McCollum Ranch leader accused of holding children in involuntary servitude dies in hospice care

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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

CUMBERLAND COUNTY, NC (WTVD) -- The McCollum Ranch leader accused of forcing children to involuntarily work at several Fayetteville area fish markets against their will and with no compensation has died in hospice.

The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office confirmed to ABC11 on Wednesday that John McCollum had died.

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He was one of 10 charged in January in connection to the 'alternative religious group' commonly referred to as McCollum Ranch.

The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office said it began investigating the allegations in February 2017.

Investigators said that the McCollum Ranch group, at 5953 McCollum Road in Godwin, were operating several fish markets to raise money for the communal property and used child labor to do so.

The sheriff's office said John 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.

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.