NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – A recent bust of pets and pot have one man facing nearly 30 criminal charges in New Hanover County, according to the District Attorney's Office.
Sheriff's deputies planned to search 4805 Milford Road for marijuana Thursday, according to Assistant District Attorney Tom Old. He said the drugs were not the immediate concern when deputies entered the house.
Officers seized more than 50 reptiles from the house in the Crestwood area, according to Old. The ADA said they were mostly poisonous or constrictor type snakes, including ten boa constrictors, eight cobras and five rattlesnakes.
"I saw them as they came out of the house, there were some bad boys in there, some of them were highly poisonous," said Wildlife expert, Jimmy English, who was called in to remove a Caimen that was found in the home. That's a four-legged reptile in the same family as alligators.
Neighbors said it was terrifying to know so many dangerous creatures were being kept so close.
"I'm normally not scared of much, but this frightened the living daylights out of me," said Sally Bennett. "Its frightening to think something like this was happening in our quiet little neighborhood."
"It's scary, we have children," said another neighbor. "If one of [the snakes] had gotten out, just the simplest thing of kids walking around the block, and they could have been gone."
"It's very concerning," said Robert Wiant. He says it's not just the snakes, but also the fact that drugs were being grown. "It just added to my frustration that these things are going on, and people don't know about it."
He says he's seen a growing amount of thefts and break ins over the past couple of months, that's why he's been trying to start a neighborhood watch program. He and other neighbors hope it will prevent future crime.
"It's going to be a community effort," said Wiant. "We want the bad guys to know we are watching." The first Community Watch meeting will take place on September 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Ogden Fire Station.
Old said owning these types of reptiles is not illegal, but there are strict regulations for safely keeping them as pets. Officers took them from the house Thursday because it appeared the reptiles weren't cared for properly, according to Old.
According to state law, venomous snake owners must provide "a written bite protocol that includes emergency contact information, local animal control office, the name and location of suitable antivenom, first aid procedures, and treatment guidelines, as well as an escape recovery plan must be within sight of permanent housing, and a copy must accompany the transport of any venomous reptile."
Owners of constricting reptiles must have a similar written safety protocol with emergency contact information.
John Kamm is charged with 24 felony counts of violation of vital records law because of the snake seizure. He also faces five drug charges, including maintaining a dwelling for the production of marijuana and possession with intent to sell and distribute.
Cpl. Augst with the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office said there were also children living in the home.
Augst also said that Laura Luke, 44, was also charged with multiple counts related to the mishandling of reptiles. He said that Kamm is being held on $100,000 unsecured bond, and Luke is being held on a $50,000 unsecured bond.
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