Meth in the News

April 18, 2014

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

 

Our first report in this week’s Meth in the News came about after Muncie police officers made a routine traffic stop at Yale and Bellaire Avenue on the city’s northeast side at about 10:45 p.m. last Wednesday.  While in the area, an officer reported smelling “a very strong chemical odor … associated with the manufacturing of methamphetamine.” As he and other officers got closer to the house at 1901 E. Yale, the officer noted, “the chemical odor became unbearable and breathtaking.” Another officer who entered the house reported that the fumes “caused my eyes to water” before he “began coughing and felt like I was unable to breathe.” An Indiana State Police meth collection team was therefore dispatched to the scene due to the potential hazardous nature of the chemicals producing the “breathtaking” fumes.  Inside the home, authorities reported finding methamphetamine and materials commonly used in the production and consumption of meth including, silver spoons with burn marks, camper fuel, coffee filters, a pill grinder, gas generator, plastic tubing and drain cleaner. Also recovered from the house was a gas mask.  I wonder why that was there!

The two occupants of this Yale Ave meth house were James Harold Hannis III, 48, and Jennifer Lynn Smith, 36.  James Hannis — who police claimed was “speaking in broken sentences and did not make any sense” — was arrested at the home, as was Jennifer Smith when she finally emerged from the house a short time later.  They were each arrested on five preliminary charges: dealing in meth, possession of meth, possession of precursors, maintaining a common nuisance and reckless possession of paraphernalia.

Hannis was already set to stand trial June 6, in Delaware Circuit Court 4, on two prior possession-of-meth charges filed in November 2012 and May 2013, respectively. His long criminal record also includes convictions for battery resulting in serious bodily injury, dealing in marijuana, possession of cocaine, possession of a controlled substance and resisting law enforcement.  I wonder how many times Hannis must be arrested for meth before he is sent away! Three meth-related arrests in less than two years should be a clue that he is up to no good.  Look at his arrest record — he has already caused bodily injury and resisted arrest in the past, indicating a tendency for violence.  And consider this current arrest — the fumes inside the home were described as “unbearable and breathtaking.” These fumes could threaten the health and well being of any innocent neighbor with enhanced medical sensitivities to such chemicals.  Or what if a spark resulted in an explosion?  I can envision something like a small-scale dirty bomb that would have been disastrous to the neighborhood!

Smith and Hannis were being held without bond in the Delaware County jail.  But I wonder how quickly they will be back on the street again, cooking meth!

A somewhat similar case was reported last Monday in Minneapolis. Members of the North Star Fugitive Task Force were serving a search warrant on a man wanted for possession of drugs and theft when they discovered several ingredients used for the production of methamphetamine in the home where he was living in Southwest Minneapolis.  Todd Loining, a commander with the Minneapolis Police Department, told reporters that officers “found what appeared to be a meth lab and there was also a distinct odor of strong irritants in the air that irritated the officers eyes.” Tuesday afternoon, police returned to the home to make sure that it was secure. A sign warning people about potentially hazardous substances on the property greeted people as they drove by.

Neighbors say that they suspected that illegal activity was going on at the home based on the high volume of traffic during the past year. “At night, we just knew that something was not right with all the activity going on in the alley with all of the trucks coming and going,” said one neighbor who did not want to reveal her name. “I am very happy that it is finally all over with.”

Larry Rieger, who lives in the neighboring community of Edina, was among the group of people examining the home. Nestled in between the other “junk” in the yard were old plastic soda bottles, cleaning supplies and a plastic tube. As reported in this column several times, these are some items used in the production of meth. “It was unbelievable! This is southwest Minneapolis, Edina border town,” Rieger said. “Crime doesn’t come here. I don’t even lock my doors. When I go to bed the doors are locked but in the day they are open. They’ve been that way for 22 years.”

Perhaps it might be time to keep your door locked during the day as well!

Finally, as the readers are well aware, new laws limiting the amount of medications containing pseudoephedrine that an individual can purchase each year have decreased the number of homegrown meth “cooks”. And while I have seen this reported for other states, new data now show that Mexican Meth is a also a growing threat for our closest neighbor, Texas.  In fact, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) estimates that 90 percent of the meth sold in Texas is now made in Mexico. The reasons for this proliferation are simple. The Mexican drug cartels can manufacture and sell meth without bringing in Central and South American partners to supply the coca paste or the finished powder cocaine. And unlike coca and marijuana crops, which are subject to plant diseases and bad weather conditions, meth is purely a chemical mix.

National statistics compiled by the DEA suggest that the meth problem is trending up throughout the United States. In calendar-year 2010, the DEA seized 2,187 kilograms of meth; 2,481 kilos in 2011 and 3,898 in 2012. This represents a 78 percent increase during that three-year period alone. Unfortunately, these DEA numbers represent only a fraction of the meth confiscated by other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies with drug enforcement responsibility since each agency keeps its own numbers separately. So, the total amount of meth confiscated during those years is much larger than the DEA numbers indicate.

The Mexican meth epidemic is scary in many ways. The drug cartels, often based in the Mexican states of Guerrero and Michoacán, send their dealers into Texas disguised as typical families: husband, wife, and a couple of kids. They embed themselves in Spanish-speaking enclaves such as the neighborhoods west of Love Field in Dallas. The gang’s smugglers bring the meth across the border in liquid form, hidden in gas tanks and other containers. When it arrives in Texas, they deliver it to the “typical” family, which uses its home as a makeshift laboratory to convert the liquid into solid “shards,” which look like yellowish ice. These families are now popping up throughout rural Texas, but no one knows the exact numbers.

Admittedly, not too many people care whether a meth head’s teeth fall out or her liver and kidneys get damaged. It’s her own fault. But people do care when the addict breaks into their home to steal their property or sticks a gun in their face to rob them of a few dollars. Law enforcement agencies identify meth as the drug most likely to lead abusers to commit both property crimes and violent crimes.  Remember that!

Please be careful out there, and by all means keep your eyes open!

I continue to welcome the readers to tell me about your own personal experiences with meth as well as your success stories.  I have learned more from people who use or have used meth than I have from all the medical books and papers on the subject that I have read over the years.  Please share your stories with me!  You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com.  I will never betray your confidence.

For more examples of Meth in the News, go to Fav Meth Heads of the Day: http://fav-meth-head-of-the-day.com/

April 11, 2014

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

 

The first report in Meth in the News this week is truly frightening. In Williamsburg, Va., Virginia State Police troopers noticed a 2005 Chrysler hatchback that was being driven erratically on I-64 near Lightfoot. Troopers therefore pulled the woman driving the car over on suspicion of driving under the influence. They claimed that the woman, identified as Christie Ann Smith, 39, was speeding up, slowing down and weaving, thereby putting her and others at significant risk. Imagine the officer’s surprise when it was discovered that the vehicle was actually a mobile meth lab and that Ms. Smith was actually cooking the meth in her car as she was driving down the highway. This highly dangerous situation prompted a HazMat investigation by York County Fire and Rescue, which shut down the interstate for several hours that continued into early Tuesday morning. “The biggest concern when we’re talking about mobile meth labs is a flammable or explosive situation because of the nature of the chemicals that are being used,” said Lt. Rich Burgess of York County Fire Rescue and Safety. Definitely! I have been told by former meth cooks that, although not unheard of, even they consider this to be an unreasonable, unsafe, and stupid practice. Luckily, the Virginia State Police pulled her over before she could harm herself or other innocent, unsuspecting drivers on I-64. Christie Smith was charged with driving under the influence of drugs, two counts of possession of a controlled substance, false identity, no valid operator’s license, driving while suspended, and manufacturing methamphetamine. She was taken to the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail where she received no bond. Unbelievable!

There were also several new reports of people cooking meth in hotel and motel rooms this week. Over in Kentucky, the Richmond Bel Air motel in Madison County was evacuated Wednesday morning after a meth lab was discovered in one of the rooms. Officers told reporters that it appears that a group of people rented out one motel room at the motel on Lexington Road to house their meth-making operation. The group also rented out both neighboring rooms in what detectives suspect was an attempt to create a buffer between their operation and any other guests. They were really smart, weren’t they? Not really. Firefighters were still called out to the motel around 1:00 a.m. Wednesday morning on reports of a chemical smell. It’s really difficult to cover up the smells associated with cooking meth. Once they arrived, they found seven people across three motel rooms contaminated by “hazardous materials,” according to the responding firefighters. Officials said there were several “one-step” (one-pot) meth labs in plain view inside one of the rooms. Those people were taken to the hospital to be decontaminated, and then taken to be questioned by authorities. Meanwhile, others in the motel also had to be removed as firefighters began cleaning up the room where the meth lab had been set up. “I don’t think they were actively cooking,” said Richmond Police Assistant Chief Bob Mott. “There were several reaction vessels that had been in there. Looks they had been cooking over a period of days at least, maybe even longer than that.” Five suspects were decontaminated and examined at Baptist Health Richmond prior to being taken to the Madison County Detention Center. Anthony Debord, 44; Carolyn Eckler, 33 and Bobbi L. Evans, 30, were charged with manufacturing meth, while Douglas Pearson, 24, and Amber Dean, 21, were charged with complicity to manufacture meth.

Also on Wednesday in Florida, Escambia County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the American Best Motel at 7200 Plantation Road around 10:30 a.m. in response to an anonymous tip about possible narcotics activities. Once inside the motel room, deputies noticed material used in the manufacture of meth and called for the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Unit to take over the investigation. The lone occupant of the room, Brett Randall Wilt, 38, was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of methamphetamine, possession of a listed chemical and production of methamphetamine. He remained in the Escambia County Jail Thursday morning with bond set at $46,000.

Also in Florida, Lee County Sheriff’s deputies caught three people manufacturing meth in a Howard Johnson motel in Fort Myers on Tuesday. A patrol deputy was tipped off about what was going on in Room 270 of the motel and headed to the room to talk to the occupants. Along the way, the deputy encountered three men in Room 268, who spoke to the deputy with their door wide open with smoke, which had a cleaning chemical-type odor to it, rolling out the door. The deputy could see a syringe sitting on a refrigerator and a bottle of liquid drain opener. He could also see a clear soda bottle with what appeared to be residue left behind after making meth using the “shake and bake” production method. The deputy asked about the bottle, and the men, two of whom were later identified as 43-year-old Denny Newman and 42-year-old Gordon Newman, who are brothers, said it belonged to the woman staying in Room 270. So the deputy went over to Room 270, knocked on that door, and a man opened it. That room also had a strong chemical smell coming from it. Inside, the deputy spotted a plastic bottle that had been cut in half, the inside of which had a white, chalky residue on it consistent with meth. The deputy asked the man who opened the door, later identified as 31-year-old Jeremy Mayne, and a woman inside the room about the bottle. Both said they knew nothing about it, but it might belong to a woman staying in Room 272. So the deputy went to Room 272 and talked to the two women inside, both of whom said they had no items in Room 270 except for bags of clothing. Confused yet? Narcotics detectives took over the investigation, and the items found in rooms 268 and 270 tested positive for meth. The brothers from Room 268 told the deputies that they had let Mayne use their room while they left to go to a shop down the street and that their mother had rented the room for them. But they subsequently changed their story several times. The sheriff’s office seized 1,473 grams of liquid meth from Room 268, where the brothers were staying, and another 617 grams of liquid meth from Room 270, where they found Mayne. The Newman brothers and Mayne were therefore arrested on charges of production and trafficking of meth. Deputies determined that the women were prostitutes and released them.

The final story this week is as frightening as it is bizarre. At about 6:30 a.m. last Wednesday, officers from the California Multijurisdictional Methamphetamine Enforcement Team, with assistance from the Southern Tri County HIDTA Task Force and the Kern Narcotics Enforcement Team executed a search warrant at a home in Wasco that was also being used as a daycare facility. The search warrant was based on public complaints regarding the sales of narcotics coming from the home. Since the narcotics officers had determined that there was a daycare in the home, they served their warrant prior to any children arriving at the daycare. During the search, officers said they found just under a half of a pound of methamphetamine with an estimated street value of just over $20,000. 24-year-old Wasco resident Angel Soto was arrested at the scene and subsequently was booked into the Kern County Sheriff’s Office Jail on various narcotics related charges, destruction of evidence and participation in a criminal street gang charges. This just frightens me to no end. Not only could the children in the daycare have been hurt if meth was being produced in the home and a fire or explosion ensued, but what if a tweaking meth head came by in an irate, violent mind set determined to get her hands on some meth no matter what the consequences. One can only imagine!

Remember, be careful out there, and keep your eyes open!

I continue to welcome the readers to tell me about your own personal experiences with meth as well as your success stories. I have learned more from people who use or have used meth than I have from all the medical books and papers on the subject that I have read over the years. Please share your stories with me! You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com. I will never betray your confidence.

For more examples of Meth in the News, go to Fav Meth Heads of the Day: http://fav-meth-head-of-the-day.com/

April 4, 2014

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

 

It’s springtime in the Ark-La-Tex and the weather is getting warmer. That means that it is time to spend more time outside, camping and hiking, fishing and hunting, and just enjoying the outdoors in the Sportsman’s Paradise. This provides me the opportunity to once again warn the readers of Meth in the News about the dangers associated with the “one-pot” or “shake & bake” procedure that has been spreading across the country. Law enforcement officials claim that this method is even more dangerous than the “old” makeshift meth labs that require hundreds of pseudoephedrine pills, containers heated over open flames and cans of flammable liquids. The “old” cooking process itself creates foul odors, making the labs difficult to conceal. And of course, these makeshift labs can also spark explosions. Generally, the one-pot process uses a two-liter soda bottle. Only a few cold pills are mixed with common, but noxious, household chemicals to produce enough meth for the user to get a few hits. Since only a few pseudoephedrine pills are required, the one-pot method circumvents laws passed restricting the sale of large quantities of over-the-counter decongestants, cold and allergy remedies. In addition, the new method requires little room. All of the necessary items can be carried in a backpack, making the process mobile. This has simplified the process so that it seems like everybody is making their own meth. It can be your next-door neighbor or even one of your family members.

