FALL BRANCH, Tenn. — Three people have been arrested and charged with various offenses after Tennessee authorities found three children locked in the back of a U-Haul box truck.
The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security said that on July 10 a bystander observed several small children being locked in the back of the U-Haul truck.
Shortly thereafter, Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Owen Caudill was dispatched to the location where the bystander observed the children being loaded into the truck at the I-40 446 Welcome Center.
While driving in that direction, Caudill observed a U-Haul truck pass on the westbound side of I-40 and initiated a traffic stop 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.
Caudill then discovered three small children, ages 1, 5 and 8 years-old in the back of the truck. The outside temperature was 92 degrees when Caudill stopped the truck.
During the stop, Sgt. Brian Lawson, Troopers Joshua Roberts and John Woods arrived to assist. Authorities said a strong odor of drugs was detected coming from inside the front of the truck and a passenger produced a small amount of marijuana.
Later, 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 times three, possession of schedule 2 narcotics times two and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Eric Larue, 36 years-old, also of Hendersonville, was charged with child endangerment times three, no license law, lane law violation, seat belt violation, children not restrained violation and registration not carried.
Willie Green Jr., 40 years-old, also of Hendersonville, was charged with child endangerment times three and possession of schedule 6 narcotics.
All three were booked into the Cocke County jail.
The Department of Children’s Services (DCS) was notified, is taking care of the children and has opened an investigation.