On Wednesday, July 10th, Fall Branch Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Owen Caudill received a call from dispatch stating a bystander observed several small children being locked in the back of a white U-Haul box truck at the I-40 446 Welcome Center in Cocke County. The THP said in a press release Monday, while driving in that direction, Trooper Caudill observed a U-Haul truck pass on the westbound side of I-40.
Trooper Caudill initiated a traffic stop on the U-Haul truck and inquired if anyone was in the back of the box truck. The driver, 36-year-old Eric Larue, admitted that people were inside the back of the truck. Upon learning this information, Trooper Caudill discovered three small children, ages one, five and eight years-old in the back of the truck. The Department of Children’s Services (DCS) was notified and opened an investigation. The outside temperature was 92 degrees.
During the stop, Sergeant Brian Lawson, Troopers Joshua Roberts and John Woods arrived to assist. The release states that “a strong odor of drugs was detected coming from inside the front of the truck.” A passenger produced a small amount of marijuana. A probable cause search resulted in Troopers finding crystal meth, cocaine, drug paraphernalia, in addition to the marijuana already produced.
- Lakiza Williams, 40 years-old of Hendersonville, North Carolina was charged with child endangerment x3, possession of schedule 2 X2 and possession of drug paraphernalia.
- Eric Larue, 36 years-old of Hendersonville, North Carolina was charged with child endangerment X3, no license law, lane law violation, seat belt violation, children not restrained violation and registration not carried.
- Willie Green Jr., 40 years-old of Hendersonville, North Carolina was charged with child endangerment X3 and possession of schedule 6. All three were booked into the Cocke County jail.