Child welfare check leads CCSO deputies to marijuana grow


Four arrests made in marijuana grow


CULLMAN – A child welfare check led to the discovery of a marijuana grow operation and consequently four arrests at a home located on County Road 821 in Cullman County.


“The whole case started at 11 a.m. Saturday [Dec. 28] as an initial call for a welfare check on a child,” Cullman County Sheriff Mike Rainey said. “Sgt. Terry Smith and K-9 deputy Kevin Lewis responded to the residence where they knocked on the door. As they were standing in the doorway they could smell a very strong odor of marijuana.”


The deputies waited at the front door while Christopher Butts retrieved the child from inside the home for a quick inspection. Sheriff Rainey said once the child was looked at, the deputies asked Butts if they could come inside the home for a closer inspection.


“They (Sgt. Smith and Deputy Lewis) asked for permission to enter the residence but they were told they could not enter. At this time the deputies detained all four adults inside the residence,” Sheriff Rainey said.


Christopher Butts, 42, Sonja Franks, 46, Stephen Franks, 22, and Amber Nixon, 22, were detained until a search warrant could be issued by a Cullman County judge. The home is not registered to any of the suspects, according to Rainey, but it was concluded that the four lived together.


“After obtaining a search warrant agents with CNET entered the home where they discovered several glass jars with marijuana buds,” he said. “An outbuilding was also searched and inside agents discovered a three room system for growing marijuana.”


Rainey said the search warrant issued included the outbuilding in its description.


“When our K-9 deputy Kevin Lewis was walking the area, his K-9 partner indicated the presence of narcotics inside the outbuilding, so CNET added it to the list,” he said. “Once inside, approximately 30 marijuana plants were discovered in the somewhat elaborate setup.”


Each of the suspects, Butts, Sonja and Stephen Franks, and Nixon were each charged with trafficking marijuana and were sent to Cullman County Detention Center, each on a $1 million bond.


Nixon was also charged with unlawful possession of controlled substance after deputies found a small amount of heroin in her possession. She is being held on a $1.5 million bond.


“I just want to say what a good job both Sgt. Terry Smith and K-9 deputy Kevin Lewis did handling this situation,” he said. “They arrived on scene to investigate a child in need and because of their alertness, we were able to make four trafficking arrests.”


Stephen Franks bonded out Sunday, while the other three are currently being held at the Cullman County Detention Center.


Rainey said DHR was notified of the situation. He said the child was released to a family member.


Christopher Butts serves as the Executive Director of the Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition. According to the group’s website, the AMMJC "is an organization dedicated to the rights of patients. Its primary focus is organizing individuals and groups in the common goal of changing the laws concerning medical marijuana for patients in Alabama. It is the position of AMMJC that excessive government regulations infringe on the physician’s ability and the patient’s right to properly treat their ailment. It is our goal, through aggressive legislation, community involvement and education to end these infringements and protect the rights and liberties of all Alabama patients."


For more on the coalition visit,


Additional charges may still be pressed against each of the four residents arrested on Saturday.