Scott Thomas Hicks, 39, of Wetumpka, Alabama, gets 25 years for torture of 4-year-old boy

The case was one of the most extreme instances aggravated child abuse in Bay County in recent history, and it led to reforms in Alabama’s child abuse punishment parameters.

PANAMA CITY — An Alabama man has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for the role he played in repeatedly beating and torturing the 4-year-old son of his girlfriend, according to court records.

Scott Thomas Hicks, 39, appeared in court Friday in front of Circuit Judge James Fensom for the sentencing. Hicks and the child’s 7ijt5ik6rir6ir4mother, 28-year-old Hallee Anne McLeod, were arrested in September 2015 after officers found the 4-year-old beaten, bloodied and unresponsive in the back seat of Hicks’ truck parked in front of the Bay County Courthouse. Authorities later labeled the case “child torture” after discovering the extent to which the child had been repeatedly abused through beating and genital torture.

The case was one of the most extreme instances aggravated child abuse in Bay County in recent history, and it led to reforms in Alabama’s child abuse punishment parameters.

Hicks, of Wetumpka, Alabama, was convicted Nov. 16 of aggravated child abuse, child neglect causing great bodily harm, leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle and a lesser charge of child neglect causing great bodily harm from an earlier trip into Bay County with the child. He faced 50 years in prison, but Fensom said he would have sentenced Hicks the same regardless of the circumstances.

About a month earlier, McLeod was sentenced in Alabama to 20 years in prison on charges of child abuse and chemical endangerment of a child for keeping methamphetamine around her son. In her plea, McLeod admitted she and Hicks beat the child, particularly by throwing him to the ground and kicking him between his legs.

As McLeod wept in the courtroom, Elmore County, Alabama, Judge Ben Fuller called the tearful defendant “evil” before the sentencing and added, “The Lord will forgive, but I don’t know who else will.”

Fuller told McLeod he would have sentenced her to life in prison without parole if the law permitted. The case had inspired Alabama lawmakers to push for the possibility of life in prison for aggravated child abuse cases, but the revised guidelines did not apply retroactively to McLeod. Although she asked for leniency, Fuller sentenced her to the maximum and scorned the mother for her role in what appeared to be repeat offenses.

The abuse did not come to light until the morning of Sept. 17, 2015, after Hicks arrived at the Bay County Courthouse to resolve a domestic battery case — in which McLeod was named the victim. While he was entering, Hicks told a bailiff he needed to hurry because he had a child in the car waiting for him.

Deputies went to Hicks’ vehicle in the parking lot to check on the child but could see no one inside. A deputy then spotted a blanket in the back seat and the legs of a small child sticking out from underneath. The 4-year-old boy was under the blanket, unresponsive, eyes open, with dried blood on his lips and a laceration on his head.

He was taken to a local hospital for treatment, where the full extent of his injuries became known. He was found to have “extensive and severe bruising” all over his body, particularly on and around his genitals.

At Hick’s trial, Prosecutor Christa Diviney highlighted that the child still experienced issues from the abuse and could have to undergo surgery in the future. Hicks also was ordered to not have contact with any of the family members.

 

 

 

http://www.newsherald.com/news/20161203/alabama-man-gets-25-years-for-child-torture

 

 

Shocking ‘torture’ of Alabama child inspires crusade to make sure child abusers get life in prison

 

Hallee Ann McLeod, 28, the mother in ‘child torture’ case involving her 4-year-old boy in Elmore County, gets 20 years

Onslow County husband and wife, Tyler Davis and Brittany Davis, arrested on Methamphetamine drug charges

Onslow County – A husband and wife team who were wanted by the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office on drug charges has been arrested in Virginia.

