By Blenda Copeland
More than 500 gallons of finished moonshine, a 27-drum still, and close to an estimated $200,000 worth of vehicles and trailers were among the items Russell County law enforcement found last week at an illegal moonshine-making operation in Hurtsboro.
Also recovered were various items, including 27 drums of mash (26 of which were in the process of making moonshine at the time), two pistols (one of which was reported stolen from Montgomery), four shotguns, two rifles, $4,378 in cash, seven vehicles, three All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs), 11 trailers of various sizes, a John Deer 5350 with a bush hog and a Ford Mustang drag race car.
Father and son Manuel Eugene Davis Sr., 55, and Manuel Eugene Davis Jr., 31, of 334 Rutherford Road, Hurtsboro, Ala., were both arrested on warrants for receiving stolen property in the first degree (trailer) and altering a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on a trailer. The elder Davis also was charged with receiving stolen property in the fourth degree (pistol), certain persons forbidden to possess a pistol, and possession of a still/illegally manufactured alcoholic beverage. Both bonded out of jail last week.
Sheriff Heath Taylor said stills appear to be an anomaly these days, however, they seem to be “making a little bit of a comeback.” He said the amount of recovered finished product – more than 100 five-gallon jugs – amazed him. The finished product’s street value was pegged at about $30,000.
“We had heard rumors about this still for years and years,” Taylor said, who estimated that this particular still had probably been in operation at least about 10 years. He added that he doesn’t know of another still in the county’s history that had more finished product on-site than this one.
Taylor said past routine aerial flyovers were unable to detect the set-up, which was “well-hidden” under a canopy of trees an estimated quarter of a mile into the woods on another piece of property adjoining the Davis family’s property. An ATV trail on the Davis family property line led authorities to the still.
“We hit the property Thursday afternoon (June 14) and this is the result,” the sheriff said of a sample of recovered items lying on a table in front of him at a media conference June 22.
The sheriff commended Patrol Lt. Michael Loyless, who made an initial traffic stop whose investigation of an altered VIN, no lights and no tag led law enforcement to further investigate. Authorities confirmed June 14 that items were stolen from a fence company in Lee County about a week before. More investigation led Russell County authorities, with the help of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) to bust the illegal moonshine operation.
Regarding questions of whether this still may have had any connection to the recent moonshine still bust in Eufaula, the sheriff said, “They’re really not very far apart,” noting the location of this still is close to Barbour and Bullock counties.
He noted earlier that Russell County is a vast, largely rural territory. Land-wise, it spans 640 miles, making it three times the land mass of Columbus, Ga.
Taylor added that ALEA will process the state’s alcohol related charges in this case.