Warrant search finds moonshine, explosives

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A months-long probe by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Departmentand several state agencies came to a head just after dawn Fridaymorning when agents executed two search warrants and uncovered notonly a moonshine still, but also weapons and explosivematerials.

>Three Lincoln County residents were arrested in the stingwhen the LCSD, Southwest Mississippi Narcotics Enforcement Unit,the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and the Department of AlcoholBeverage Control executed the alcohol- and drug-related warrants atthe King family home at 1897 Highway 583, said Lincoln CountySheriff Steve Rushing.

Rushing said during the course of the search, evidence wasturned over leading to the arrests of Elton Rayford King, 53, oncharges of possession of an illegal distillery, conspiracy topossess an illegal distillery, and possession of untaxed whiskey;his wife Bobbie J. King, 47, possession of alcohol in a dry countyand conspiracy to possess an illegal distillery; and their son JohnR. King, 20, on possession of explosive materials and manufactureof explosive materials.

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During the course of the investigation, controlled purchases ofundisclosed substances had been made by agents at the Kings’residence, said SMNEU Deputy Commander John Douglas.

“We ran two separate warrants simultaneously: one was for theABC and the other was for SMNEU. And of course whenever we’re doinganything as far as the narcotics warrants go, we’re going toinvolve MBN,” Douglas said about Friday’s activities.

ABC Director of Enforcement Chief Mark Hicks said agents found asmall moonshine still and a small amount of mash and moonshine inthe Kings’ mobile home. Rayford King may also face charges of beinga convicted felon in possession of a firearm, Hicks said.

Meanwhile, officials said, possible bomb-making materials andhomemade explosives believed to belong to John King were alsofound. The Clinton Police Department Bomb Squad, the Jackson PoliceDepartment Bomb Squad, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco andFirearms were called in to secure the residence and collectevidence.

“We decided we’d rather err on the side of safety and bring inthe appropriate agencies since we weren’t sure off the bat what wewere dealing with,” Rushing said. “There is an investigationongoing into the explosives that were found.

Neighbor Heather Denning said in recent weeks that she and otherneighbors had heard possible gunfire around the Kings’ home. Shesaid other neighbors had recently called police to the Kings’residence about the possible bomb activity.

“Wednesday the neighbor on the other side had called the cops onthem about the explosives …,” said Denning, adding that RayfordKing had asked her husband, Brien, if he had been the one who filedthe report. “For the past couple of months we had heard what wethought were gunshots, and those were the little bombs,apparently.”

Witnesses in the area around 2 p.m. Friday said they heard atleast one explosion that seemed to come from a field adjacent tothe area where the mobile home was. Officials did not specific howdisposal of the materials was handled.

“The items in question were handled by the ATF,” Rushing said.”The ATF took a core sample to be tested but they and the ClintonBomb Squad disposed of the rest.”

The McComb Regional Response Team and the Ruth and East LincolnVolunteer Fire Departments were on the scene, reportedly in casefire support or hazardous materials expertise were needed, Hickssaid.

Earlier in the day, Douglas said a National Guard Raider Teamcounter drug helicopter was on-site helping conduct marijuanasearches from the air. Denning said she was told by an agent thatthey were looking for narcotics.

“When the narcotics agent came over and talked to us, he saidthey had made several purchases there and said that they were therefor narcotics,” Denning said, adding that she asked him why theyneeded so many agents just for a narcotics sting. “Then he saidthey had found suspicious materials that were alarming to them, andI guess that was when they found the bombing materials.”

Officials said more than 21 agencies, including the FederalBureau of Investigation, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation,Homeland Security and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency,were on the scene due to the spectrum of the charges and the needfor qualified experts to handle the evidence.

But neighbors said, moonshine charges aside, that Rayford Kinghad always been a good neighbor.

“They bring us fresh vegetables they grow in their garden,” saidDenning, while also saying she was sorry to see the familyallegedly involved in illegal activity. “Mr. King is a nice guy,and he’s always been really friendly.”

All three Kings were still in the Lincoln County Jail Saturdayafternoon, jail officials said.