Children taken from McCollum Ranch returned home

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Children taken from the McCollum Ranch, a religious commune in Cumberland County, were reunited with family members on Friday.

John McCollum, the alleged leader of the alternative religious group, and nine others were arrested in January in connection with an investigation into child slavery.

According to officials, the McCollum Ranch group, located at 5953 McCollum Road in Godwin, was operating several fish markets to raise money for the communal property and used child labor to do so.

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The grandchildren of one woman who lives there were taken into custody by the Department of Social Services (DSS) last week.

Gwendolyn Hall said her daughter dropped the children off at the Mccollum Ranch for a visit on Dec. 21 and sheriff's deputies showed up a short time later.

"They said they were coming to take all the children," Hall said. "I said, 'What children? Not my grandchildren.'"

She said it has been the longest week of her life without her 1-year-old granddaughter and 6-year-old grandson.

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She said not having the children home for Christmas was hard on the family. Adding that the first night they were gone, her daughter slept in her son's bed.
Hall's lawyer told ABC11 DSS received a tip suggesting children were living at the McCollum Ranch.

However, the lawyer said there was no formal order issued suggesting the children could not be there.

A Cumberland County judge said the kids could be reunited with their family.
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