The one-pot method combines the first three steps of a conventional meth lab, so that the “cook” is making anhydrous ammonia at the same time that pseudoephedrine (from cold tablets) is converted to methamphetamine base in the bottle. The bottle is shaken, which creates a chemical reaction through the production of gasses and pressure inside the bottle. The bottle must be “burped” from time to time to release the pressure or it will explode, spewing caustic chemicals in all directions, which can cause serious chemical burns. At the same time, the “cook” is producing a chemical ignition, also called fire in the bottle, every time that the one-pot method is used. If the bottle bursts or is opened at the wrong time, it essentially becomes a flamethrower. Remember that these labs are portable, putting the public at great risk. The bottle can explode while the “cook” is driving around, putting other drivers in danger. Such an incident occurred in Bossier City a couple of years ago, but luckily no one was harmed. Meth “cooks” often throw the used plastic bottles, containing a poisonous brown and white sludge, along the highway. Law enforcement is finding discarded one-pot bottles in ditches, in people’s yards and in dumpsters. The mixture inside the bottle can burst into flames when exposed to oxygen, making it extremely dangerous for anyone who unscrews the lid of what may look like an ordinary soda bottle. Therefore, with more people spending times outdoors, if you find discarded bottles containing an unknown mixture, especially with a “chemical” odor, do not open them or pick them up. Call the Sherriff’s office and let them investigate to see if there is any danger.

Remember, be careful out there, and keep your eyes open!

I continue to welcome the readers to tell me about your own personal experiences with meth as well as your success stories. I have learned more from people who use or have used meth than I have from all the medical books and papers on the subject that I have read over the years. Please share your stories with me! You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com. I will never betray your confidence.

For more examples of Meth in the News, go to Fav Meth Heads of the Day: http://fav-meth-head-of-the-day.com/

March 28, 2014

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

 

There were several reports that I thought would be interesting to the readers of Meth in the News this week.

In Oshtemo Township, Mich., the Oshtemo Fire Department responded to a fire in a mobile home in the 5500 block of Patriots Lane at the Colonial Estates mobile home park at 7:30 a.m. last Wednesday and discovered a one-pot methamphetamine lab. Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Deputies were dispatched to the site to clean up the lab, according to a news release from the Sheriff’s Office. Unfortunately, two adults and three children were living in the mobile home. Although the home sustained heavy damage, it wasn’t a total loss, according to Oshtemo Township Fire Chief Mark Barnes. Luckily, no one was injured in the fire, but how many times have I warned the readers about the dangers of cooking meth? The Sheriff’s Office is investigating the meth-related evidence, and charges are pending for operating a methamphetamine lab, according to the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office.

Speaking of dangers associated with cooking meth! Last Thursday in Jamestown, Ohio, several homes had to be evacuated and multiple streets were shut down as Jamestown police investigated a possible meth lab explosion. Hazmat crews were called to secure the site. Police initially became aware of the explosion after Shaun Minney, who lives at the residence in question, was taken to a local hospital. However, the burns to his torso and face were so severe that he had to be airlifted onboard the Careflight helicopter to the Miami Valley Hospital. Police became suspicious due to the nature of his burns and sent crews to his home where they found the aftermath of a possible meth lab explosion. The explosion was so powerful it nearly knocked the windows off the hinges and detached the wall from the roof. When firefighters went inside, they found items typically used to make meth. Jamestown Police Chief Rodger Tyree told reporters, “They discovered there were multiple propane tanks inside the residence, which we want to err on the side of caution. It’s not a normal situation to find 4-5 propane tanks inside someone’s residence.” Definitely not! “This is one of those little towns that you never believe stuff like this goes on but apparently it does,” said a neighbor, Kelly Houser. Police are still investigating but say Minney could face charges if they discover he was making meth. I do believe that they will!

Last Saturday night, DeKalb County Sheriff’s Officers were called to the Twilight Inn in Corunna, Indiana on an anonymous tip about possible drug activity in one of the rooms in the motel. There they made contact with Michael D. Hughes and Sara K. Smith, who are actually both from Corunna, at the inn. There officers discovered two active methamphetamine labs, finished meth product and items used in the manufacture of meth. Hughes and Smith were both arrested and charged with manufacturing meth, possession of meth, possession of precursors, possession of a controlled substance, and maintaining a common nuisance. Hughes was also charged with possession of a synthetic drug and invasion of privacy. Maybe not surprisingly, Hughes was also found in violation of a protective order with Smith as the petitioner, according to the statement. Meth does do strange things to people! The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department was assisted by the Waterloo Marshal’s Office and the Indiana State Police Meth Suppression Team.

Police were called to the Palms Motel in Leesburg, Fla., on Monday after they “gathered intelligence that (people) were either cooking and/or selling methamphetamines,” police Capt. Rob Hicks told reporters. Police observed suspicious activity across the street from the motel in front of the Dollar General store, and a subsequent search of two rooms in the motel turned up the suspected meth. Thomas P. Rutig, 48, was charged with possession of meth with intent to sell within 1,000 feet of a church, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of oxycodone, and possession of ammunition by a convicted felon, with no firearm. Dylan East Tolin, 23, was arrested for burglary and grand theft warrants, and was issued a misdemeanor citation for resisting without violence after reportedly running from police officers.

Last Sunday, police were called to the Red Roof Inn on Lafayette Parkway in LaGrange, GA, after receiving an anonymous tip that a male and female were seen through an open window smoking an illegal substance. Police approached the room in question and were let into the room by Timothy Barnes, 33. While inside the room, police found several butane torches with additional butane filler tanks in plain sight. They also found several small bags containing a substantial amount of meth and a set of digital scales. Police searched the other occupant of the room, Kayla Miller, 19, and found more containers of meth on her. Miller and Barnes, both of LaGrange, were arrested and booked into the Troup County Jail on charges of possession of meth with intent to distribute. Barnes also had an active parole violation from an original charge of Methamphetamine possession and burglary. Once again, meth cooks rented a motel room to cook the meth even though they lived in LaGrange, thereby putting unsuspecting travelers at great risk to keep from contaminating their own homes. And there’s more.

On Wednesday, the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office told reporters that they were initially searching for Justin Boles, who had escaped custody during a previous meth bust. Deputies learned through tips from concerned citizens that Boles was staying at the Motel 6 on the beltline in Mobile, Alabama. When officials entered a room, they say they found Terrie Ayala, two meth labs, and finished product. Deputies were then led to Boles who was caught at a west Mobile home with Diana White. Ayala, White, and Boles were subsequently arrested for trafficking meth and possession, among other charges. Deputies told reporters that these arrests “took a high-volume meth cook off the streets.” Boles alone is also facing more than a dozen drug, traffic, and domestic violence charges.

So this week we have several cases of meth lab-related fires and explosions. These go hand-in-hand with cooking meth. In addition, these cases also highlight the practice whereby meth cooks leave their own homes and rent rooms in local motels to cook meth. Please be aware of your surroundings when you travel, and report any suspicious smells to motel management. Demand a different room or move to another motel for your own safety!

I continue to welcome the readers to tell me about your own personal experiences with meth as well as your success stories. I have learned more from people who use or have used meth than I have from all the medical books and papers on the subject that I have read over the years. Please share your stories with me! You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com. I will never betray your confidence.

For more examples of Meth in the News, go to Fav Meth Heads of the Day: http://fav-meth-head-of-the-day.com/

March 21, 2014

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

 

In this Meth in the News column, I tell the readers about the dangers associated with the manufacture and use of methamphetamine. And as I have also related, the national limits on the purchase of medications containing pseudoephedrine, a key component in methamphetamine production, have started to reduce the number of “one-pot” or “shake-n-bake” labs discovered by law enforcement. These labs are still around, but the Mexican Drug Cartels have also stepped in to meet the demand for the drug. A recent report from Kamala D. Harris, the California Attorney General, suggests that a significant amount of the meth coming into the United States enters through California.

Arizona is also known for its share of “meth heads” according to a recent review in the Phoenix New Times. This report highlights what they termed “the absolute meth-iest crimes allegedly committed by Arizona meth-heads.” Here are the top 10:

Coming in at number 10 is Juan Jose Peralta. He feels like he gets closer to God whenever he smokes meth. In May 2011, Peralta stripped down to his birthday suit in a field in a Mesa, thereby exposing himself to any children in the area. When police responded to the report of a naked guy “waving his arms wildly in the air,” they found Peralta with his genitals in full view of a man and his 13-year-old son. When police caught up with him and asked him what he was doing, he told them that he just “wanted to feel closer to God and the Earth.” There must be a better way!

Number 9 is a tragic case involving Veronica Marie Linares of Glendale. This “mother-of-the-year” candidate let her 9-month-old child die from a meth overdose, apparently after finding and ingesting meth in her apartment. Police had been looking for Linares ever since she gave birth to the baby in January 2011, when she was born with a high concentration of meth in her system. She was turned over to a foster family until Linares took the child back a week before her death. Linares subsequently gave birth to another baby who also tested positive for meth.

Jacqueline Trousdale is a 30-year-old Phoenix resident and Number 8 on the Phoenix New Times list. Trousdale’s 5-year-old daughter tested positive for meth after she complained about her mother sticking her with needles. There were also allegations of molestation involving the 5-year-old and her 6-year-old sibling, but these were not substantiated. However, the meth injections were real. How cruel!

Number 7 involves 30-year-old Victoria Soliz, from Mesa. She was spotted holding her 3-year-old son facedown in mud puddles back in March 2013. When police arrived, she told them that Jesus told her to drown her own son. Soliz eventually told her doctor that she was taking her schizophrenia medication regularly, which is a problem because she told the doctor that crystal meth was her medication. Luckily the little boy survived the drowning attempt.

Robert Troutt became enraged in January 2010 when he thought that he was watching someone impersonating his own mother. Then the imposter began attacking his mother, which enraged Troutt even further. But Troutt was delusional and hallucinating – he was high on meth at the time. The person that he thought was impersonating his mother was in fact actually his mother. She suffered a savage beating at the hands of her son and died shortly after the beating, which caused bleeding on her brain. Troutt almost tore off one of her ears in the attack.

Number 5 involves Scottsdale resident Shane Christian Chavis. After getting high on meth for four days straight in March 2011, Chavis went into a Phoenix Dollar Store and locked himself in the bathroom. An employee of the Dollar Store eventually opened the bathroom door and found Chavis inside naked, munching on on food that he had just stolen in the store. Chavis finally put his clothes on and left the store, but not before spraying at least 10 cans of Silly String “all over” the store, according to Phoenix police.

Number 4 was a rather high-profile case in the Phoenix area. In this case, dump-truck driver Michael Jakscht ran over eight motorcycle riders in March 2010, killing four of them on the Carefree Highway near 27th Avenue. Jakscht, 46, allegedly drove away from his Scottsdale house while high on meth shortly before the accident. Jakscht was sentenced to 26 years in prison late last year on four counts of manslaughter, five counts of aggravated assault, and seven counts of endangerment.

Meth use can lead to bizarre and unusual sexual activities. That is one way to attempt to explain Number 3. In December 2010, Phoenix police were called to the Super 8 Motel around 4:30 a.m. when the night manager reported a naked guy wandering around a fenced in area behind the motel. Police found Theodore Ruiz, 24, masturbating in the field. When the police asked him to come out of the area, Ruiz gave his infamous response: “You come back here and suck it.” Ruiz repeated his response several times in his brief struggle with police — in which he continued masturbating the entire time, even after being pepper-sprayed.

Coming in at Number 2 is Erik Grumpelt. Grumpelt killed his live-in girlfriend in May 2011 by kneeing her in the abdomen several times in a meth-fueled jealous rage, until she was unresponsive. Then on top of that, he continued to live with her decomposing corpse for more than two months. Grumpelt finally confided in his father about the murder, and attempted suicide. Grumpelt was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2013.

Chance Kracke is “the poster-boy for meth-head crime” according to the Phoenix New Times. In 2011, Kracke went into the kitchen to make a snack while high on meth. He told police that he thought that “the floor was too dirty for a kid” so he put his 7-month-old son in the freezer! Luckily the baby survived, and Kracke eventually put the baby on the floor anyway. Police told reporters that this was one of the most disgusting apartments of all time, with “hundreds” of cockroaches, rusty razor blades, feces and urine everywhere, broken glass, chewing tobacco spit, methamphetamine and meth paraphernalia. Police discovered his other son, almost 2, had also swallowed a screw.

Not everyone who uses meth commits crimes like those described above, but they can happen. Family members are often the victims of abuse and neglect, and meth-induced paranoia can put anyone at risk. As I tell the readers each week, there is no positive side to meth – not even once!

I continue to welcome the readers to tell me about your own personal experiences with meth as well as your success stories. I have learned more from people who use or have used meth than I have from all the medical books and papers on the subject that I have read over the years. Please share your stories with me! You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com. I will never betray your confidence.

For more examples of Meth in the News, go to Fav Meth Heads of the Day: http://fav-meth-head-of-the-day.com/

March 14, 2014

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

 

In this Meth in the News column, I often describe various crimes associated with the use of methamphetamine and the dangers that arise from manufacturing and using this highly dangerous drug. In this week’s column, I am going to describe the tragic downward spiral of one man, Peter Atwood, 66, of Port Orange, Florida. In less than 10 years, he went from Citizen of the Year to a motel-dwelling meth head who no longer resembled the man he once was in any way.

People who knew Pete Atwood were confounded when they heard what happened to him. They saw him as an affable and responsible individual who worked tirelessly for his community. And people who have known Atwood for the past 20 years or so described him as a man who cared about his city — Port Orange — and who was involved with almost everything from entertainment to planning and zoning. Those same people are wondering what they could have done, if anything, to help.

“Family Days” is a bi-annual event that has been held in Port Orange for over 15 years that was developed with activities that “strengthen family lives, individual values and potential and community and civic responsibility” to “generate a lasting sense of family for the residents of Port Orange and those who work and visit in the community.”

“Family Days” founder Al Bell told reporters that Atwood was the type of person who would help anyone. Atwood became part of Family Days after he met Bell and he became vice president of the board soon thereafter. In 2007, after being involved with several organizations in Port Orange, Atwood was honored as the Citizen of the Year by the Volusia League of Cities. He was also on the board of the Friends of the Bandshell, and was a planning commissioner for Port Orange in the mid-2000s. Very civic minded!

But then in 2008, Atwood and Bell were investigated by Port Orange police when both were accused of stealing money from Family Days. Bell was never charged, but Port Orange police said Atwood stole $21,395 from Family Days between October 2005 and October 2007. Atwood pleaded no contest to a charge of grand theft in 2009 and he was sentenced to two years probation. Remember, he was just named Citizen of the Year the year before. Atwood repaid more than $8,000 to Family Days.

Some believe that the theft might have been tied to Atwood’s drug addictions. Atwood’s ex-wife Jayne Atwood believes that her former husband’s drug addiction initially developed in 1992 after he was in a car accident. Jayne Atwood said it was then that her husband started taking pain pills. Port Orange Mayor Allen Green, who has known Atwood for about 30 years, said Atwood once told him he had back pain when he worked in food management.

“He said he took pain pills for his back. If that’s what got him in trouble, I don’t know,” Mayor Green said. “His involvement in this community was amazing,” Green said. “I’m saddened by the current results and I don’t know how to help him.”

