Baker County deputies: Teen chained to bed; marijuana plants found

Boy's 29-year-old uncle arrested on abuse, drug charges

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BAKER COUNTY, Fla. - Baker County deputies said they believe a teen had been chained to a bed inside a mobile home where investigators seized marijuana Wednesday.

Deputies said 29-year-old Troy Howell was arrested in connection with a marijuana grow house in the 18800 block of Crews Road.

Deputies originally went to the home investigating a tip about child abuse. Inside they said they found a marijuana growing operation.

Deputies also found a heavy chain, which they said was used to keep Howell's 18-year-old nephew from leaving a bedroom. The door to the room he was in had a padlock on it, deputies said.

A 15-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl also lived in the home with Howell, who is their uncle and legal guardian.

"A really heavy linked chain ran through the floor," said Chief Investigator Chuck Brannan, of the Baker County Sheriff's Office. "It's a mobile home tied to an axle under the house. And it ran up and it was chained around his neck to keep him from running away."

Deputies said the teen had run away previously and told someone about the grow operation, which is why his uncle chained him.

"Fortunately, when we got into the home, indeed we found just what he had described," Brannan said.

The 18-year-old had marks on his neck, a black eye, and bumps and bruises on his head, shoulders and back, deputies said. They said he was glad they arrived when they did.

Deputies seized about 90 plants and 9 pounds of processed pot valued at nearly $100,000. Investigators said the teen told them his uncle had quit working and was focused on operating the grow house.

"There's no living in that trailer. It's 100 percent marijuana grow operation," Brannan said.

Howell is charged with aggravated child abuse and growing and cultivating marijuana.

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