despite the variety of charges, District Attorney Billy West requested that all suspects be held on a $325,000 bond.
“It is serious. The allegations are serious with that allegations of financial fraud, allegations of child abuse and involuntary servitude in those types of things,” West said. “This is just serious allegations that we feel like should be treated appropriately as a release to bond in the prosecution going forward.”
Reports say these suspects forced the children to work at the markets against their will and without pay.
The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office said it began investigating the allegations in February 2017.
The sheriff’s office said John C McCollum and others were operating at least three John C’s Fish Markets and mobile grills in Fayetteville, and one John C’s Fish Market in Lumberton.
“One of the allegations that was brought up today in court was that a young child who received pretty serious injuries and was refused medical treatment and if that allegation is true it’s very serious, and it’s something that needs to be handled appropriately,” West said.
On Thursday, several federal agencies join the investigation into the child slavery ring.
Several former residents of the McCollum Ranch told investigators that McCollum and others were holding children ranging from 9 years old to 17 years old, in involuntary servitude. The children had to work full time in the fish markets with little to no compensation, they said.
The children were reportedly performing labor such as lifting heavy boxes/shipments (reportedly some weighing approximately 50lbs), keeping fish iced, cutting fish and cleaning; additionally, many of the children were performing construction and maintenance on the mobile grills after fish market hours.
The former residents also informed investigators that the children were not attending school and were being denied adequate education and care.
The Sheriff’s Office is requesting that if anyone has information relating to the location of these suspects, please contact the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office at 910-323-1500 or Crimestoppers at (910) 483-8477.