When she finally filed for divorce in July 2012, Jayne Atwood’s petition for dissolution of their 36-year-long marriage summarized their final days together: “He deserted me with all the overdue bills. He transferred joint funds to an unknown bank account. He left me penniless and failed to pay mortgage, property taxes and income taxes. I have had severe stress and mental abuse.”

She told reporters that Atwood left her penniless to the point that she had to apply for food stamps.

Local arrest records show that in the last five years, Atwood has been arrested six times, half of those for “cooking” meth in roadside motels with people less than half his age.

On Oct. 30, 2012, Atwood told a Daytona Beach Shores law enforcement investigator that he had a “problem with being addicted to methamphetamine,” and that he had “manufactured methamphetamine in the past.” That day, the Daytona Beach Shores Department of Public Safety arrested Atwood and a 32-year-old woman inside Unit 6 at the Famous Shores Motel. Atwood said that he kept the chemicals needed to manufacture meth under the kitchen sink of his motel room. Atwood pleaded no contest to a charge of manufacturing methamphetamine and was given drug offender probation by Circuit Judge Leah Case in May 2013.

He violated his probation in August 2013 when he was caught manufacturing meth again and was re-arrested. His probation was subsequently revoked in October and he served 102 days in the county jail. He was released on February 8th only to be arrested again on February 10 at the Town & Country motel by Port Orange police. Port Orange Police Department Lieutenant John Jakovenko says that they raided Unit #12 at the motel located on South Ridgewood Avenue after receiving a tip that there was narcotic activity taking place. “When officers arrived at the location, they noticed a strong chemical odor associated with a possible meth cook,” Jakovenko told reporters. “The area was evacuated due to the potential hazard.” The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office Methamphetamine Team came out to help the Port Orange Police Department remove the hazardous material found inside the room. 21-year-old Melissa Seay and 39-year-old Jennifer McFarren were arrested along with 66-year-old Peter Atwood, charged with manufacturing and possession of methamphetamine. This time, Atwood invoked his Miranda rights and asked for an attorney. He is still in custody and has repeatedly declined requests to be interviewed.

When you look at his picture from his most current arrest and compare it to a picture taken in 2008, it appears that you are looking at two different men. He has not aged well, and he has lost a significant amount of weight, likely due to the chronic use of meth.

So here you have the tragic story of a man who loved his community and would do anything to help anyone who would ask. It’s not clear if his use of pain medications, most likely opioid pain pills such as Lortab, Dilaudid, or OxyContin, led to his subsequent meth use, and neither law enforcement investigators nor his ex-wife know exactly when Atwood started using and “cooking” meth before he was finally arrested in 2012.

Anecdotally, I have heard from local law enforcement that sometimes younger women look for “older” men in bars (can you say “mark”?) and befriend them. The “older” men clearly appreciate the attention of attractive young women, and are often easily enticed into the world of meth. The men provide money and other resources for the meth and subsequently enjoy the sexual activities that meth and the young female meth users provide. In time, most fall into the same trap as described above for Peter Atwood. He and his wife of 36 years have divorced, leaving her penniless with Mr. Atwood living out of motel rooms when he is not in jail.

There is no good side to meth!

I continue to welcome the readers to tell me about your own personal experiences with meth as well as your success stories. I have learned more from people who use or have used meth than I have from all the medical books and papers on the subject that I have read over the years. Please share your stories with me! You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com. I will never betray your confidence.

For more examples of Meth in the News, go to Fav Meth Heads of the Day: http://fav-meth-head-of-the-day.com/

March 7, 2014

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

I started this Meth in the News column in an attempt to provide information to the public about the dangers associated with making and using methamphetamine.  While “superlabs” run by the Mexican Drug Cartels provide significant quantities of relatively pure meth to users throughout the United States, “domestic” meth is made using the “one-pot” or “shake & bake” method (described below).  These “labs” can be a significant risk to the general public.

I have also reported about how cooking and smoking meth can be dangerous to anyone living where meth is being used (and this is especially true for children). But what happens when the meth cooks move away (or are arrested)? And consider this, people also cook and smoke meth in motel rooms, apartments and just about anywhere else you can imagine. What are the chances that the motel room or apartment had been properly and thoroughly cleaned once the meth cooks left?

Finally, I have also reported on the long-term use of methamphetamine and how this can also lead to bizarre psychotic behaviors that can put the user’s families (and other innocent people) at risk for serious harm, or even death.

But I want to take this one step further.  I would like to have a “Meth Awareness” event in the Shreveport/Bossier City area, open to the public, where I can talk directly to people interested in learning about the dangers of meth.  Maybe you know someone who uses meth and want some answers.  Maybe you want to know more about the medical problems that may arise if you live somewhere where meth had been smoked or produced.  Maybe you are a former user and want to learn more about its long-term effects.

So I am asking the readers of Meth in the News for suggestions.  Would you be interested in attending a “Meth Awareness” event?  Do you have any ideas for what you would like to see at this event?  Maybe former users would want to speak about recovery to give people hope.  Maybe former meth “cooks” could talk about their first-hand experiences.  Or I could just answer questions from the audience.  What would you like to see?  Where should it be held?  Please send all of your suggestions to: nickgoeders@gmail.com.

Below is important information on meth labs.

Law enforcement officials claim that the “one-pot” or “shake & bake” meth labs are even more dangerous than the “old” makeshift meth labs that required hundreds of pseudoephedrine pills, containers heated over open flames and cans of flammable liquids. The “old” cooking process itself creates foul odors, making the labs difficult to conceal. And of course, these makeshift labs can also spark explosions. Generally, the “one-pot” process uses a two-liter soda bottle. Only a few cold pills are mixed with common, but noxious, household chemicals to produce enough meth for the user to get a few hits. Since only a few pseudoephedrine pills are required, the “one-pot” method circumvents laws passed restricting the sale of large quantities of over-the-counter decongestants, cold and allergy remedies. In addition, the new method requires little room. All of the necessary items can be carried in a backpack, making the process mobile. This has simplified the process so that it seems like everybody is making their own meth. It can be your next-door neighbor or even one of your family members.

The “one-pot” method combines the first three steps of a conventional meth lab, so that the “cook” is making anhydrous ammonia at the same time that pseudoephedrine (from cold tablets) is converted to methamphetamine base in the bottle. The bottle is shaken, which creates a chemical reaction, producing gas and therefore increasing pressure inside the bottle. The bottle must be “burped” from time to time to release the pressure or it will explode, spewing caustic chemicals in all directions, which can cause serious chemical burns. At the same time, the “cook” is producing a chemical ignition, also called fire in the bottle, every time that the “one-pot” method is used. If the bottle bursts or is opened at the wrong time, it essentially becomes a flamethrower. Remember that these labs are portable, putting the public at great risk. The bottle can explode while the “cook” is driving around, putting other drivers in danger. Such an incident occurred in Bossier City a couple of years ago, but luckily no one was harmed. Meth “cooks” often throw the used plastic bottles, containing a poisonous brown and white sludge, along the highway. Law enforcement has found discarded “one-pot” bottles in ditches, in people’s yards and in dumpsters. The mixture inside the bottle can burst into flames when exposed to oxygen, making it extremely dangerous for anyone who unscrews the lid of what may look like an ordinary soda bottle. Therefore, with spring rapidly approaching, if you find discarded bottles containing an unknown mixture, especially with a “chemical” odor or tubes sticking in them, do not open them or even pick them up. Call the Sherriff’s office and let them investigate to see if there is any danger.

In addition to your suggestions for the “Meth Awareness” event, I continue to welcome the readers to tell me about your own personal experiences with meth as well as your success stories.  I have learned more from people who use or have used meth than I have from all the medical books and papers on the subject that I have read over the years.  Please share your stories with me!  You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com.  I will never betray your confidence.

For more examples of Meth in the News, go to Fav Meth Heads of the Day: http://fav-meth-head-of-the-day.com/

February 28, 2014

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

I continue to see reports in the news that indicate that the methamphetamine epidemic is still going strong.  In some communities, authorities are indeed seeing a decrease in the number of the “one-pot” and “shake-and-bake” meth “labs” as tighter restrictions are put on the sale of products containing pseudoephedrine, a necessary precursor for the production of meth.  However, demand for this drug remains high, and reductions in the domestic production of meth are quickly replaced by meth manufactured south of the border by the Mexican Drug Cartels.  There were several reports in the news just last week that confirmed this, indicating once again that the meth epidemic is indeed real.  This cannot just be a nation-wide conspiracy theory.

The CBS affiliate in Rock Island, IL, WHBF, reported last week that methamphetamine is still a major problem in Illinois.  Their online website claims that “Meth is one of the most widespread and dangerous drugs on the streets.”  People wishing to purchase medications containing pseudoephedrine are already required to first show a photo ID.  There is also an effort in Illinois to require a prescription for these same medications, although it is not clear if there is support for the bill, especially among the police.  They can track sales of pseudoephedrine-containing medications now, but if a prescription is required, those “medical records” would be off limits.

Similarly, KPAX.com from Missoula, MT, also reported on the rise in the number of arrests for meth in Missoula, and how violence and property crime have followed this increase.  Missoula Drug Task Detective Eddy McLean told reporters that since 2007, the number of weapons seized that could be tied to meth and drug-related crimes has steadily increased, adding that from 2012 to 2013, arrests for meth went up 120% in Missoula.  Authorities claim that most of the drug is Mexican Drug Cartel meth, while the rest is made in highly explosive clandestine meth labs.

KATV out of Benton, AR reported last week that meth also continues to be large problem for central Arkansas law enforcement.  In Benton Mayor David Mattingly’s State of the City address, he said that nearly half of the $6,000,000 worth of illicit drugs that Benton Police were able to take off the streets in 2013 could be attributed to meth.  “It’s a pretty substantial amount, especially for a community of 30,000 people,” Lt. Kevin Russell from the Benton Police Department told reporters. Lt. Russell also mentioned that the pseudoephedrine law passed several years ago, a measure to prevent meth from being made, worked to some degree.  “That kind of cut down on the numbers briefly, for a couple of years,” said Russell.  “And it has still cut down on the number of home-grown labs, labs that are operating here.”  But he also admits that meth has been on the rise recently – and he is now concerned with “superlabs” producing mass quantities of the drug and shipping it north of the border from Mexico.

So are these all conspiracy theorists, or is the meth epidemic real?

There were also several significant methamphetamine busts during the past week.  These are not all inclusive, but are meant to highlight the ongoing meth trade by the Mexican Drug Cartels.

Two men – a U.S. citizen who was driving a Ford F-150 and a Mexican national who was a passenger in the pickup – were stopped around 6 p.m. last Tuesday at the Interstate 5 checkpoint near San Clemente.  A police canine alerted agents to the presence of drugs, and they found bundles of methamphetamine hidden in various parts of the pickup.  The driver and passenger, who have not been identified, were arrested, and the two men, along with the 12 pounds of meth seized, were turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Also last Tuesday, El Centro Sector Border Patrol agents assigned to the Indio Station encountered a 21-year-old woman driving a 2000 Mitsubishi Montero as she approached the Highway 86 checkpoint. A Border Patrol Canine Detection team alerted to the SUV and the woman was referred for further inspection. During the inspection, agents discovered nine individually wrapped packages of methamphetamine hidden inside a false compartment located underneath the floorboard behind the back seat. The methamphetamine had a combined weight of 8.8 pounds with an estimated street value of $57,200. The suspected smuggler, a United States citizen, was taken into custody. The woman, vehicle, and narcotics were turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration for further investigation.

Last Wednesday, Tammy Rae Coburn, 47, of Port Angeles turned herself in to federal authorities in Tacoma, a day after the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced the culmination of an investigation into a Western Washington meth distribution ring and the seizure of more than 66 pounds of meth and 2.5 pounds of heroin in a conversion lab in Spanaway. The investigation — which spanned Clallam, Jefferson, Pierce and Kitsap counties — led to the arrest last Sunday of a Sequim businessman, Timothy Patrick Smith, 29, and Kelsey A. Davis, 25, also of Sequim, who was described as his girlfriend.  All three have been charged in federal court with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, four counts of distribution of methamphetamine and maintaining drug involved premises.

In New Mexico last week, Glenn McDonald, 34, of Loving was arrested after agents with the Eddy County Sheriff’s Office and the Pecos Valley Drug Task found 25 pounds of meth and 31 firearms scattered throughout his residence. Eve Flanigan, program manager for the Carlsbad Anti-Drug and Gang Coalition, told reporters, “I can’t say that I’m surprised,” when asked about the size of the bust.  “But I’m just thankful that it’s off the street right now. It’s an example of how pervasive the drug problem is in our part of the state.”

And last, but certainly not least, on Friday Agents with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine stopped a boat during a routine patrol in Oceanside Harbor near San Diego containing 540 pounds of meth. During the inspection, agents found a hidden compartment that ran down the sides of the boat and under the floor. Inside, they found 200 packages of meth worth an estimated street value of about $7 million.  One person on board, a 48-year old male U.S. citizen, was arrested.

So last week, more than 650 pounds of meth were seized.  Who knows how much meth was not discovered.  So are reports of a meth epidemic just “hype?”  I think not!

I continue to welcome the readers to tell me about your own personal experiences with meth as well as your success stories.  I have learned more from people who use or have used meth than I have from all the medical books and papers on the subject that I have read over the years.  Please share your stories with me!  You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com.  I will never betray your confidence.

For more examples of Meth in the News, go to Fav Meth Heads of the Day: http://fav-meth-head-of-the-day.com/

February 21, 2014

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

As I have told you in past columns, I search news reports from across the Unites States, and even around the world, for this Meth in the News column.  A “report” came out this week, published by the Open Society Foundation titled, “Methamphetamine: Fact vs. fiction and lessons from the crack hysteria.”  The authors make this concluding claim, “The data show that many of the immediate and long-term harmful effects caused by methamphetamine use have been greatly exaggerated just as the dangers of crack cocaine were overstated nearly three decades ago.”  Normally, I would have dismissed this report for a number of reasons.  Then I saw that it had been picked up by Forbes in an article published online on February 20, 2014, by Jacob Sullum titled, “Hyperbole Hurts: The Surprising Truth About Methamphetamine.”  I am unclear of the motivations behind these misleading reports, but I feel compelled to respond.

First of all, this was not a peer-reviewed scientific report even though it is promoted as such.  “Peer review” simply means that the results from a scientific study are written in the form of a manuscript that is sent to several scientists in the same area of research (i.e., peers) to review to determine if the research was conducted using sound scientific principles and if the manuscript is an accurate representation of the data that the authors collected.  This report was simply published online by the Open Society Foundation, and no date of publication can be found anywhere on the report.  Therefore, this simply represents the opinion of the authors, and, I assume, the Open Society Foundation.

