What investigators are saying is that somewhere between the Texas meat packing plant where the ground beef came from, the Mississippi warehouse it was stored, and the schools where it wound up, somebody tampered with the delivery. Cocaine turned up in boxes sent to Ellisville Elementary, and East Central Upper Elementary in Hurley.
Students at the security conscious East Central school didn't know that when they returned to school Monday morning, a cafeteria worker found 15 pounds of cocaine in a weekly food shipment.
Brad Stewart is an assistant superintendent for the Jackson County School District. "I guess the first thing that goes through your mind is to make sure that there isn't any way it's going to hurt your staff or your students," he said.
East Central's drug ordeal actually started last Wednesday, when a ground beef shipment arrived at the school. Two days later the state sent out a hold warning. It ordered cafeteria staff around the state to move its ground beef to an isolated location and not use it. A day later, word got out that a school in Ellisville had cocaine bricks in a ground beef delivery box. That was Saturday. On Monday, a cafeteria worker at East Central was thinking about the Ellisville incident when she remembered moving a ground beef box that didn't feel right to her. "So she went into the freezer, unlocked the freezer, and went in and took the tape off and found six bricks of cocaine," Stewart said.
Within minutes, the cafeteria entrance had members of the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, the bureau of narcotics, and the DEA swarming around it. So did the school's loading and unloading dock. "I think this is an isolated situation where it got lost," the assistant superintendent said. "I'm very thankful for a prepared staff, an alert state department, and people that took care of the situation, because our children never were in danger."
Narcotics experts say the cocaine found at East Central Upper Elementary was worth at least $100,000.