Local, state and federal law enforcement officers raided the home of a prominent businessman in the Raysville Community of McDuffie County, searching for explosive devices, weapons and illegal drugs last Friday, The McDuffie Mirror has learned.
Although no arrests were made at the time the search warrant was executed, at least three people inside the brick home of Robert Harold Murphy were detained and questioned, according to George Belsky, resident agent in-charge of the U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives field office in Savannah. Agent Belsky said when lawmen attempted to serve the warrant between 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., they were not able to get anybody to the answer the door, so they forced it open.
The federal ATF warrant gave them authorization to search the inside of Mr. Murphy's home, in addition to other places on the property at 5383 Longleaf Drive, which runs off the Lincolnton Highway.
A specialized bomb disposal unit from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in Atlanta was requested to come to the scene, said Gary Nicholson, special agent in-charge of the GBI Region 7 Office in Thomson. Agent Nicholson and two of his agents, Pat Morgan and Joe Brown, assisted other lawmen at the scene, including McDuffie County Sheriff's Department Deputies Sgt. First Class Mike Hobbs and Jared Land. A K-9 deputy with the Columbia County Sheriff's Department also was called to the scene to assist.
Agent Belsky said he could not disclose whether anything was found during the search of Mr. Murphy's home.
"We're merely here to assist federal authorities," Agent Nicholson said. "Any questions need to be addressed to the ATF."
Mr. Murphy, 48, along with two other people recently were taken into custody by Deputy Jeff Norton of the McDuffie County Sheriff's Department. Mr. Murphy was arrested on Nov. 4. He was charged with one count of violation of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act for possession of marijuana and one count of obstruction of a law enforcement officer, records show.
The other two suspects were identified as Garth Mason Shaw, 55, and Samantha Mitzi Vines, 25, both of whom live at Mr. Murphy's home.
Ms. Shaw was charged with the same offense as Mr. Murphy.
Mr. Shaw was charged with driving under the influence and failure to appear for a court date, records reveal.
Mr. Murphy reportedly leases a business known as Bob's Cafe and Bait and Tackle, which caught fire several months ago, but is now being rebuilt.
The cause of the blaze, which destroyed the business, was undetermined.
Mr. Murphy has been the focus of an ongoing criminal investigation for several months, according to a source close to the probe.
"This is a joint investigation by ATF, FBI, Georgia Bureau of Investigation and McDuffie County Sheriff's Department," Agent Belsky said.
Sheriff Logan Marshall said he was aware of the investigation and that he had contacted federal authorities for assistance.
Toombs Judicial Circuit District Attorney Dennis Sanders also said he had been made aware of the investigation during a recent conversation with Sheriff Marshall.