Secondly, only one of the authors is a scientist.  The lead author, Carl Hart, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Psychology.  Co-author Joanne Csete is actually the deputy director of the Open Society Global Drug Policy Program, while co-author Don Habibi, is a Professor of Philosophy and Religion.

So, what are the major claims in this report?  The authors first discuss how the “crack baby” epidemic was overstated, and suggest that this was a plot to artificially increase the penalties for “crack” compared to powder cocaine possession and distribution.  I agree that the penalties should be the same for any form of cocaine, but that is NOT the motivation underlying the warnings associated with methamphetamine use.

The authors then lump in methamphetamine with all other forms of amphetamine (Adderall), and they even include Ritalin in the mix.  But then, surprisingly, they cite statistics collected by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in 2011, “UNODC’s most recent report concluded that markets for methamphetamine are growing faster than for other ATS [amphetamine-type stimulants], fueled in part by significant increases in East and Southeast Asia, the United States and Mexico in the last five or six years.” In addition, “While production was highest in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and North America (including Mexico), production in Africa, especially South Africa, was increasing.”  Yes, there is a global methamphetamine epidemic as I and others have stated.  Yet Sullum talks of “hyperbole.”  What’s going on here?

The authors then claim that the advertisements and websites presented by groups such as the Montana Meth Project have caused the organization to lose credibility because they exaggerate the harmful effects of meth and are just using scare tactics reminiscent of the cult film “Reefer Madness.”  I have also told the readers that not everyone who uses meth looks like the people represented in some of the mug shots of meth users.  The authors claim that people with prescriptions for Adderall don’t look like that way either.  Obviously not!  As a pharmacologist, I realize that the effects of any drug are dose related.  At low, prescription doses of Adderall, people are not likely to experience many adverse side effects.  But on the other end of the spectrum is the IV meth user who is increasing the dose of meth in an attempt to get that desired effect that she felt the first time that she injected the drug.  She may even inject the drug repeatedly every two or three hours, even though the drug is still active in her body for another 6-12 hours.  This use is not pharmacological and not logical, but it happens over and over again as people chase that high.  Comparing prescription Adderall (or Ritalin) use to a chronic IV meth user is misleading and disingenuous at best.

As far as the effects of methamphetamine on the brain, the authors provide an example from a peer-reviewed manuscript published in a highly reputable neuroscience journal in 2004.  They point out some perceived limitations in this study from 10 years ago and then paint all subsequent brain imaging studies with the same wide brush, stating, “This example is not unique. The brain imaging literature is replete with a general tendency to characterize any brain differences as dysfunction caused by methamphetamine.”  Yet the scientific literature is full of studies from the laboratories of respected scientists demonstrating that methamphetamine does indeed lead to the loss of brain cells.  The mechanism of action for this is known.  What the authors still fail to make clear is that these effects are related to the amount of the drug that is used and how long the individual has been using it.  Furthermore, the authors do not discuss the differences between smoking and injecting meth IV. While the effects of cocaine and nicotine are similar by either route, the effects of IV meth are much more pronounced compared to smoked meth.  If you don’t believe me, then ask someone who has tried both routes of administration.

Finally, the authors question the addictive potential of meth.  They cite studies in which meth users are brought into a laboratory as paid research subjects.  When asked if they would choose a 50 mg hit of meth or $20, the meth users would usually choose the money. The authors claim that this is proof that meth is not all that addictive – at least not addictive the way the media “hypes” it.  But the research subjects are not high at the time and likely did not decide to join the research study to get high.  They do it for the money.  People who are actively using meth are not likely to enter these research studies.  With high-dose meth use, people often experience paranoia and are distrustful of everyone.  Let’s see the data when the study is repeated with someone who is coming off a 3-day meth binge and is actively looking for her next hit of meth.  Then let’s see what she chooses!

I could go on, but you get the idea.  Just today a paper appeared in the peer-reviewed journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence titled, “The global epidemiology and burden of psychostimulant dependence: Findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010.”  The authors of this manuscript conclude, “Dependence upon psychostimulants is a substantial contributor to global disease burden.”  The global methamphetamine epidemic is real, regardless of what George Soros and the Open Society Foundation want us to believe.

I continue to welcome the readers to tell me about your own personal experiences with meth as well as your success stories.  I have learned more from people who use or have used meth than I have from all the medical books and papers on the subject that I have read over the years.  Please share your stories with me!  You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com.  I will never betray your confidence.

For more examples of Meth in the News, go to Fav Meth Heads of the Day: http://fav-meth-head-of-the-day.com/

February 14, 2014

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

For this Meth in the News column, I search news reports from across the Unites States, and even around the world.  These news reports are typically accounts of people arrested for using or manufacturing methamphetamine, of accidents, fires and explosions that occur during the meth-making procedure, or the discovery of a clandestine meth lab in a home, apartment or hotel room.  However, I also keep abreast of the medical aspects of methamphetamine through pubmed.gov, the citation service provided by the US National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health.  I search for the medical consequences of methamphetamine on a daily basis.

A medical case report appeared during the second week of February in the journal, Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology, which is published by Springer.  The title of this report was “Accidental death via intravaginal absorption of methamphetamine.”  This caught my eye because I have reported in this Meth in the News column and in my blog about women who have tried to hide their meth, especially before being booked into jail, by concealing it within their “groin area.”  For example, Scotts Bluff County Detention Center jailers discovered seven bags of meth concealed “in the groin area” of a Katrina Ramos, 25, of Scottsbluff after they conducted a strip search when she appeared to be “digging in the rear of her pants” while being booked.  Jailers found four grams of meth inside the woman.  In another example, Teresa Bond was asked to “spread and cough” while being booked into the Jones County Adult Detention Center.  The correctional officer “then observed a clear plastic baggie located in the vaginal area,” that contained a crystal-like substance later identified as meth.  In yet another case, Amanda Fresquez-Hardt told a corrections officer at the Cass County’s jail that she put a plastic bag containing a variety of drugs inside her vagina, then inserted a tampon to hide the drugs. The drugs included an anti-anxiety medication, a sedative, a drug used to treat addiction to opiates and a half a gram of meth.  Finally, Brittany Williams was busted in an undercover meth sting in Trinity County, Texas.  When asked to produce the meth, Ms Williams, with her hands still cuffed behind her back, pulled a three-inch keybox out of her vagina that held three grams of meth.  So these women were hiding gram-sized quantities of meth inside their bodies, potentially putting themselves in grave danger.

This was highlighted in the medical case referred to above.  In that case, a 24-year-old male driver and his 23-year-old female passenger were stopped by a police officer after the officer observed their vehicle crossing the centerline of the road multiple times. A search of the vehicle revealed numerous containers of camp stove fuel, several funnels, and numerous lithium batteries. The couple was placed under arrest for possession of methamphetamine precursors and was transported to a local county jail. During booking it was noted that the female was fidgeting and that her pants were unbuttoned and unzipped. A body search for drugs was scheduled for both subjects per routine booking procedures for drug arrestees. During the body search, the female admitted that she was hiding illegal drugs. When asked to produce the drugs, she removed a clear plastic bag from her vagina but denied being in possession of any additional drugs. Based on the plastic bag that she produced and the subject’s own admission, the body search was not continued. The plastic bag contained a white powdery substance that was determined to be consistent with methamphetamine. The female subject was jailed on suspicion of a felony drug offense. During the morning of the third day following her arrest, the woman was observed face down in her bunk and would not receive her breakfast tray. Later that morning the guards finally entered the cell to check on her and found her unresponsive.  They initiated cardiopulmonary resuscitation that continued until the arrival of Emergency Medical Services personnel. She was pronounced dead at the scene, approximately 48 hours after completion of the booking procedure. The woman was last seen alive sometime during the evening of her second day in jail. A forensic autopsy was performed 21 hours after pronouncement of death and revealed a 100 pound, extremely thin woman.

The only external or internal evidence of trauma included a few skin abrasions on the feet/toes, a small abrasion on one hand, and a bruise on her shin. Internal examination showed no evidence of evident natural disease.  However, her upper vagina contained a foreign material. Opening the anterior wall of the vagina revealed a discolored wad of plastic. Upon further inspection of the plastic wad, it was determined that it held 3 smaller clear plastic packages, each of which was wrapped around an off-white pasty substance. One of the plastic packages was loosely tied, while the remaining two were opened but appeared to have been previously tied. Toxicology tests revealed very high serum concentrations of methamphetamine and amphetamine.  The cause of death was attributed to ‘‘toxic effects of methamphetamine,’’ while the manner of death was ruled ‘‘accidental.’’

I am making such a big deal of this since body cavities are a common place for people, especially women, to conceal illegal drugs. This is an extremely dangerous practice!  The human vagina is comprised of a dense network of blood vessels and mucous membranes that can serve as an efficient drug-delivery route. Drugs absorbed by the intravaginal route do not undergo first pass metabolism since they bypass the liver.  Because of this, much higher blood concentrations are possible when drugs are delivered via intravaginal absorption compared to many other routes of administration.  Furthermore, people sometimes actually take meth by injecting it into the rectum, a dangerous practice called a “booty bump.”

Methamphetamine toxicity can be deadly, and the drug can be absorbed through your mucous membranes. Therefore, it is not safe to hide meth, either by swallowing (body stuffing) or by packing a body orifice (i.e., vagina) with drugs contained in balloons, condoms, plastic wrap or other packing material with the intent of transporting the drugs without detection.   If the drugs leak from the “container” as detailed in the case above, the resulting toxicity can be fatal.

Bottom line, just don’t do meth!

I continue to welcome the readers to tell me about your own personal experiences with meth as well as your success stories.  I have learned more from people who use or have used meth than I have from all the medical books and papers on the subject that I have read over the years.  Please share your stories with me!  You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com.  I will never betray your confidence.

For more examples of Meth in the News, go to Fav Meth Heads of the Day: http://fav-meth-head-of-the-day.com/

February 7, 2014

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In this Meth in the News column, I often tell the readers about the dangers involved in the production of methamphetamine.  This process involves a number of caustic and volatile compounds that can be found in any store that sells household products.  But with the implementation of the Methamphetamine Production Prevention Act of 2008, it became more difficult for the meth “cooks” to obtain a necessary ingredient, pseudoephedrine.  The meth cooks quickly adapted, and today most meth “labs” are of the “one-pot” or “shake-and-bake”  variety (incidentally, these are the same thing, the process is simply called by two names).  This procedure requires less pseudoephedrine, and for less than $200 the “cook” can make enough meth for personal use, and maybe a little extra to sell on the side.  However, if these “labs” are not carefully watched and handled, the bottle containing the “lab” can explode, incinerating anything in the vicinity.

The meth “cooks” are typically paranoid, and with good reason.  Possessing and making methamphetamine is a crime, so the “cooks” should be concerned about being caught.  In addition, however, the direct effects of meth on the brain can also produce paranoia from the chronic meth-induced increase in dopamine, the same chemical in the brain that is associated with pleasure and euphoria.  This paranoia often leads the meth “cook” to leave her home and go someplace else to make meth.  An obvious simple alternative for the “cook” is to rent a motel room for 2 or 3 nights and “cook” the meth there in the hopes that it would be more difficult to get caught.  And this happens far more often than you might think.  In fact, there were several such cases in the news in the first week of February.

In Fort Wayne, Indiana, police were called to The Travel Inn located at 2712 W. Coliseum Blvd. last Tuesday night.  When they arrived at the motel at 11:47 p.m., police found what they described as an active meth lab inside one of the motel rooms.  Due to the nature of some of the chemicals involved, the Fort Wayne Fire Department was called to assist in case a fire ignited. As a safety precaution, police evacuated several nearby motel rooms, and the occupants were forced to seek shelter in the lobby until the lab was neutralized by the Fort Wayne Police Department (FWPD) Meth Suppression Unit.  Samantha Cole, 23, Brandon A. Gammons, 27, and Stephen R. Knott, 28, all were arrested and charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, possession of two or more precursors of methamphetamine; maintaining a common nuisance; and possession of methamphetamine.  This is already the fifth meth lab that the FWPD Meth Suppression Team has neutralized so far this year.

In Rock Hill, South Carolina, a police officer was conducting a property check at the Executive Inn on North Anderson Road around 10 p.m. last Sunday when he offered to help a woman in the parking lot look for her daughter.  The officer eventually determined that the woman was staying in a room with her boyfriend.   When officers knocked on the door, Christopher Watkins answered and invited them inside where they found the girl lying on a bed.  Police were given permission to search the room, and they found hypodermic needles, 6 ounces of ammonium nitrate, 1 gallon of ethanol, Sudafed, pill crushers, scales, Mason jars, coffee filters, lithium batteries and plastic tubes – all used in making meth. Officers also found more than 1 gram of meth in a baggie stuffed between the couch cushions. Cynthia Snipes Burton, 32, and Robert David Hawkins, 46, both of Rock Hill, and Christopher Michael Watkins, 31, of Fort Mill, were arrested and each was charged with manufacturing meth, manufacturing meth in proximity to a school and possession of heroin.

Lt. Max Dorsey with the State Law Enforcement Division told reporters that finding a meth lab in a motel “sort of speaks to (the labs’) mobility. People aren’t necessarily having to stay at home or stay stationary to cook this meth. Because of this mobility, because it’s so compact (and) these vessels are so small … you can virtually do it anywhere.”

“We’re finding them in hotels, motels, cars, boats, mopeds, ditches, in wooded areas and, of course, homes,” he said. “Hotels and motels get a lot of attention because that’s an area where innocent people are concentrated in one building. The activity by the people in one room is going to negatively affect everybody in that building.”

In Lebanon, Tennessee, police discovered another methamphetamine lab Thursday night at the Knight’s Inn after they were alerted by Smith County authorities.   There officers found a “one-pot” meth lab in room 148, and a more detailed search of the room revealed more lab components as well as finished meth.  Police charged Stephanie Marie Mosley, 31, of Carthage, and Nathan Andrew Busard, 26, of Lebanon, with initiating a process with the intended result to manufacture meth, promotion of meth manufacture, reckless endangerment, possession of schedule II drugs, three counts of simple possession of drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia.  Police remained at the scene until state Meth Crime Unit agents arrived to properly dispose of the items. They quarantined the room and placed a hold on the property, and the hold will only be removed once proof is shown a certified hygienist and contractor properly cleaned the room.  This marks the fifth lab found in Lebanon in the past six months and the second this week.

A meth lab was also found in a room at the Sea Shore Motel at 120 East Fort Macon Road in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina.  Officers were dispatched to the motel concerning possible hazardous materials in a room after motel management discovered the remnants of a meth lab.  When the officers arrived, the room was already vacant, suggesting that the occupants just left the hazardous waste behind after the meth was made.  Police secured the room and contacted the State Bureau of Investigation for assistance with investigation and cleanup.