Tyler Davis and Brittany Davis were both arrested in Cana, Virginia by the Twin County Drug Task Force on Thursday. The arrests are a result of an investigation by the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office Drug Enforcement Unit for trafficking methamphetamine and selling heroin in the Jacksonville and Richlands area.tyler-and-brittany-davis-web_1480698048046_5048200_ver1-0_640_360w

In April of 2016, detectives with the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office Drug Enforcement Unit began an investigation into Tyler Jeffrey Davis and Brittany Leann Davis. During the six-month investigation, warrants were obtained for Tyler’s arrest on several drug violations, including four counts of trafficking methamphetamine and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Warrants were also issued for Brittany’s arrest including charges of, sell and deliver heroin and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

In September of 2016, the Davis’ learned of their open investigation and fled the state to avoid prosecution.

On Thursday, narcotic detectives with the Twin County Drug Task Force arrested Tyler and Brittany Davis at 667 Little Bear Trail in Cana, Virginia.

The Davis’ were transported and booked into the New River Valley Regional Jail where they are being detained under No Bond and are awaiting extradition back to Onslow County.

http://www.wcti12.com/news/onslow-county-husband-and-wife-arrested-on-drug-charges/194589882

 

Hillary Wegman, 27, of Palm Bay, and Dakota McBryar, 28, of Indialantic, face Methamphetamine drug trafficking charges after being found asleep in car in Melbourne

MELBOURNE, Fla. — A man and a woman are facing drug trafficking charges after police found them asleep inside a parked car Friday afternoon.web-melbourne-drug-arrests-0120-1480800461d

Melbourne police said Dakota McBryar, 28, of Indialantic and Hillary Wegman, 27, of Palm Bay, were sleeping in a car outside the Legacy at Hibiscus Apartments when officers spotted them.

Officers knocked on the window and woke the pair up, but said they refused to get out of the car.

When they did eventually get out of the car, police said McBryar dropped a container of drugs that had been in his lap.

Police said several bags of methamphetamine, heroin and drug paraphernalia were found scattered inside the vehicle.

McBryar and Wegman are both charged with trafficking over 20 grams of methamphetamine, manufacturing methamphetamine, possession of heroin, possession of cocaine, possession of clonazepam, possession of drug paraphernalia and resisting an officer without violence.

 

 

 

http://www.wesh.com/article/man-woman-face-drug-trafficking-charges-after-being-found-asleep-in-car/8461701

 

‘Anything for a buck’: Profits influence Methamphetamine drug habits in Killeen

The first thing that was visible from the outside of the house about 1 a.m. Friday morning was the undecorated Christmas tree. The first thing that was visible from the inside of the house was the man sprawled on his back in the kitchen, not moving, and the two men standing over him performing CPR.

“Did he have any drugs in his system?” an EMT asked police officers on scene.

“Potentially cocaine,” was the reply from an officer.

“‘Potentially cocaine’ sounds a lot like ‘probably cocaine’ if you ask me,” the EMT responded.

Upon first glance, there were no drugs out in the open at the residence, and the man’s cause of death will remain uncertain until a toxicology report is completed.

The possibility of a drug overdose isn’t usually the primary focus of patrol officers such as Jared Acker when they step into their cruiser at the start of their shift. But aside from all the traffic stops and the robberies, the city of Killeen has more than enough drug activity to keep police busy.

In the past five years, Lt. Ronnie Supak has seen trends in the Killeen narcotics game shift. Some things remain the same, like the connection between prostitution and drugs, or the demographic of people who are busted for distribution. He’s seen the rise and fall, and rise again, of synthetic marijuana. But other elements have changed, and that includes which drugs are most prominent in the city.

Supak has seen the use of methamphetamine skyrocket in the past five years.

A University of Texas study done in August 2016 backs him up. The study by Jane Maxwell said that between 2013 and 2015, the DEA reported a 37 percent increase in meth seizures. In 2005, meth accounted for 21 percent of the items analyzed by the Texas DEA. Ten years later, that number went up to 34 percent..

“A lot of times, we’ll see the cartels bring the meth in across the border, then take I-35 right through here up to Dallas,” Supak said. “Just to turn around and bring it right back down here.”

