Thirty years ago in 1987, the county was still recovering from 1985 a year plagued by storms and bay closures that spelled financial disaster for the seafood industry. The possibility of huge profits from raising marijuana in Franklin County, with a climate ideal for the crop, led many out-of-work fishermen and sailors astray.

At the same time, massive raids on South Florida drug smuggling operations had led traffickers in contraband to seek quieter shorelines to the north to bring their goods ashore.

This was also the first year for the Miss Black Teen of Apalachicola Pageant.


County marijuana bust nets arrests, Carrabelle man investigated for pot

A concentrated drive by a group of law enforcement agencies resulted in the finding and seizure of several hundred marijuana plants, many in Franklin County and the Carrabelle area. Two arrests are pending, one in Carrabelle.

James A. Williams II, Carrabelle police officer who worked the Carrabelle bust said about 150 plants from two inches high to four and one-half feet high as well as 52 seedlings were discovered on the property of Howard Massey. The evidence has been sent to a laboratory at Tallahassee and, pending results, is still under investigation.

Williams said the drive was a concentrated effort between the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Carrabelle Police Department, the Leon County Sheriff’s Department and the Game and Freshwater Division.

“It was a Domestic Drug Task Force originated in Tallahassee,” Williams explained. “They flew over the area and spotted a lot of plants from the air. Some were in the city limits of Carrabelle and I was called to investigate. We found the plants on Massey’s land as well as a good-sized plot near the Carrabelle Airport. There were other plants near the Wakulla County line and at Crooked River.

Williams said he and Franklin County Deputy Sheriff Mike Mock also found a large group of Mary Jane plants at a site he could not disclose at this time.

“We look forward to making at least two arrests,” Williams said. “We are also still investigating some areas pointed out by aerial surveillance.

A sweep through northeast Franklin County by state and county drug enforcement officers last week led to the confiscation of more than 500 marijuana plants with a street value of nearly half-a-million dollars, police said.

Deputy Archie Holton of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department announced the arrest of one man on a felony charge and said others were under investigation.

The arrested man was identified as Eugene Sanders, 35, who police said resides in the McIntyre section of the county. Police charged him with cultivating marijuana and possession of more than 20 grams.

Sanders is free on $10,000 bond.

Police said Sanders was arrested at a cultivated area near McIntyre where 350 marijuana plants, some seven feet tall, were confiscated.

In addition to the 350 plants seized at McIntyre, Holton said another crop of more than 300 plants were found growing along the Crooked River, another 93 plants near the Carrabelle Airport and still another 118 plants inside the Carrabelle city limits.

Holton said the drug sweep was a joint effort of the Domestic Marijuana Task Force and the team consisted of law enforcement officers from the Sheriff’s Department, Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission, the Carrabelle Police Department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Under and FDLE formula, Holton said the confiscated plants had a street value of $436,500.

Holton called it a “good day” of work for the Task Force, organized by the FDLE, which supplied the airplane for the sweep search.

Holton, who is the Sheriff’s Department’s designated representative on the Task Force, said the sweep made only a small dent in the Franklin County crop.

“There is 100 times more out there,” he said. “We know we can’t get it all, but if we get enough to drive the price up maybe the kids can’t buy it at school.”

Holton said it was incentive enough for him to volunteer for hot days work with the Task Force.

“I like to be out in the woods and I don’t like dope,” he said. “Put that all together and I don’t mind going out sweating.”


Shrimper arrested on cocaine charge

An arrest was made last Thursday after a small amount of cocaine and marijuana were found in the possession of a sailor from a local shrimp boat.

According to information from Major Bob Lee, district commander of the Florida Marine Patrol in Carrabelle, a unified raid was made on the Stormy Seas V docked at Tom Crum’s seafood place.

“I don’t know whether it was a tip or just investigation, but the US Customs Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Agency and our Marine Patrol boarded the boat and searched it. Nothing was fount.”

“Later we searched Captain Leonard Brannon’s automobile and discovered a small amount of pot and what appeared to be cocaine. We found that it belonged to Brannon’s brother. The brother is James Avery Brannon, 21. Lee said officers assumed the stash was for Brannon’s own use.”

Arresting officer was Michael Brinks of FDLE. The younger Brannon was taken into custody by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department and charges with possession of cocaine, which is a felony. He has been released on $5,000 bond. Capt. Brannon was not charged and both he and his boat are free.