“Cooking” meth in hotel and motel rooms is much more widespread than most people realize.  How many times have you walked into a motel room and smelled ammonia and thought that they must have just cleaned the room since ammonia is found in so many household cleaning products?  Or maybe you smelled something like an industrial solvent and thought that the hotel was remodeling a nearby room.  But maybe what you had smelled were the remnants of a former meth lab.  The “cooks” may have removed the “one-pot” bottle and other large items, but the fumes produced during the “cook” permeate carpets, curtains, bed spreads, and just about everything else and are slowly released back into the room air.  These chemicals can be harmful to you and your loved ones.  Simple exposure to the ammonia contained in household cleaning products can produce headaches, nausea, dizziness and eye irritation.   So if you smell something strange the next time that you check in to a motel room, ask to be moved to another room.  Or better yet, find another hotel!

I continue to welcome the readers to tell me about your own personal experiences with meth as well as your success stories.  I have learned more from people who use or have used meth than I have from all the medical books and papers on the subject that I have read over the years.  Please share your stories with me!  You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com.  I will never betray your confidence.

For more examples of Meth in the News, go to Fav Meth Heads of the Day: http://fav-meth-head-of-the-day.com/

January 31, 2014

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In many past Meth in the News columns, I have emphasized the dangers associated with the manufacture of methamphetamine.  Many of the chemicals used to “cook” meth are explosive, corrosive and caustic, and people often suffer burns and respiratory problems due to exposure to these chemicals.  But the chronic use of methamphetamine is also associated with crime.

In Napa County, California, Napa Police Lt. Gary Pitkin recently told the Napa County Board of Supervisors that there is a direct link between methamphetamine abuse and a variety of other crimes that directly affect the people living there, including theft, burglary, fraud, illegal firearm possession, and armed robbery, to name a few.  In fact, up to 41 percent of all crimes committed in Napa County in 2013 were related to methamphetamine abuse.

“There is an absolute tangible nexus between meth and crime,” Lt. Pitkin told the supervisors. “Meth use and abuse is not a victimless crime.”

Lt. Pitkin heads the Napa Special Investigations Bureau, which devotes about three-quarters of its resources and time to investigating methamphetamine traffickers in Napa County.  In 2013, 68 percent of the Napa Special Investigations Bureau’s arrests were methamphetamine related.  And 70 percent of those arrestees also had histories involving other crimes such as burglary, theft, fraud, and robbery.  But it gets worse.  Methamphetamine abuse also has effects stretching far beyond criminal activity.  Users are prone to greater rates of homelessness or of abandoning their families.  Methamphetamine use is also connected to half of Napa County’s child protective services cases.

And if you ask law enforcement personnel anywhere, including the Ark-La-Tex, they will tell you similar stories regarding the link between meth and crime and how meth users often give up everything else for the sake of their meth.  Finding that next “bump” of meth becomes paramount in their lives, and everything else takes a back seat.

But things can get even worse.

Jack (“Jacky”) Lee Brown is a former meth addict living in Eureka, California.  In several methamphetamine awareness groups, Jack has been relating what that’s like.

“Meth addicts are not in a sound mental state,” he said. “The first day of a fresh hit, you’re awake — you know, busy, busy, busy. You’re cleaning everything; you’re taking care of your house.  You feel alive. Then comes the sleep deprivation.  You stay up three or four days at a time, you start hallucinating. … At one point I thought God was telling me to take care of the evil people.”

Michael D. Fratkin, M.D. of Eureka is also spreading the word about the dangers associated with using meth. “It is so unique in its devastating consequences, in its effects on people’s judgment and, frankly, in the corrosion of their souls,” he said. “Methamphetamine is a perfect hack of the mesolimbic dopamine system in the brain. In other words, you get a huge release of dopamine immediately — which translates into an experience of energy, pleasure, grandiosity and altered judgment. And once you start using the drug regularly, that system down regulates its response. It becomes numb to normal pleasurable experiences that give a person a sense of well-being, confidence, pleasure. It alters the brain’s chemistry. Even after they stop, it is years before recovery of normal response.”

The paranoia, the lack of sleep, the lack of normal pleasures, and the hallucinations can all lead to bizarre behaviors, often of a violent, homicidal nature.  I have highlighted cases where mothers actually tortured and murdered their own children, or allowed harm to come to their children, all for another “bump” of meth or because they were already intoxicated on meth.  Methamphetamine changes people – and these changes are never good.

Bottom line – there is no good side to meth.

I continue to welcome the readers to tell me about your own personal experiences with meth as well as your success stories.  I have learned more from people who use or have used meth than I have from all the medical books and papers on the subject that I have read over the years.  Please share your stories with me!  You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com.  I will never betray your confidence.

For more examples of Meth in the News, go to Fav Meth Heads of the Day: http://fav-meth-head-of-the-day.com/

January 24, 2014

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

I have written several times in this Meth in the News column about the volatility of the methamphetamine manufacturing process.  Many of the chemicals, while readily available, are corrosive, flammable and/or explosive, and the methamphetamine “cooks” often have not even had the training that a student worker in a lab might receive.  They either find a “recipe” on the Internet or a friend or associate tells them how to make meth.  Proper precautions are sometimes unknown or forgotten, and this leads to explosions and fires during the procedure.  There were several cases of meth “labs” burning or exploding in the news this past week, and I thought that I would share some of these with you.

The first fire was reported last Tuesday afternoon in New Philadelphia, Ohio.  Emergency crews and investigators had their hands full after an explosion at a home on Independence Circle that was the result of an out of control meth lab.  Captain Shawn Nelson of the New Philadelphia Police Department told reporters that when they arrived at around 2:30 p.m. they witnessed two people running from the home.  Police quickly caught up with them, and investigators were able to link them to a meth lab that was located on the second floor of the home. The Ohio State Fire Marshal’s office investigated the fire and ruled that an accelerant used in the meth cook caused the fire.  The two unnamed individuals are facing multiple charges including aggravated arson and are being held in the Tuscarawas County Jail.

A fire was also reported last Sunday night in a Race Street garage apartment in Parkersburg, West Virginia.  Apparently, a flash fire occurred during production of methamphetamine at around 7:30 p.m.  Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin told reporters that officers located the two people who were in the apartment at the time of the fire, namely Joshua Earl Boston, 35, from Vienna, and Nicole Y. Hesson, 32, who lived in the apartment.  Ms. Hesson told investigators that she was attempting to make meth in her kitchen when the fire broke out.  When she and Mr. Boston could not extinguish the fire, they evacuated the premises.  Ms. Hesson received serious burns on her face and hands and was taken to Camden Clark Medical Center for treatment of her injuries and to be decontaminated.  She was later transferred to another hospital.  Mr. Boston also was taken to Camden Clark for decontamination and then to police headquarters where he was interviewed by police and the Parkersburg Narcotics Task Force.  Mr. Boston was charged with operating a clandestine meth lab, while charges against Hesson are pending following her release from the hospital.  If convicted, both face two to ten years in prison and a fine of from $5,000 to $25,000.

Paducah, Kentucky firefighters were called to a home at 421 Hayes Ave. around 4:20 a.m. Monday morning.  Detective with the Paducah Police Department’s Drug and Vice Enforcement Unit searched the home, and Paducah Fire Marshal Greg Cherry reported finding a meth lab in the kitchen area. Sgt. Steve Smith of the Kentucky State Police told reporters that investigators also found drug paraphernalia including pipes commonly used to smoke meth and syringes and arrested two people in connection with the fire.  Jerri C. Bufford, 46, was arrested on charges of manufacturing meth and possession of drug paraphernalia.  Danny L. Humble, 50, was arrested on charges of possession of a controlled substance (meth), manufacturing meth and possession of drug paraphernalia.  Humble and Bufford were both arrested and taken to the McCracken County Regional Jail.

A massive fire on Remington Drive in Fayetteville, Tennessee also started last Friday because of a meth lab explosion.  Lincoln County Sheriff Murray Blackwelder told reporters that the fire was started by a simple “one-pot” meth lab. The owner of the home, Teresa Baker, was using the place as a “party house” where her “guests” could find meth, according to Sheriff Blackwelder. He said that the Sheriff’s department had been monitoring the home for a while because of suspected drug activity. Ms. Baker’s charges include promoting and manufacturing meth in a drug-free school zone in addition to charges related to the fire. “It’s a scary thing to know this is right across the street from our house, from our family and our children,” said neighbor John Derm.  “We’ve got an elementary school right up the street here, less than half a mile up the road,” said Amy Derm.  Like the Derms, many readers may be surprised about what is going on at their neighbor’s house.

In Escambia County, Florida, the Florida State Fire Marshal’s Office reported finding multiple “one pot” meth labs after a house fire on Birch Street (how appropriate!). Investigators believe that the fire may have been caused by one of the clandestine meth laboratories exploding.  Authorities noticed the smell of a meth lab upon arriving on the scene.  When they went inside the home, they immediately recognized a fuel can, a “one pot” meth laboratory and other items consistent with a meth lab in the kitchen area. Upon searching the entire residence, investigators located 29 “one pot” labs as well as other items used in the production of meth. The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office Rapid Response Unit responded and collected and disposed of all hazardous materials.

These were NOT all of the meth-related fires and explosions that were reported last week. I could go on and on, but I think that you have the idea.  You have to stay aware of your surroundings and what is going on around you.  If you smell something suspicious, report it to the authorities.

Finally, I want to relay a sad, tragic story that was reported last week.  Nikki Cain, 60, was a drug-abuse counselor in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  In 2009, she was injured in a fire at her apartment complex.  The blaze, ironically started by a meth lab mishap, destroyed part of the complex and left two uninvolved people dead.  Ms. Cain, who was not involved with the meth lab or the “cook”, was rescued, but smoke inhalation left her with severe brain damage. She spent the years since the fire moving between hospital and nursing home.  Unfortunately, her fight ended on January 6 when she finally succumbed to her injuries.  Deborah Morris was Cain’s cousin and had been her caregiver.  She told reporters that Ms. Cain had been a counselor at Tulsa Rightway Medical and had worked with recovering addicts.  “They told us that several of the people she had counseled were just devastated by what happened,” Morris said. Mark Roberts, who was cooking meth in a neighboring apartment and who officials believe started the fire, was convicted of manufacturing or attempting to manufacture a controlled dangerous substance — methamphetamine — and is now serving a life prison sentence. He was acquitted of murder and arson.  Go figure!

I continue to welcome the readers to tell me about your own personal experiences with meth as well as your success stories.  I have learned more from people who use or have used meth than I have from all the medical books and papers on the subject that I have read over the years.  Please share your stories with me!  You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com.  I will never betray your confidence.

For more examples of Meth in the News, go to Fav Meth Heads of the Day: http://fav-meth-head-of-the-day.com/

January 17, 2014

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In this Meth in the News column from two weeks ago, I told the readers about an almost unbelievable methamphetamine drug distribution ring that had been broken up in China during a massive raid in the Guangdong Province on the Sunday morning before Christmas.  This huge operation focused on the village of Boshe in the notorious drug-producing area centered on the eastern city of Lufeng. Three tons of methamphetamine were seized – all in a single village.  Another 23 tons of raw materials for drug production were also recovered. Now comes news of direct link between two Hong Kong “Triads” and Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel.

“Triads” are family-run organized crime gangs. They are sometimes referred to as the “Chinese Mafia” or, among mainland Chinese as “black societies.” The Triads are active in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Southeast Asia and the “Chinatowns” in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. Chinese Triad societies control all Chinese organized crime and are some of the world’s largest crime organizations with more than 2 million members worldwide. The Triads are believed to control an empire worth many billions of dollars. The largest and most powerful Triad, Sun Yee On, is believed to contain 140,000 members and is thought to be particularly well connected with Hong Kong tycoons and the Communist party elite. One high-level Communist official even referred to the Sun Yee On Triad as “patriotic.” The second and third largest Triads, respectively, are Who Sing Who and 14K (14 stands for the road number of a former headquarters and K stands for Kowloon).

The two Triads that have most often been linked to one of Latin America’s largest and most notorious drug cartels to supply the rapidly growing global market for methamphetamine just happen to be the 14K and Sun Yee On Triads, two of the three largest.  Members of these Triads are reported to be supplying Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel with the raw materials needed to produce methamphetamine.  The Sinaloa cartel is one of Mexico’s most powerful organized crime groups and has played a deadly role in the country’s drug wars, which have claimed 60,000 lives since 2006.

Details of this Mexico-China connection were uncovered in the wake of the Christmas Day arrest of three known affiliates of the Sinaloa Cartel in a United States intelligence-led raid on a cock fighting farm south of Manila. In this raid, Philippine anti-drug agents also discovered and smashed a meth lab and seized 84 kg of the finished drug.  “The Mexicans are already here,” said Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Task Force Chief Bartolome Tobias, adding that he believed they were getting help from “Chinese drug syndicates” or Triads. Informed sources have identified the 14K and Sun Yee On as being among the Triads known to smuggle the primary raw material used to make meth – ethyl phenylacetate – into the Philippines.

Ties between the Hong Kong Triads and the Sinaloa cartel were also outlined in a report by the Mexican attorney general’s office last year. According to the report, the 14K and Sun Yee On Triads supply the Mexican drug cartels with precursor chemicals such as ethyl phenylacetate and ephedrine for the manufacture of meth earmarked for the “insatiable American market”.  Professor Robert Bunker, of the Strategic Studies Institute at the United States Army War College in Pennsylvania told reporters, “These cartels benefit via linkages with Chinese organized crime by obtaining access to bulk precursor chemicals whose regulation has been severely tightened in Mexico and the United States.”  Professor Bunker went on to say, “The Chinese and HK [Hong Kong] Triads get cash providing the bulk of precursor materials and also infantry small arms and ammunition. They also profit from smuggling Chinese and other Asian nationals via the cartels into the United States.” So when the availability of precursor materials became increasingly uncertain in North America, Chinese organized crime stepped in to fill the void.

China is one of the world’s largest producers of meth and of its precursor chemicals. The relatively lax (practically nonexistent) controls in China’s chemical industry offer gangs easy access to these precursor materials, while regulatory shortcomings encourage smuggling efforts. An eye-opening study recently released by the United Nations reported that Hong Kong did not issue end-user certificates to ensure that the buyers of precursor chemicals were the actual recipients of the materials, demonstrating how easy it would be to “highjack” shipments of these chemicals for illicit uses. While the Hong Kong Triads have long been major players in the regional narcotics trade, recent developments suggest they are seeking to expand the reach of their networks. Accordingly, there have been alarming increases in the numbers of seizures of precursor chemicals by authorities in Latin America in recent years, with most of the shipments originating in China. In a six-week period in 2012 alone, Mexican security forces seized about 900 tons of precursor chemicals. 900 tons!  Months later, authorities in Belize intercepted a single shipment of methamphetamine from China with an estimated worth of $10 billion!  These quantities of methamphetamine are difficult to imagine, yet they highlight the immensity of the global meth problem – and the role for organized crime in the spread of this man-made epidemic!