Meth is ranked the No. 1 drug threat in Dallas and the No. 2 in Houston. In 1995, meth users accounted for only 3 percent of all people in Texas admitted to drug treatment programs. In 2016, that number jumped to 16 percent. There’s no specific demographic that defines a meth user, and age doesn’t play a role at all. Supak’s seen everyone from 18 to 50 years old get hooked.

WHY THE INCREASE?

Despite the fact that the drug is one that can be manufactured anywhere, the majority of the meth supply found in Killeen originated south of the border. Local cooking is done here in the United States but can only produce a small amount, Maxwell’s study says. The most common form of meth contains the chemical elements phenyl and propanone, two chemicals that can be legally purchased in Mexico. To get the drug across the border, smugglers will convert it down to a liquid form, one that resembles an icy sludge. From there, it can be hidden in a shipment of shampoo bottles, olive oil and wine and overlooked by border patrol. The disguised meth then is brought to a cartel-owned laboratory on the U.S. side of the border and converted back into crystal form. From there, distribution across the country, from Atlanta to right here in Killeen, is carried out.

Cocaine use in the city, and, according to Maxwell’s study, in the state, hasn’t changed. It’s available on the street, and rather accessible, but it comes and goes in spurts. Supak said that he hasn’t seen a real rise or fall in the use of cocaine, either in rock or in powder form.

The rising popularity of meth comes down to one thing above all: money.

“It’s anything for a buck,” Supak said. “Meth is cheaper than cocaine. Cartels can make more money on the border.”

In November alone, there were 52 drug-related offenses committed in Killeen. Fourteen of those were for the possession of marijuana. Nearly the same amount, 11, were for Class 1 substances, which includes cocaine, heroin, ketamine and methamphetamine.

Marijuana has been and will always be an issue in Central Texas, Supak said. But the landscape of marijuana trafficking has been dramatically changed in just the past few years.

When Supak first started working with the police department’s narcotics operations, the majority of the marijuana found in Killeen came to the United States across the Mexican border. That’s no longer the case. Since Colorado and Washington state legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults in 2012, Supak has seen an increase in the presence of hydroponic marijuana. That’s the practice of growing the drug with highly oxygenated, nutrient enriched water, and it often is an indication that the drug was grown professionally. Occasionally, the police department will bust an outfit in Killeen that’s been growing its own weed. That happens about two or three times a year, but since California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts have also legalized recreational use, there’s no way to ensure that number will remain the same.

EMERGING DRUGS

Heroin hasn’t made an impact on Texas or Killeen like it has in other parts of the country. States like New Hampshire, Kentucky and North Carolina have been hit hard by the opiate epidemic. But, Supak said, there are a few tight-knit circles of heroin users in Killeen.

Still, police and paramedics have started to adjust to the trend before it hits the area too hard. They’ve began carrying Narcan, a drug that has the capability to reverse the effects of an opiate overdose. It was used early Friday morning when officers responded to the scene of a cardiac arrest, after learning the patient had a history of drug use.

Prescription drugs are popping up more and more. Supak said that Xanax, a sedative used to treat anxiety and panic disorder, is the most abused, but there’s been a sharp rise in Fentanyl lately. Fentanyl is a painkiller often used with cancer patients, and is usually found in the form of either a patch or a lollipop. It’s a drug that’s been combined with heroin in the past, but is popping up on its own more often.

MANPOWER

About an hour before Acker responded to the scene of the cardiac arrest, and a half-hour after he finished with a call about a convenience store robbery, a silver sport-utility vehicle with a sizeable dent on its rear passenger side was headed west on East Veteran’s Memorial Highway early Thursday morning. Suddenly, the SUV took a quick left into a motel parking lot. The car sat in the parking lot for two minutes before it left and found itself at another motel just 100 feet away. It could have been a traveler desperate for a place to sleep. It also could have been someone prepared to enter a hotel room for drug deal.

Acker has seen it happen before in his five years as a patrol officer, and while just spending a short amount of time in a motel parking lot isn’t enough probable cause to stop a vehicle, something like a broken tail light might be.

“Sometimes you’ll pull them over and say ‘Hey, mind if I search your vehicle?’” he said. “‘Sure, go ahead.’ Then it’s ‘Oh look, crack.’”

