Foxboro man arrested, illegal marijuana grow operation found as fire leaves more than dozen homeless

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The owner of a Foxboro apartment building destroyed in an early morning fire Wednesday is facing charges that he ran secret marijuana grow operation in the building. Authorities allege that the marijuana grow facility caused the devastating fire.

46-year-old Donald Corliss III was arraigned in Wrentham District Court on charges of Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana, Possession of Class A Drugs, and Reckless Endangerment to A Child. He pleaded not guilty and was released on $5,000 cash bail.

The fire broke out in the basement of 91 Central Street at about 5 a.m. Wednesday and quickly spread throughout the building.

The fire left five families and about a dozen people homeless, ten days before Christmas.

I couldn’t breathe at all. I was inhaling straight toxic smoke. I ran out the front door of the house due to the fact I didn’t want to stay in the house any longer.

Tenant Rondell Leatherwood told me he ran for his life as smoke filled his first-floor apartment.

“I couldn’t breathe at all. I was inhaling straight toxic smoke. I ran out the front door of the house due to the fact I didn’t want to stay in the house any longer,” Leatherwood said.

At Wrentham District Court, a prosecutor said firefighters found an elaborate marijuana grow facility in the basement, where the fire began.

“It appeared to be a well-organized grow room with approximately 200 marijuana plants, lighting, and dehumidifiers,” prosecutor Robert Stewart told the court. “The Fire Department determined the fire had started in the basement due to those electrical items being used for the marijuana grow operation.”

A State HazMat team suited up and cleaned out the basement as homeless tenants watched.

Foxboro Police and State Police entered a locked apartment, which was attached to the main building, where a second grow facility was found.

Foxboro Police say investigators found 150 lbs of marijuana, fentanyl, and other drug paraphernalia on the property.

Tenant Rich McMullen teared up as he watched police recover marijuana from the basement of the apartment building.

He told me he lost everything, including his children’s Christmas presents.

McMullen is angry that the illegal drug facility was operating in the locked basement, right below where his children slept.

“It’s heart-wrenching because I could have lost my kids today, really could have,” McMullen said.

Donald Corliss III is charged with Reckless Endangerment to a Child because at least one child had to run for her life to escape the fire.

Foxboro Police and a Norfolk County Prosecutor said additional charges against Corliss are likely.

He is due back in Wrentham District Court on February 15.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

Download the FREE Boston 25 News app for breaking news alerts.

Follow Boston 25 News on Facebook and Twitter. | Watch Boston 25 News NOW

Comments on this article