The Sinaloa drug cartel was named after the state on Mexico’s Pacific coast where it was formed.  This cartel is one of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations in the world. The Sinaloa cartel is led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, who has been wanted by authorities worldwide since he escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001.  United States authorities currently have a $5 million bounty on his head.  In 2013, the Chicago Crime Commission named Guzman “public enemy number one” due to Sinaloa’s impact on the drug trade in the city. The last person to hold the distinction was Al Capone.  The cartel’s heartland covers a “Golden Triangle” across Mexico’s Sinaloa, Durango and Chihuahua states, although the cartel is said to maintain operations in locations as diverse as Sierra Leone, Russia and Australia and is now considered a transnational organized crime group.  So you have notorious Chinese Triads teaming up with one of the most powerful, and brutal, drug smuggling operations in the world.

So if you use Mexican methamphetamine, this is where your money is going.  That’s one more reason not to ever use meth.

I continue to welcome the readers to tell me about your own personal experiences with meth as well as your success stories.  I have learned more from people who use or have used meth than I have from all the medical books and papers on the subject that I have read over the years.  Please share your stories with me!  You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com.  I will never betray your confidence.

For more examples of Meth in the News, go to Fav Meth Heads of the Day: http://fav-meth-head-of-the-day.com/

January 10, 2014

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

Whenever I talk to people about methamphetamine and my passion for reporting the horrors of this insidious drug, I tell them that I do so because of the children. That’s also why I take the time to write this Meth in the News column. Children are often something akin to collateral damage when it comes to meth.  The horrific act that truly incited my passion for disseminating information about the dangers of meth was the 2003 murder of Candice Renée Alexander in East Texas by her parents. Her own mother injected her with a fatal dose of meth after learning that her husband had sex with his step daughter when she was away.  Candice was only 15 years old.

Whenever I think that I have heard the worst of the worst when it comes to meth, another truly evil event occurs that shakes me to the core.  It happened again this week.  The following is graphic and sickening, and please do not read if you have a tender heart.  Please!

When I first read this report online, I thought that it had to be a sick joke – perhaps a parody or maybe a morality tale meant to attract attention.  But I found other reports of this same case and also read the police affidavit for the arrest of this woman.  A friend also checked with law enforcement personnel in Oklahoma, and they also verified that the facts of the arrest are true.  At this point, of course, these are only allegations.  No one has been found guilty yet.  However, something evil definitely happened to these innocent little children.

On January 3, 2014, Natalie Lynn Webb, 30, of Elk City, Okla. was arrested by police who accused her of the “sexual abuse and exploration” of her own children in her home in Fairview Village. Authorities in Beckham County were first alerted to the accusations against the mother of four in August 2013 after a Department of Human Services investigator learned from an older child that Webb was ‘selling sex’ with her kids to other adults.  As detailed in the police affidavit – almost completely based on an interview with a 9-year-old boy – the victims were an 8-year-old boy and his two 3-year-old sisters.

According to the affidavit, Webb’s 9-year-old son told investigators that his two little sisters were repeatedly raped by their mother as her friends, both men and women looked on. Apparently, these perverts paid to watch the sexual abuse of these children, and Webb would take them into her bedroom or bathroom and then ‘drag’ in both of her daughters and lock the door. The boy told police that he saw his sisters resist as their mother dragged them into the room, and then he could hear his sisters screaming ‘stop Momma, stop, it hurts’, and crying. Police also wrote that the boy told them he walked in on the abuse on one occasion and described his mother using a foreign object — which turned out to be a vibrator found by police during their search of the home — to rape his sister. The little boy said that his mother would usually be naked while committing the abuse, and he added that his sister would “always” be bleeding afterwards. One of the girls was interviewed by police and corroborated her brother’s story, saying it felt ‘nasty’ when she was abused.

Pornographic videos were found on Webb’s cell phone, including a video of Webb engaged in a solitary sexual act in the bathroom, but it was not clear if any videos of the children were found.

Webb emphatically denied sexually molesting her children in interviews with police.  She demanded to take a polygraph test to prove her innocence and that that she had not sexually molested her children. Although not admissible in court in Oklahoma, Webb failed the test.

Webb did admit to authorities that she often took methamphetamine and even sold it out of her house.  She also said that she sometimes traded her food stamps for meth.  Webb did not bother to hide her meth use from her children, and her 9-year-old son made statements contained in the police affidavit that alluded to intravenous drug use by his mother.  He said that “these things would happen lots of times.”  He also said that when his mother used the needles it would make her “act weird and her breath would smell funny and her arm would have little dots where it was bleeding.”  He told investigators that he often found needles around the house.

In addition to the sexual abuse, the children were often neglected. Sometimes Webb would not feed them, and they would have to scavenge for themselves. The 9-year old said that they “would have to find stuff and cook it in the microwave or pop tarts and stuff.” If they could not find anything to eat, they would check the floor for crumbs or cookies to eat that “were there from a week ago.”  And there is even more.  Several of Webb’s children told investigators that they were often subjected to beatings and were thrown against a wall over and over again.  This story just breaks my heart.

Webb has past felony convictions for child endangerment and possession of a controlled substance, along with misdemeanor convictions of unlawful possession of paraphernalia, bogus checks and unauthorized use of a credit card.  She is being held on a $2 million bond. Her children are in the custody of their grandparents.

While it has not yet been proven that Webb committed the atrocities detailed in the police affidavit, authorities are convinced that these little children did suffer unspeakable abuse.  And while I cannot claim that meth caused this sexual abuse to happen, and of course, while not everyone who uses meth sexually abuses her children, the continued association of meth with such aberrant sexual behaviors makes me suspicious.  And what about the perverts who paid to watch this woman sexually torture her own children?  You may remember the case from 2011, reported in this column, about a 3-year-old boy in Oklahoma City who was traded for meth to two men who sexually raped and tortured the toddler for hours and hours.  Unfortunately, there have been other such cases, and likely many other cases that have not yet been discovered!  Meth is known to lead to increased sexual arousal and pleasure, impaired judgment and memory, paranoia, and violence.  I really don’t care what consenting adults do behind closed doors, but when innocent little children are harmed, it makes my blood boil.

This was difficult to write, and I am sure it was difficult to read (as it was for me).  But if this article prevents just one person from trying meth for the first time, then it was worth it.

I continue to welcome the readers to tell me about your own personal experiences with meth as well as your success stories.  I have learned more from people who use or have used meth than I have from all the medical books and papers on the subject that I have read over the years.  Please share your stories with me!  You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com.  I will never betray your confidence.

For more examples of Meth in the News, go to Fav Meth Heads of the Day: http://fav-meth-head-of-the-day.com/

January 3, 2014

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

I often write in these Meth in the News columns about the bizarre behaviors that are often produced by people under the influence of methamphetamine.  These behaviors are often sexual in nature – that just seems to go hand-in-hand with meth.  It just so happens that a bizarre event occurred over the holidays that I thought I should share in Meth in the News.

The actual event occurred in Iggy’s Bar & Grill in Salem, Oregon, on the Sunday before Christmas, but the story began elsewhere.  Marion County Sheriff’s deputies began receiving calls around 1 p.m. complaining about a man acting “bizarrely” in the 9000 block of Brooklake Road Northeast.  Apparently, Andrew Frey, 37, of Beaverton, made a “string of erratic outbursts” after he called a locksmith and then refused to pay the worker for his services.  Frey then wandered over to the Brook’s Market convenience store, causing a disturbance, and refused to leave when asked.  An employee at the market had to eventually escort Frey off of the property, so Frey made his way to Iggy’s Bar & Grill located nearby.  That is where things took a nasty turn.

A bartender at Iggy’s called the Marion County Sheriff’s department to tell the authorities that a man came into the bar, exposed his genitals and began openly pleasuring himself.  By the time a deputy arrived on the scene, Frey had moved from the bar to the bathroom “for privacy”, but reportedly had not stopped pleasuring himself.

A deputy tried to arrest Frey for theft and public indecency, but he resisted, forcing the deputy to use a Taser stun gun to try and subdue the man. The deputy “zapped” Frey multiple times, but the Taser just seemed to enrage Frey, who then began fighting with the deputy. At least 15 police officers from Salem, Keizer and Marion County then rushed to the bar and were eventually able to subdue the suspect and take him into custody.

Frey apparently came to his senses later on and admitted to authorities that he had been using methamphetamine and had no recollection of his crazed behavior.  Go figure!  But now Frey faces charges of resisting arrest along with public indecency and theft.

Such behavior is not that unusual for meth users, but it may not always be reported in the news.  However, a similar case happened in Glendale, California earlier last year.  In this case, 34-year-old Umar Kahn was pulled over by Glendale Police for running a stop sign on Royal Boulevard.  But when the police approached his window, they noticed that the “married computer technician” was sitting in the driver’s seat of his 2004 Honda Accord with no pants or underwear on. Glendale Police Sgt. Tom Lorenz told reporters that Kahn said that that driving naked “gave him a sense of freedom.”  But the authorities also found a glass pipe in the vehicle — alongside his pants and underwear, and quickly determined that Kahn had been smoking meth during the joyride. Kahn was arrested on suspicion of indecent exposure, methamphetamine possession and being under the influence of methamphetamine.

During the ensuing investigation, Glendale police learned that Khan would often drive around the city at night or early morning hours – naked from the waist down – looking for a cul-de-sac or home driveway where he could pleasure himself.  It was not clear from the report whether or not Khan would also use meth each time, but he was labeled a “serial neighborhood masturbator” by the Glendale News-Press.  My guess is that meth was always also involved.  What a charming drug!

I did want to share one more news item with you this week.  When I first read this report, I could not believe my eyes, but I have now seen this reported from several reliable sources.  Apparently there was a massive methamphetamine drug raid in the Guangdong Province of China in the predawn hours on the Sunday before Christmas.  The huge operation focused on the village of Boshe in the notorious drug-producing area centered on the eastern city of Lufeng.  More than 3,000 paramilitary personnel, police and border guards from Guangzhou, Shantou, Huizhou, Meizhou and Heyuan seized three tons of methamphetamine and arrested 182 suspects in 109 separate raids – all in a single village.  Yes, you read that right – three tons – that’s 2,721,554 grams or 10,886,216 hits of 250 mg.  Another 23 tons of raw materials for drug production were also recovered in the raid.  The 182 suspects allegedly belonged to 18 production and trafficking rings based in and around Boshe.

Qiu Wei, a senior official of the Guangdong police anti-narcotics bureau told reporters, “Lufeng has long been notorious for drugs. Over the past three years, it has been providing one-third of the crystal meth nationwide.”

More than half of the 500 prisoners currently in the city’s detention center are there for their involvement in drug-related crimes.  Lufeng is an impoverished area where most of the farmland is sandy.  Therefore, growing numbers of villagers have joined the illegal drug rings and turned their homes and farmlands into crystal meth factories – similar to what has been seen across the heartland of America.  The Public Security Ministry’s Narcotics Control Bureau said last year that police solved more than 122,000 drug-related cases in 2012 and arrested 133,000 suspects. Among the 45.1 tons of drugs seized were 16.2 tons of crystal meth.

Clearly, the methamphetamine epidemic is a world-wide phenomenon!

I continue to welcome the readers to tell me about your own personal experiences with meth as well as your success stories.  I have learned more from people who use or have used meth than I have from all the medical books and papers on the subject that I have read over the years.  Please share your stories with me!  You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com.  I will never betray your confidence.

For more examples of Meth in the News, go to Fav Meth Heads of the Day: http://fav-meth-head-of-the-day.com/

December 27, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

Each week I talk about the dangers involved with the manufacture of methamphetamine.  Many of the chemicals used to make meth are caustic, flammable and explosive, and can be very dangerous to work with, even for people with experience working with such chemicals.  I saw a video recently where a “one-pot lab” was mishandled by the response team.  Luckily they had taken the “lab” outdoors and firefighters were standing by to douse the flames.  Nevertheless, a serious and potentially deadly fire erupted when the “one-pot lab” (a plastic soda bottle) fell on its side, spilling the contents.  Imagine if the “cook” was already high, had not slept for several days, and the fire had started in an enclosed bathroom or bedroom – or a motel room!  This happens more often than you might imagine, and may even go unreported in some cases.  In just the past week, there were at least three cases involving burns in Meth in the News.

In the first case from near Farmington, Missouri, firefighters received a first-alarm dispatch at 4:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve.  The call sent crews to a mobile home located on Mitchell Road, approximately two miles west of Park Hills and Highway 8.  When firefighters arrived on the scene, they found the west side of the building completely engulfed in flames. A second alarm was soon issued after the wind blew the flames toward a neighboring building, putting it in danger as well, and this summoned more firefighters and equipment to the scene.  Unfortunately, the home was a total loss.

Nearby good Samaritans told firefighters that an unnamed burn victim was reportedly crawling out of the door of the home when they noticed him, pulled him out of the burning building and carried him to safety. Medics airlifted him to the St. Louis area burn center at St. John’s Mercy Hospital for treatment of the serious burns that he suffered to his hands and lower body.  He was listed in critical condition.

Bystanders told authorities with the Mineral Area Drug Task Force and the Missouri State Fire Marshal’s Office they heard an explosion just before the fire erupted. Although neither the drug task force nor the fire marshal released an official statement while the case is under investigation, the man’s neighbors also told authorities the man was manufacturing methamphetamine when the explosion occurred.  Go figure!

A similar Christmas Eve case occurred in Geronimo, Okla.  When firefighters arrived on the scene at around 10 p.m., the mobile home was already engulfed in flames, and it took them almost two hours to contain the fire.  There were three men inside the home when the fire broke out, but luckily firefighters found all three men standing outside the burning home when they arrived on the scene.  Unfortunately, all that is left of the mobile home now is a pile of rubble.

Comanche County Sheriff’s deputies were called in after firefighters discovered drug paraphernalia that included methamphetamine and marijuana inside the trailer.  Although all three men were arrested on drug charges, investigators have not yet determined if the drugs contributed to the fire.  Geronimo Mayor Edward Mounts said that he hopes that this fire wasn’t ignited because of drug activity.   However, fires such as this as usually a result of a careless meth-manufacturing operation.

“Meth is a really bad problem,” Mounts said. “No matter how small it is, it’s a problem. I think it has gotten to be a bigger problem over the years, and we are just like any other town, unfortunately.”