Supak and his team of seven officers involved in the Organized Crime Unit have certain things that make their job difficult, like a lack of diverse police vehicles to conduct intelligence gatherings with, or simply a lack of manpower.

“Seven guys to cover this city and know everything that’s going on is simply not possible,” he said. “We do what we can, but have to be creative when we’re doing stuff like this.”

SUBSTANCE SAMPLER

Methamphetamine: Also known as meth, crystal meth. Often used through smoking, inhaling or injecting into the bloodstream. It’s a stimulant that is extremely addictive. It provides an almost immediate feeling of pleasure, and users often binge on the drug before crashing. It can cause anxiety, depression and rash behavior.

Cocaine: Also known as blow or crack. Can be found in either powder or rock form. The powder can be ingested orally, through the nose or combined with other drugs. The rock form, or crack, is usually smoked through a pipe. Cocaine is a stimulant and usually used recreationally. It can cause the user to feel intense feelings and often increases that person’s heart rate.

Heroin: An opiate that is injected into the bloodstream. It is a depressant. The user gets a rush of euphoria to the brain, but often an overdose involves the lack of oxygen that can reach the brain.

Fentanyl: A opiate painkiller, usually used for the treatment of cancer patients. It’s onset is quick, but the lifespan of the high is short.

Xanax: A prescription drug used to treat anxiety and panic disorder. It can cause paranoia and suicidal thoughts, and should not be combined with alcohol.

 

 

 

http://kdhnews.com/news/local/anything-for-a-buck-profits-influence-drug-habits-in-killeen/article_71d45c94-b9d6-11e6-ad44-9f5ecce792db.html

 

Methamphetamine: Are we entering another ‘ice age’ in Guam?’

Cops and courts contend with a growth in meth-related crimes

Despite a high-profile seizure of 18 pounds of crystal methamphetamine (or “ice”) by federal authorities last month, Guam Police Department Chief Joseph Cruz said in a Nov. 23 media briefing that the island’s overall drug issue would land at about a 4 or 5 on a scale from 1 to 10.

The November seizure had an approximate street value of $4.6 to $5.6 million, according to Cruz.

Although those figures are alarming and may remind residents of the “War on Ice” in the 1990s, “usage [of the drug] has definitely come down,” said Cruz. Still, Cruz called for “a new or revised version of the War on Ice campaign…”

In 2015, the year for which the most recent statistics are available, just over 42 thousand grams of methamphetamine valued at $31.1 million were seized, according to the Citizen Centric Report issued by the Bureau of Statistics and Plans. By contrast, about 7,800 grams of marijuana valued at $163,338 dollars were seized.

Then U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Resident Agent in Charge Michael Puralewski stated in 2015 that the ice problem on Guam was “severe and is putting the island at risk.” (Guam does not currently have a permanent DEA resident agent in charge.)

This reportedly led to an increase in the numbers of postal inspectors on island who are especially on the lookout for Priority and First-Class packages from Hawaii, California, Arizona, Oregon, Nevada, Texas, and Washington.

History of methamphetamine use

According to a Feb. 16, 1965, report in the Chicago Tribune, methamphetamine was sold in the U.S. as an over-the-counter medicine in the form of an inhaler until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner George P. Larrick restricted its sale to physician prescriptions.

In 1970, methamphetamine was regulated in the Controlled Substances Act, and a public education campaign was mounted against it.

In 1986, the U.S. government passed the Federal Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act in an attempt to curb the growing use of designer drugs such as meth.

Despite these laws, use of methamphetamine expanded from its initial base in California throughout the rural United States, especially the Midwest and South, according to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.

Meth long ago spread throughout the Pacific, as well.

Honolulu Civil Beat reports that Hawaii has led the country in workplace meth use, with one 2011 study showing employees there used the drug at a rate four times the national average. A September 2016 report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime found Pacific islands are increasingly vulnerable to transnational organized crime, including drug trafficking. The report states that local law enforcement agencies are “largely unable to manage territorial borders,” making Pacific islands ripe for exploitation as transit points.