Blue Lightning will strike Panhandle this fall

Kent Gardener

Times Staff Writer

In a widening move to better control surveillance and interdict drug smuggling, Operation Blue Lightning is being in Florida’s Panhandle.

Blue Lightning is a code name for a task force composed of several law enforcement agencies that can and do work together when the occasion demands. These agencies include federal, state and local lawmen, both uniformed and non-uniformed.

They include state police, sheriff’s officers, marine patrolmen, US Customs officers, drug enforcement officers and other agencies. And though the concept is five years old and has been used in South Florida and along the East Coast, it is just now being introduced in the Big Bend and Panhandle area.

Major Bob Lee, district commander for the Florida Marine Patrol in the Carrabelle area, explained the concept.

“What this amounts to is a concerted effort between federal officers and state and local agencies, with each having a job to do and, at times, all of them team up in one particular operation.”

Lee said that one of the main benefits of Blue Lightning would be a better system of communication between agencies. He noted that, at present, there are two or three different frequencies being used that make interchange between agencies difficult.

“The water people have a low frequency radio wave; this is traditional, while ground or land people use high frequency. The odd frequencies hinder us very often in exchanging information or orders.”

Lee further explained that5 new frequencies used by all units can lead to better communications and a lack of breakdown in efforts to talk to each other.

There will be open lines between all agencies in the near future with a resulting better method of carrying out detailed raids, guarding the coast and intercepting smugglers or illegal aliens.

Another facet of the program will be the use and implementation of sophisticated micro-wave radar that can scan segments of the coast. These radars can detect boats or ships as well as aircraft for great distances.

With the towers set up along specified sectors of the coast, radar scanners can detect airborne or seaborne actions that might now escape detection.

A possible benefit of this usage would be to watch boats meet at sea and then head for the coast.

In such an event, helicopters, fast patrol boats or aircraft could interdict the boat for search and identification of cargo.

The operation will be under the nominal and fiscal control of the United States Customs Service.

Task forces are being formed as semi-permanent units and meeting are being held between agencies on a regular basis, Lee said.

He predicted that the Blue Lightning concept would be in basic operation in this area by early fall. “We will take some time to fully implement the whole idea,” Lee added.

In the past, such a tangled situation might have led to confusion and improper arrest. Now with Blue Lightning, chances are that all facets of the operation will be undertaken by proper and legally concerned agencies.

It can be a great deterrent to the present bad situation that exists along our Florida coasts.


Franklin County’s first Miss Black Teen pageant

By Mark A. White and Temolynn G. White

Excitement reigned extreme Saturday, June 20, the night upon which the first Miss Black Teen of Apalachicola was crowned. Hundreds of well wishers were present to witness what proved to be and outstanding natural display of nine female youth.

Shortly after Shirley White, pageant coordinator, greeted spectators and patrons they were entertained by the contestants’ opening introduction number which was enhanced by the upbeat sounds of NU SHOOZ.

An added feature of the evening was the distinctively entrancing voice of the Master of Ceremony, Joe Bullard, station manager of WANM radio in Tallahassee, whose disc jockeying prowess has brought him much acclaim as the voice of Florida A&M University’s Marching 100.

Categories of competition began and included judging in the areas of sportswear, talent, evening wear, question and answer-interview. Winners were recognized in each category: sportswear – Claudine Kellogg; talent – Alisa Hand; evening wear – Shannon Wynn; Question and answer – interview – Bridgette Mitchell. Yolanda Harvey was noted Miss Congeniality by her fellow contestants and LaTonya Townsend was awarded for her efforts in obtaining the greatest amount of tickets and advertisement sales.

But, of course, as in any pageant, the emphasis is put on the contestants who place; and after great deliberation Claudine Kellogg was announced as second runner-up with Shannon Wynn being named as first runner-up to Alisa Hand the first ever Miss Black Teen of Apalachicola.

Alisa is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Bryant Hand Sr. and is a 15-year-old junior at Apalachicola High School. Her stunning performance of a self-written monologue entitled “Soon I Will Be Done” along with an impressive display of consistency in poise; charm and originality are what place her a notch above the rest.

Other contestants with noteworthy performances were Evelyn Croom, Harlen Myers and Clydell Croom. Congratulations ladies and remember, “The sky is the limit!”