The final case this week involved burns, but not a major fire.  In Lancaster, Ohio, a 33-year-old man said that he noticed a strange garbage bag in the garage of a home that he shared with an elderly relative in the 1200 block of Stonehouse Court on Sunday, December 22.  He told authorities that when he opened the bag and reached inside, he received serious burns from some of the chemicals contained within and subsequently drove himself to the hospital.  I wonder why he could not smell the chemicals!

After he went to the hospital, another one of his relatives came by the home and saw the bag sitting outside the garage.  He suspected that a meth lab was contained inside the garbage bag and called police.  I wonder what gave it away!  The Fairfield-Hocking Major Crimes Unit was called to the scene to clean up the chemicals and also went to the hospital to interview the man who received the chemical burns.  It is unclear to whom the meth lab belonged, and the investigation is ongoing.  There are no names in this report, but I am willing to bet that the 33-year old was making meth in his elderly relative’s garage.  I could be wrong, but …

Please remember, meth labs are nothing to take for granted.  Explosions, fires and burns go hand-in-hand with the meth-manufacturing process.  If you see something strange in your garage, along the roadside or in the woods, especially if you smell chemical fumes or see plastic bottles with strange residue inside or tubing sticking out, call the authorities immediately.  Even a discarded meth lab must be handled by appropriately-trained personnel.  I recently received such training, and believe me, the safe disposal of meth lab must be left to trained professionals.

I continue to welcome the readers to tell me about your own personal experiences with meth as well as your success stories.  I have learned more from people who use or have used meth than I have from all the medical books and papers on the subject that I have read over the years.  Please share your stories with me!  You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com.  I will never betray your confidence.

For more examples of Meth in the News, go to Fav Meth Heads of the Day: http://fav-meth-head-of-the-day.com/

December 20, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In past Meth in the News columns, I have warned the readers about the contamination that is often left behind following the manufacture of methamphetamine.   Law enforcement personnel are only required to remove the “lab” from the property.  They do not decontaminate the property – that is left up to the property owner.  This puts the public in danger due to the toxic contaminants that permeated the carpets, walls, drains and ventilation during the “cook” and remain long after the “lab” has been removed.  I thought that I would update the readers about some of the regulations on the books regarding methamphetamine labs in Louisiana.

Under “Civil code-ancillaries” (online: http://legis.la.gov/lss/lss.asp?folder=83), there is section RS 9:3198 (duties of the seller, http://legis.la.gov/lss/lss.asp?doc=181357).  Under part A.(2)(b), the statute reads, “Included with the property disclosure documents required by this Section shall be a statement of acknowledgment as to whether or not an illegal laboratory for the production or manufacturing of methamphetamine was in operation on the purchasing property.”  So it is the duty of the property owner to disclose whether or not there was ever a meth lab on the property.

Under RS 9:3198.1 (http://legis.la.gov/lss/lss.asp?doc=507390), the statutes read:

Duties of governmental entities; contaminated property

  1. Whenever a state or local law enforcement agency becomes aware that residential real property has been contaminated by its use as a clandestine methamphetamine drug lab, the agency shall report the contamination to the Department of Environmental Quality, hereinafter referred to as the “department”, and to the local sheriff’s office.
  2. The department shall maintain a listing of residential real property that has been reported as contaminated, and the list shall be made available to the public through a website.
  3. If property that is listed as contaminated on the department’s website is subsequently seized and sold at a sheriff’s sale, the sheriff shall provide notice to all bidders present at the time the sheriff’s sale is conducted.
  4. The department may promulgate rules and regulations in order to adopt standards for remediating properties contaminated by clandestine methamphetamine drug labs.
  5. Upon confirmation by the department that property has been properly remediated to its established standards, the department shall remove the property from the list required in Subsection B of this Section. The department shall provide written notification to the local sheriff and the property owner of record when the documentation shows that the property has been properly remediated.

That all sounds great.  But these statutes have absolutely NO TEETH!  Under this same statute, Section G, it reads, “Failure to comply with the provisions of this Section shall not create a cause of action against a governmental entity or the property owner, the owner’s agent, the mortgagee, or other person with an interest in the property.”  So if a property owner does not disclose that a meth lab had been on the property, it looks like nothing will happen.  I guess this statute just works by the honor system.

This frightens me – not because I am thinking of purchasing property, but because meth labs are also frequently found in motel rooms.  Experts in meth lab responding have told me that they have found evidence of meth labs in motel rooms they were renting.  How many rooms are already contaminated?  Will the next room I rent be the location of a former meth lab that was never reported or cleaned?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has specific recommendations as possible best practices for cleaning up a former meth lab.  In brief, some of these recommendations include: In contaminated areas, walls should be removed, ceiling tiles should be replaced, and ceiling fans should be discarded.  Floors should be removed and discarded. Carpets should be removed and discarded in a way that prevents reuse – don’t clean them. Carpet padding and flooring under carpet are also likely contaminated. Porous floors, such as those made of wood or cork, should be discarded. Consider also removing floors in high-traffic areas.  Porous kitchen counter tops should be discarded. Electrical outlet covers and wall switch plate covers should be replaced. Discard any dishes used in meth making. Discard any plastic bottles, nipples and baby utensils and dishes in a way to prevent reuse. Any baby toys that can fit in the mouth and any contaminated toys should be discarded in a way that prevents reuse. Stuffed animals and other porous toys should be discarded. Discard contaminated clothes. Destroy, and then discard upholstered furniture. Discard contaminated appliances, electronics and tools. Make them unusable so they can’t be salvaged. It may be more cost effective to demolish a mobile home, because they tend to have more porous surfaces.

Thus, the costs for cleaning a property where a meth lab was located can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.  In many states, the numbers of vacant and abandoned homes are growing dramatically due to meth-making contamination.  “It’s an unfunded mandate from the state,” said Mindy Waldron, administrator of the Fort Wayne Allen County Department of Health in Indiana. “And there are really no penalties if no one cleans up a house. It can just sit there and be a blight on the community.”

Obviously the EPA recommendations are not being followed, and it is not clear if there are any repercussions if a property owner does not report or clean a meth-contaminated property.  This has to be corrected now.

There was a time when lead was used in paint and asbestos was considered safe for insulation and other purposes.  When people became sick from lead paint, it was banned for sale in 1978.  Asbestos did not become illegal until 1989.  However, there are now strict nationwide regulations regarding the use of lead paint and asbestos as well as for the handling of renovations or demolitions of properties containing these substances.

It is time that teeth were put into the statutes regarding properties contaminated by meth or the toxic substances used to produce this insidious drug.  These toxins are no joke and are nothing to be taken lightly.  Just as property contaminated with lead paint or asbestos must be properly decontaminated, the same must hold true for meth.

I continue to welcome the readers to tell me about your own personal experiences with meth as well as your success stories.  I have learned more from people who use or have used meth than I have from all the medical books and papers on the subject that I have read over the years.  Please share your stories with me!  You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com.  I will never betray your confidence.

For more examples of Meth in the News, go to Fav Meth Heads of the Day: http://fav-meth-head-of-the-day.com/

December 13, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In many of my Meth in the News columns, I have warned the readers about the dangers of living in a home or apartment or renting a room in a motel where methamphetamine had been manufactured (cooked).  Many of the chemicals used to make meth can burn the skin, turn lung tissue to mush, blind or kill.  Other chemicals can explode or catch on fire.  And while the local Methamphetamine Response Team can safely dismantle and clear the lab, any residue from the “cook” is still in the dwelling.  The response team only removes the lab; they are not equipped to make the dwelling safe to inhabit.  That is the responsibility of the property owner.  It is frightening to consider how many motel rooms, apartments and even homes are still contaminated with the chemicals that had been used to make meth in the past.  This became all too real for three unsuspecting college students in November.

Francesca Weikert, Nikki Gemmell, and Paige Stevenson are sophomores at Western Washington University in Bellingham.  They were very happy to find an old, tan, paint-chipped two-story house to rent on East Myrtle Street, but that changed soon after they began living in the home.  They began experiencing health issues such as upper respiratory problems and mental fogginess while in the house, and this caused them to worry.  A friend told them that it was rumored that someone used to smoke meth in the house, but when they contacted the company that rented the home to them, All County Property Management, the company refused to test the home for contamination.  So the women contacted the Whatcom County Health Department to have the home tested for the presence of the drug.  To their dismay, the test revealed that the home’s walls were contaminated with more than 10 times the legal limit for methamphetamine toxicity in a home.  Ms. Weikert told reporters, “They didn’t want to have anything to do with it.” She went on, “They actually called another roommate who used to live there last year to call us and tell us that everything was OK and calm us down.”

“Our management wouldn’t help us out,” said Paige Stevenson. “They denied anything was wrong with the house, and [said] we should go about living in it. They didn’t want to get any tests done.”

The home was relatively easy to test using a swab test. “A piece of paper with a square cut out of the middle is placed on a wall and then swabbed with gauze and a tester fluid to get the sample”, said Jeff Hegedus, a supervisor at the Whatcom County Health Department.  The department then sends the gauze to a lab to be tested for methamphetamine.  A recent update on this story reported that the methamphetamine contamination levels were as high as 4.2 micrograms per 100 square centimeters in the home. The highest reading came from samples taken in a bathroom.

All County Property Management told the women they couldn’t believe the results they got back and told them to leave immediately according to Weikert.  “The day [we got the results] we had to move out,” Weikert said. “The second we found out there was meth, we got kicked out [by the property management], and we’re homeless now.”  The property was subsequently taken from All County Property Management and is still deemed unsuitable for living.  Unfortunately for the three students, their lawyers don’t believe that they have a strong enough case to get more than their rent back and compensation for personal damages, even though most of their symptoms subsided after they left the house.  However, Nikki Gemmell developed asthma while living in the house.

So what will happen?  When the health department’s test shows methamphetamine levels over the legal limit, the next step is a test by a licensed contractor.  Depending on secondary test results from the contractor, the next step is for the property owner to submit a decontamination plan to the health department for approval.  This would likely include washing and decontaminating the house, and in cases such as this one, removing certain parts of the house, including drywall and carpets.  And while there is usually no deadline for a decontamination plan, it is in the property owner’s best interest to act quickly because the house will remain listed unsuitable for occupancy until it retests with levels below the legal limit.

But that is only after the property is tested.  One can only imagine how many homes, apartments and motel rooms where meth was cooked or smoked have never been tested!  Meth cooks often rent a room for 3 or 4 days to use to cook their meth.  If you begin to feel lightheaded or nauseous after renting a room, move to a different room.  In fact I would suggest moving to a different motel.  Until there is a national clearinghouse for properties contaminated with meth you just have to ask yourself, “Do I feel lucky?”

I continue to welcome the readers to tell me about your own personal experiences with meth as well as your success stories.  I have learned more from people who use or have used meth than I have from all the medical books and papers on the subject that I have read over the years.  Please share your stories with me!  You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com.  I will never betray your confidence.

For more examples of Meth in the News, go to Fav Meth Heads of the Day: http://fav-meth-head-of-the-day.com/

December 6, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

I often write in this column about the dangers associated with the manufacture and use of methamphetamine.  But Tulsa, Oklahoma has experienced a significant increase in meth-related violence over the past 12 months that really makes one question what could be going on with this insidious drug.  In particular, Tulsa has experienced TWO quadruple murders in 2013 alone.

The murder of four adults in a single incident often reaches the national news.  This has now happened twice in the span of a single year, but the news of these atrocities has not reached far beyond Oklahoma.  And what makes these cases even more disturbing is that all four victims from the murders last January were women, and three of the four victims from the most recent case were also women, ranging in age from 23 to 55 years old.  Who can remember the last time three or more women were murdered in a single crime?  Now at least seven women have been shot and killed in Tulsa in two crimes committed within a single year!  When was the last time that something like this ever happened?

What was the common thread in both crimes (and in several other homicides in Tulsa this past year)?  You guessed it – methamphetamine.   Killed last January were twin sisters Rebeika Powell, and Kayetie Melchor, both 23. The sisters were each shot twice. The other victims were 33-year-old Misty Nunley, and 55-year-old Julie Jackson; each of them was shot once. All four were also found with their hands tied behind their backs using “bedding material”, and in one case a pink scarf, according to the case reports.  A toddler was also found in the home, unharmed. A toxicology report for the four women revealed methamphetamine and amphetamine in each of their systems.  It was believed that the women were also selling methamphetamine out of the apartment.

In the more recent crime, Charlie Dean Dake Jr., 34, Melissa Lynn Dake, 35, Glenda Ellen Harper, 54, and Tammy Brunson, 46, were found fatally shot at a residence in Tulsa last month.  Also inside the home were several young children and one person at least 80 years old.

They were in a different part of the house and were not hurt. Although detectives have not yet identified any suspects in the killings, they “are working on the premise” that meth was involved, Det. Sgt. Dave Walker told reporters. “That’s the only thing we can think of that they were involved in that would lead to this carnage,” he said.  There was a lone survivor in this case, but the unidentified victim has been less than cooperative in helping solve the murders, which has frustrated Tulsa police. “I’m just a little frustrated by the underworld of the methamphetamine dealers, or users, I mean I know they’re liars and cheats and thieves but now we’ve got people dropping and dying,” said Walker.  “Something’s going on. There is an increase in violence at this moment,” he said, adding that violence may be the way meth suppliers are “taking care of” unpaid debts and turf disputes.

In addition to police finding meth addicts living in squalor, users are “willing to be beaten; they’re willing to move from place to place; they’re willing to give up their kids” for the drug, which is creating the next generation of addicts, Cpl. Mike Griffin told reporters.

“I’m not convinced we’re ever going to clean this up,” Walker said, meaning the meth problem.  He may feel this frustration because violence surrounding the manufacture and use of methamphetamine is rising, despite a decline in the number of meth labs found. The number of meth labs recovered by Tulsa police is down more than 65 percent from two years ago. The record number of labs found in Tulsa was 429 in 2011, compared to 295 in 2012 and 143 thus far in 2013. Police credit the decline on legislation passed in July 2012 to restrict access to pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in producing meth.  “The more you control pseudoephedrine, the (fewer) meth labs you’re going to have,” Griffin said. “If you (revert) pseudoephedrine back to a Schedule III drug like it once was, they would go down even further, so it’s really simple.” But Griffin conceded that the decreased number of meth labs does not indicate any reduction in meth use – or meth-related violence, as the more recent case indicates.

What’s the answer?  I don’t know.  But I will continue to spread the word about the dangers of meth.  Perhaps if enough people realize the effects that methamphetamine can produce, its popularity will decline, but I for one am not holding my breath.  I have seen what meth can do, and I just cannot be silent.