“Methamphetamine and precursor chemicals from Asia…are trafficked to and through Pacific island countries en route to Australia and New Zealand, and other destinations,” said ODC analyst Inshik Sim. “There is also evidence of ‘spillover’ of illicit drugs into Pacific island countries. They do not have the infrastructure or programs to deal with illicit drug use.”

Guam Public Defender Service Corporation

While private criminal attorneys are cautious not to release information pertaining to their caseloads involving clients charged with meth-related crimes, Public Defender Service Corporation Deputy Director Richard Dirkx wrote in an email interview: “Nearly all the cases in our Drug Court arise from situations in which a person was caught in possession of methamphetamine. [Possession] is actually only a small percentage of the cases that involve meth.”

In other words, additional crimes are often committed after an individual has used the drug.

“For example, a man driving while ‘high’ will be processed as a driving under the influence case unless he actually has some of the drug, or a dirty pipe, in his possession,” Dirkx wrote. “As you might imagine, a significant number of theft, robbery, and family violence cases, as well as other types of assaultive crime, have an addiction problem as the primary causative factor, but are not considered as drug cases.”

Dirkx continued: “The drug tie-in may be obvious to those who read the police report or who speak with the witnesses, but the case itself will not be labeled a drug case, and will not become part of the statistics. This also means that the sentence is likely to concentrate on the crime that has been charged, rather than on the actual cause of the criminal behavior. My understanding is that the federal funding we receive prohibits services to certain types of violent offenders: a bitter irony when we know that irrational acts of violence are a common feature of methamphetamine use.”

Drug Courts

According to the Unified Courts of Guam website, “in December 2005, the Adult and Juvenile Drug Courts were recognized as courts of record of the Judiciary of Guam. These programs are examples of ‘therapeutic justice,’ which focuses on rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into society.”

In a 2010 white paper, then National Association of Drug Court Professionals Chief of Science, Law, and Policy Dr. Douglas B. Marlowe, J.D., stated, “We know beyond a reasonable doubt that drug courts significantly reduce drug use and crime and do so with substantial cost savings.”

“The scientific evidence is overwhelming that adult Drug Courts reduce crime, reduce substance abuse, improve family relationships, and increase earning potential. In the process, they return net dollar savings back to their communities that are at least two to three times the initial investments,” according to Marlowe.

Although Chief Cruz stated in his recent press conference that “the number of arrests has gone up” for meth-related crimes on Guam some legal and probation experts on island don’t feel those cases warrant a special division within the island’s Adult and Juvenile Drug Courts to address them.

“Whether or not we establish another, or a different, ‘methamphetamine court’ isn’t as important as the fact that we do not have adequate counseling or treatment programs for people who are addicted,” stated Deputy Director Dirkx. “We need better programs both for those who are serving time, and for those who are released on probation. In the absence of adequate treatment options, there isn’t much a court can accomplish, but had we those programs, any judge could sentence any candidate to complete such a program, regardless of the underlying offense. An investment in probation officers and treatment providers will accomplish far more than opening another court.”

Assistant Public Defender Ali N. Nusbaum also doesn’t believe a special “meth court” is necessary on Guam, as there is already a drug treatment court.

“That court does not have the amount of resources to accommodate the need,” she said. “That’s an issue with grants. We need a lot more drug treatment counselors. Some of the people that get in there don’t actually get their treatment until months after their initial arrest…There’s no immediate treatment provider available. But it’s not the fault of the court. It’s not a fault of the providers. It’s just that there’s so many of these cases coming through.”

Nusbaum believes that one of the biggest factors the justice system has a difficulty addressing adequately is treatment for individuals who are arrested.

“Right now, the way it works is someone could be arrested for possession, and then they just go through the court process. And so they’re arrested, they get out, they have a court hearing and then another court hearing. Again, this is not the fault of the courts. This is just how the system is. What they really need is treatment available to them immediately. A judge cannot order treatment until a defendant has been proven guilty.”

