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The first time Anthony Michael Pranzetti, 30, injected methamphetamine into the veins of his 17-year-old girlfriend, he drove her to an empty parking lot in North Portland.

The girl, who had just finished her junior year of high school, didn’t recognize the area, but she noticed the bars on the windows of a 7-Eleven, the trash in the street and a few disheveled stragglers wandering through the parking lot toward a nearby MAX station.

Night fell on the early July evening in 2009 as Pranzetti pricked the girl’s skin with a needle, searching for a vein.

When Pranzetti said, “We’re going to get high,” and she discovered he was talking about meth, she says she “freaked out,” exclaiming, “I would never do meth.”

He slapped her in the face and said, “You’ve been doing it for a week.”

The girl asked if she had to, and he replied she could get high or walk home, she said. He assured her it’s impossible to overdose on meth. Then he held her arm down and shot her up.

Sitting in a new red Dodge Nitro with tinted windows, the girl could feel the drug surging through her veins. She felt like she was melting, she said, and “that’s when I knew, I’m never leaving Anthony.” It was the best feeling, she said, and she wondered why the drug wasn’t legal, why everybody didn’t do meth.

It was unlike anything she’d ever felt and plummeted her into an addiction that obscured verbal abuse, physical violence and a dangerous relationship. In a matter of weeks, the good student and responsible teen who wanted to go to med school developed a meth habit she hid from her parents, and an intense relationship with a man whose criminal record he hid from her.

She had no idea that Pranzetti was a convicted sex offender with a record of drugging minors and promoting prostitution. And if authorities hadn’t found her and sent Pranzetti to prison this month, the girl believes her relationship would have eventually led to prostitution and human trafficking.

“He ruined my life for a really long time,” said the young woman, whom The Oregonian is not identifying because she is a sexual abuse victim. “If we stayed together, it could have only gotten worse.”

Dating website

Before she met Pranzetti, the girl was a promising student and attended conferences for high school students interested in medicine, the girl’s mother said in a recent court appearance.

The boyfriend she met on a dating website claimed he was 23, and the girl waited a month to tell him she was 17, not 18 like her profile said.

The first month of the budding relationship was dinner and movie dates, “normal dating,” said the young woman.

The girl said when Pranzetti began drugging her, he told her he was giving her something to help her stay more alert while she studied. The pills he put in her drink turned her beverage bitter and made her wide awake for hours. She thought they were caffeine pills, but later he told her they were meth.

Once Pranzetti injected her with the drug, her life changed, she said. Suddenly, being with her boyfriend and making money to buy meth for the two of them mattered above all else, she said.

“I was so intensely brainwashed,” she said in a statement read in court. “Anthony was cutting every aspect of reality out of my life.”

Days after she began using meth, Pranzetti became violent, she said. This was her first real romantic relationship; she knew physical abuse wasn’t OK, she said, but she didn’t know what to do about it.

Pranzetti frequently encouraged her to have sex with other people, she said. She didn’t want to, but they did make porn together. She didn’t know at the time that Pranzetti was posting the videos they made online.

Soon, she realized she was losing control. Pranzetti was isolating her from family and friends, she said. She was spending nearly every night with him, but her parents didn’t worry too much. It was summer, she was working two jobs, and they figured she was hanging out with friends after work.

“For 17 years (she) was exactly where she said she was going to be,” her stepfather said in an interview. “At some point, you stop asking.”

Pranzetti sent text messages to her parents from her phone, the girl said, telling them she was spending the night at a friend’s house when she was really with him.

In the moments when she wanted to go home or see her friends or just have some space, she said, Pranzetti called the shots.

“The rule with Anthony is you do exactly what you’re told or you’re in trouble,” she said.

She learned he was monitoring her online activity when she returned from hanging out with a longtime male friend, and suddenly, “I was choked up against a wall,” she said. “His finger was pointed at me.”

“‘You ever hang out with another guy again, we’re going to have problems,'” he told her.

At first, she didn’t understand how he knew she’d even seen her friend. That’s when she found out he had installed a key logger on her computer, gaining access to her communication with friends and effectively cutting off her access to help.

“I’m in this horrible situation and I can’t get out of it because I can’t talk to anybody about it,” she said.

Discovering the truth

The relationship took a fateful turn in mid-October 2009, when sheriff’s deputies found Pranzetti slumped over in an improperly parked car. A search of the car, which belonged to 42-year-old Lisa May, the woman Pranzetti dated and lived with, revealed evidence of identity theft.

May, who was also prosecuted on identity theft charges, admitted to investigators she had seen a video of Pranzetti having sex with an underage girl. That discovery led them to Pranzetti’s teenage victim.

On Oct. 27, authorities knocked on the door of the home where she lived with her mother and stepfather. When investigators arrived, “I was floored,” said her stepfather, a former law enforcement officer. That night, they learned Pranzetti’s last name. To their shock, they uncovered the man’s history as a sex offender in the online archives of local newspapers.

In a 2001 Multnomah County case, Pranzetti pleaded guilty to promoting prostitution, delivering drugs to a minor and two counts of third-degree sodomy. He was also charged with first-degree kidnapping and first-degree sodomy in that case, but the charges were dismissed in a plea agreement.

When Washington County investigators first approached the teen, she was addicted to meth and infatuated with Pranzetti, denying any wrongdoing by her boyfriend, said Deputy District Attorney Paul Maloney.

The next day, investigators went to the house again. The girl pulled into her driveway to find a cop car parked outside her house, she said. She was talking on her cell phone to Pranzetti, who was in jail. When she told him the cops were there, she said, he launched into a list of instructions on the lies she should tell them.

Investigators asked for any items she had of Pranzetti’s and she handed over meth, identity theft evidence and computer storage devices that held child porn, but she still wasn’t ready to tell authorities about their relationship.

“I’m completely wired, my parents are talking to these police officers, I just left the room,” she said. “I’m thinking, we’re going to have to kill ourselves.”

This thought wasn’t new to the girl. Pranzetti had suggested it, she said, telling her from jail that if they couldn’t be together in this life, they’d have to die and be together in another.

She went to her room and stabbed herself in the leg. Her parents rushed her to the hospital, where she stayed for seven days. Then, she spent the next 38 days in an in-patient drug treatment center.

Authorities cut off phone contact between Pranzetti and his victim the day they went to her house, she said, but she continued receiving letters from him while he was in jail. As the meth left her body over the next month, Pranzetti’s words struck her as manipulative, dishonest and cruel.

After intensive drug treatment, she volunteered to testify against Pranzetti and described a “horrible situation,” Maloney said.

On July 20, Pranzetti pleaded guilty in Washington County Circuit Court to one count of second-degree sex abuse, two counts of delivering drugs to a minor, two counts of intentional application of drugs into another person and two counts of identity theft. He was sentenced Sept. 8 to 10 years in prison.

U.S. Attorney Gary Sussman said Pranzetti now faces possession of child pornography charges in federal court. The charges carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, Sussman said. Pranzetti’s trial is set for Nov. 2.

When the victim’s mother testified in Circuit Court at Pranzetti’s sentencing, she described how he had scarred her daughter with addiction, abuse and a fear of romantic relationships, and derailed her academic and career plans. In addition, she said, he changed their family forever, altering once close-knit relationships and leaving bruised hearts to mend in their place.

“His life on this earth,” she said, “has no consequence to us.”

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