Lani Brennan, Deputy Chief Probation Officer, stated in an email to the Sunday Post: “The Adult Drug Court Program is essentially our methamphetamine court. [It] is intended for amphetamine/methamphetamine users. All 129 drug offenders referred to the Adult Drug Court Program are methamphetamine users. The Judiciary of Guam will continue to strive to improve and expand services through specialty courts like the Adult Drug Court Program and build capacity to address these issues.”

She echoed Nusbaum’s and Dirkx’s contention that “the court system can’t solve the entire problem on its own. The community of Guam needs to build capacity for certified drug counselors. It needs to continue to recruit more counselors and therapists and train existing practitioners in evidence-based programs, strategies, and interventions that have proven to be effective in assisting addicts with early recovery skills and relapse prevention.”

Brennan’s data also buttresses Marlowe’s argument.

“The Adult Drug Court Program has a recidivism rate of 6 percent, while the traditional court has a recidivism rate of 73 percent. The data shows that the Adult Drug Court Program is successful in reducing rates of recidivism. Currently, the Adult Drug Court Program provides intensive supervision and substance abuse treatment to 129 drug offenders who were screened to be legally and clinically eligible to participate in the ADC Program. The contracted therapists that are part of the ADC Team utilize the Matrix Model as a treatment modality which is evidence-based and proven to reduce re-offense,” Brennan wrote.

Court cases and Probation

Brennan confirmed that currently the Division of Probation Services supervises a total of 664 adult drug offenders whose drug offenses are methamphetamine related.

“535 of them are supervised by the Adult Drug Unit which is a traditional program and 129 of them are supervised by the Adult Drug Court Program which is a specialty court program that focuses on treatment,” stated Brennan. “Out of the 535 who are supervised by the Adult Drug Unit, 235 are on probation while 300 are on pretrial supervision awaiting adjudication.”

Brennan stated that out of the 1,317 criminal cases were filed this year (as of December 1), 169, or 12.8 percent, were methamphetamine related.

Compared with numbers over the last three years, meth cases are increasing – which reflects GPD Chief Cruz’s statement about the increase in arrests.

According to Brennan, there were 84 methamphetamine-related cases filed in the Superior Court of Guam in 2014, 161 filed in 2015, and 169 as of November 30, 2016.

“The number of methamphetamine-related cases for 2016 has already surpassed the number of methamphetamine-related cases for 2015 and there is still one month left before the year is complete,” he wrote.

Federal Penalties

Possession of methamphetamines is generally charged as a felony, but laws regarding penalties for meth possession can vary widely amongst states. Some states offer sentence-alternatives to prison like Guam does, such as drug courts and drug-treatment centers, while others do not. Penalties will also depend on how many prior drug-related offenses the individual has, as well as the individual’s overall criminal record. However, methamphetamine possession is generally always treated as a felony, which can amount to prison time, hefty fines, and/or felony probation.

Federal law requires a minimum prison sentence of five years for possession of any amount over five grams, and a maximum sentence of 40 years. If convicted of possession of 50 grams or over, the mandatory minimum sentence is 10 years, and the maximum is life. Fines can range anywhere from tens of thousands to millions of dollars. Because meth is believed to be an extremely dangerous drug, there will generally always be a jail sentence as a result of a federal possession conviction, no matter how small the amount of the drug is actually possessed.

Empathy

Clearly, the criminal justice system on Guam can offer an empathetic approach for the average user arrested on methamphetamine-related charges and processed through the Juvenile or Adult Drug Courts.

Unfortunately, a lack of financial resources means some offenders most in need of treatment may slip through the cracks.

What’s yet to be seen is whether the next Guam Legislature will focus more attention on these funding gaps and work together to find federal and local funds to combat the uptick in meth-related arrests before the problem reaches the epidemic proportions already experienced in the 1990s on island.

 

 

 

 

http://www.postguam.com/sunday_post/methamphetamine-are-we-entering-another-ice-age/article_b371c87c-b87c-11e6-8026-4f09f1ba34aa.html