I continue to welcome the readers to tell me about your own personal experiences with meth as well as your success stories.  I have learned more from people who use or have used meth than I have from all the medical books and papers on the subject that I have read over the years.  Please share your stories with me!  You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com.  I will never betray your confidence.

For more examples of Meth in the News, go to Fav Meth Heads of the Day: http://fav-meth-head-of-the-day.com/

November 29, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

There were several stories about methamphetamine in the last week or so that I thought would be appreciated by the readers of this meth in the news column.  The first story comes to us from Idaho (www.ktvb.com). While meth has been a significant problem in the Pacific Northwest for over 30 years, the sources of meth have evolved over time.  Early on, as meth became more and more popular, the home meth lab also began to appear as people discovered that they could create the drug in their own homes using household chemicals.  This is no longer the case.  Laws were enacted to limit the availability of over-the-counter products containing an irreplaceable precursor for meth, pseudoephedrine.  Now meth has become a major item for the Mexican drug cartels.

Gina Heideman is the Executive Director of the Idaho Meth Project.  She told reporters, “When the Idaho Meth Project first started, one of the biggest issues in Idaho was home meth labs.”  However, the number of meth lab houses has been steadily dropping.  “Meth labs are down tremendously,” said Heideman. “In fact, Idaho had one of the lowest meth lab rates in the country last year, and this year we’re on track to have even less.”  She credits this decrease on the restrictions put on the sale of products containing pseudoephedrine.  “In every single state in the U.S. that has put pseudoephedrine behind the counter, they’ve seen a reduction in home meth labs in their states. I think that was one of the best decisions that we made,” said Heideman.

But while the number of home meth labs has dropped, the popularity of meth has not.  Much of the meth now comes from outside of the Unites States.  Wendy Olson is the U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho.  “A lot of it is increasingly pure and linked to Mexican cartel activity,” she said. “We’re a further link up the chain from the most active groups along the border.” In the past year, law enforcement personnel seized seven pounds of meth in Eagle, 12 pounds in Boise, and 52 pounds near Idaho Falls, just to name a few cases.  Clearly, these violent drug cartels have taken over the supply of meth in Idaho – and not just in Idaho; this is happening throughout the United States today.

But not all of the meth comes from Mexico.  Some meth “cooks” have devised ways to get around these new regulations.  This was recently realized in North Carolina last week when Narcotics Detectives from the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office and Boone Police Department initiated one of the largest methamphetamine cleanup responses, if not the largest, in North Carolina history (www.hcpress.com).  Out in a wooded area off a state highway, detectives discovered a small wooden shack that contained multiple “Shake & Bake” meth labs.  After a full day of searching the property, detectives located and seized a total of 181 “Shake & Bake Meth Labs” and 289 packages of pseudoephedrine. Approximately 200 pounds of hazardous waste and contaminants were also taken from the site location. The total amount of pseudoephedrine seized was enough to produce almost one pound of methamphetamine.  The estimated street value of one pound of meth is approximately $50,000. Obviously someone figured out a way to procure a significant supply of precursor product. Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman told reporters, “Methamphetamine is a cancer eating away at our state. Meth impacts families, communities and the environment and it’s crucial we bring this problem under control.”  I could not have said it better.

But not all meth in the United States comes from homegrown “Shake & Bake” meth labs or the Mexican drug cartels.  In a surprising announcement last week, five men were charged by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) with conspiracy to smuggle 100 kilograms of North Korean meth into the United States! The men were arrested in a DEA sting in Thailand.  Authorities say that meth production and trafficking by North Korea present “an emerging threat that’s been illuminated by the case in federal court in Manhattan against a tattooed motorcycle gang leader, two British nationals named Stammers and Shackels, and two other expatriates also operating in Southeast Asia.”  The men were captured in a sting operation involving undercover DEA operatives who posed as buyers in a fake plot to distribute meth in New York City. This caught me by surprise as I was, to this point, unaware of a drug trafficking problem from North Korea.  However, experts claim that meth has joined a list of illicit products that feed a shadow economy to support North Korea’s ruling elite. Sung-Yoon Lee, a Professor of Korean studies at Tufts University told reporters, “Because of its extreme poverty and isolation, North Korea has long relied on a shadow economy to support its ruling elite. It makes sense that meth has joined a list of illicit goods that in the past included knock-off major brand cigarettes and counterfeit US currency.” The drug “is easy to produce and has a high profit margin,” he said. “It would be surprising if the state turned away from this opportunity.” Notably, the meth seized in this sting was more than 99 percent pure.

So while meth itself can harm the user as well as anyone located nearby when the drug is “cooked” or smoked, and the user can suffer from paranoia and violent, unpredictable behaviors, please take a look at who profits from the production and sale of meth.  Fortunes go to the Mexican drug cartels, and some sources claim that some of the profits from cartel activity is funneled back to Hezbollah and other potential terroristic organizations.  North Korea is not a friend of the United States either!  So at least a portion of the obscene profits that are made from the production and sale of meth can be traced back to people who may sponsor terroristic acts against our country.  Sometimes I feel as though meth is trafficked by people who do not agree with the American way of life in an attempt to defeat our country by a 1000 cuts – and methamphetamine is the knife.

I continue to welcome the readers to tell me about your own personal experiences with meth as well as your success stories.  I have learned more from people who use or have used meth than I have from all the medical books and papers on the subject that I have read over the years.  Please share your stories with me!  You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com.  I will never betray your confidence.

For more examples of Meth in the News, go to Fav Meth Heads of the Day: http://fav-meth-head-of-the-day.com/

November 22, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In several of my past Meth in the News columns, I described to the readers how the methamphetamine-cooking process is extremely dangerous.  Many of the chemicals used to make meth are corrosive, volatile and explosive by themselves, and when mixed together they can become even more dangerous.  Accordingly, burn victims are popping up more and more in hospitals across the country as a result of mishaps that occurred when the unlucky cook was attempting to manufacture meth.  These meth-related burns are more difficult to treat than burns resulting from other causes, and this has produced a significant strain on burn units, especially those in states with the most active meth production activities.  This week I am going to describe several individual cases from last week where a methamphetamine “lab” exploded or caught on fire.

In the first case from Saranac, NY, the Saranac Fire Department had to call the New York State Police Troop B Narcotics Enforcement Unit and Contaminated Crime Scene Emergency Response Team when they were sent to a Wednesday night fire at a residence on Canning Road.  When they arrived on the scene, investigators discovered materials used in the production of methamphetamine.  Although it was not clear at the time if that contributed to the fire, the man living there, Bradley A. Rascoe, 27, was charged with third-degree unlawful manufacture of methamphetamine, a felony.  In a news release, a state police spokesperson based at the Ray Brook headquarters told reporters, “Although the fire does not appear to have been caused by the manufacturing of methamphetamine, many of the materials used for methamphetamine manufacturing were discovered while authorities responded to the fire.”  Rascoe was arraigned and remanded to the Clinton County Jail in lieu of $2,500 bail or $5,000 bond.  The house, a double-wide mobile home, was completely destroyed in the fire.  Who knows what might have caused this fire?  Fumes from previous meth production attempts could have penetrated walls, accumulating there until sufficient flammable concentrations of the vapors had collected to produce an explosion or fire, destroying evidence associating such fumes with the latest fire.  My guess is that meth production played a major role!

The next case was more frightening to me.  In Grafton, WV, an entire Thayer Street apartment building was destroyed in a fire that authorities allege resulted from an attempt to make meth. Grafton Police Chief Robert Beltner told reporters that four people were arrested on methamphetamine-related charges in connection with the fire, including Amy Poling, Michael Anderson, and Daniel Palmer, of Grafton, and Dana Broyles, Summersville.  Chief Beltner believes that Broyles was “cooking” meth in an apartment occupied by Poling.  There were no reports of any injuries in connection with this fire, but imagine the number of innocent families that were put at risk due to the manufacture of meth!  In fact, in a separate story out of St. Peters, MO, an entire family had to move from their home in a duplex when an active meth lab was discovered by police on the other side of the duplex.  In this case, Gordon Tomlinson and his family had to move when a drug task force found the lab.  Mr. Tomlinson told reporters that this was not covered by his insurance, and he is not sure where his family will live now.  So his family is out of a home and without their possessions – and this lab did not even produce a fire or explosion.  Just the possibility is enough to force people to leave their homes.  I cannot stress how important it is to be aware of what is going on around you. It is especially important to be aware of new or unusual chemical smells.  While the source of the odor could very well be innocent, it is better to be safe than sorry.

There was a fire in another apartment building early this last Wednesday.  In this case, emergency crews were called to an apartment building fire along Patrician Place in Danville, KY.  They were able to put out the fire within 30 minutes, but the damage had already been done.  David Hunter lived in the apartment above the apartment where the fire broke out.  He told reporters that he was watching TV when he noticed an unusual smell, then, chaos. “Next thing I know in five minutes, the whole building went to rocking! Boom! Big bomb, you know,” Hunter said.  “I keep saying I watch the news all the time about people getting burned out of their place. I just never thought it would happen to me…and it happened to me.”  He escaped his apartment building and found two people from the downstairs apartment in need of help. “Skin was falling off and he ran back in there and grabbed the guy that was in the wheelchair, threw him out on the ground. He was smoking. It was a disaster, man,” Hunter said.  The two men, identified as Stephen Shepperson and Cameron Boling, were airlifted to the University of Kentucky Hospital where Shepperson was listed in critical condition. There was no information available for Boling. After investigators made their way inside the downstairs apartment, they found evidence of what may have caused the explosion, including a propane tank and some red dye, items that may have been part of a meth lab. Hunter said that he had been concerned that something like this could happen.  “I hope you all don’t blow us up. They ain’t paid me no mind, but I knew it was going to happen one day,” Hunter said.  Luckily, Hunter was not injured and only lost all of his possessions.  He had a good idea what might be going on downstairs, and it sounds like it was only a matter of time before something like this happened.

Now for something even scarier – at least to me.  Last Thursday, Ed Gashi was sent home early from his job at Pikes Creek Asphalt because it started raining.   As he was driving along Carverton Road in Kingston Township, PA, Mr. Gashi saw a black Chevrolet Equinox located directly in front of him “just burst into flames.”  This Good Samaritan quickly stopped his truck and helped two people out of the fiery wreck.  Jennifer Lynn Arnold was trying to get out of the driver’s side of the flaming sport utility vehicle with her hair and clothing on fire. Mr. Gashi hurried over and helped her extinguish the flames.  The passenger, Lee M. Marshall, was also on fire, and Mr. Gashi pulled him out of the smoke-filled vehicle and rolled him on the ground to extinguish the fire.  “He was burned pretty severely,” Gashi said. Marshall, Arnold and Gashi were all taken to area hospitals for treatment.  Police later determined that Marshall had been mixing Drano and lighter fluid to cook meth when the container blew up.  Imagine the potential carnage that might have happened if they had been driving at speed on a major highway at the time.

The reports in this week’s Meth in the News are not isolated incidents.  Meth-induced fires in moving vehicles as well as in structures are reported almost every day, usually when meth is being produced.  But explosions and fires have also occurred in places where it had been weeks since a meth lab was active.  As I cautioned above, it is very important to be aware of your surroundings.

I have been asking the readers to tell me about your own personal experiences with meth.  I would also welcome success stories – people who have been able to beat meth and no longer have meth controlling their lives.  I have learned more from people who use or have used meth than I have from all the medical books and papers on the subject that I have read over the years.  Please share your stories with me!  You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com.  I will never betray your confidence.

For more examples of Meth in the News, go to Fav Meth Heads of the Day: http://fav-meth-head-of-the-day.com/

November 15, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

I saw a variety of news reports from across the United States this week that I decided to share with the readers in Meth in the News.  They are all difficult to believe for one reason or another, but almost nothing surprises me anymore when it comes to methamphetamine.

The first report is from Arvada, Colo., near Denver.  In this horrific case, 39-year-old Robert Felix Gonzales used Craigslist to offer sex with an underage girl for cash and methamphetamine.  The girl was an apparent runaway who had a “relationship” with Gonzales from between 2011 and 2013, when she was only 14-16 years old.  Gonzales provided alcohol and drugs to the teenage girl, and they had a physical relationship.  The girl told authorities that she thought that the two were in love, but over time their relationship changed. That’s when “Gonzales began staying in motels and drinking and then Gonzales was having other men join their sexual encounters.” He “advertised” for sex with the minor girl using naked pictures of her, and she felt pressured to do whatever Gonzales told her to do. She told the officers that Gonzales preferred using Motel 6’s but also used hotels called, “No Tell Motel,” “Triangle T,” and a “Howard Johnson.”  She also said that she and Gonzales had sex every time that they went to a motel.  In addition, Gonzales forced her to have sex with over 30 men, most of whom were drug dealers, and Gonzales would barter sex with the girl for methamphetamine and then use the drug.  She said that Gonzales also participated in the sex acts and that he would assault her if she refused to comply to his wishes.  On July 22, 2013, the girl decided that she did not want to live like that anymore and jumped from Gonzales’ moving Mitsubishi in Denver.  Gonzales was subsequently arrested and charged with trafficking in children, pandering of a child, two counts of a pattern of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, soliciting for child prostitution, procurement of a child, keeping a place of child prostitution, pimping of a child, inducement of child prostitution, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, harboring a minor and four counts of committing a violent crime.  I wonder if he will be charged for the meth!

In another tragic case, a 2-year-old girl died from dehydration and malnourishment as she was neglected for several days while her mother was high on methamphetamine. Brandy Lee Rose Devine, of Turlock, Calif, was found guilty earlier this week of second-degree murder in the death of her own daughter, Stephanie Torres, due to neglect.  Devine told authorities that she smoked meth with an unknown man in her home while Stephanie remained alone in her closed room for an entire weekend without giving her food, water or medication. Devine told the detective that she was feeling “too ill” to check on Stephanie and assumed that her little 6-year-old daughter would feed and look in on her younger sister.  Devine said that even though she got up to use the bathroom several times that weekend, she never stopped to check on her daughter.  As Deputy District Attorney John R. Mayne told the jury, “This is a child who starved to death.”  He said that the little girl had been dead a day or two before she was discovered.  “She put that child in the room to die,” Mayne argued. “She just didn’t care, or she executed her child.” Devine was also found guilty of committing willful cruelty to a child with an enhancement of inflicting great bodily injury on the child, along with a misdemeanor charge of using methamphetamine.

The next report comes from Groveton, Texas.  In this case, Terrance Edwards, 33, dunked a little 3-year-old boy into a bathtub full of scalding water for soiling his diaper, causing first- and second-degree burns to his buttocks and genitals.  The boy’s mother, Kendra Murphy, 25, told police that she fell asleep on the couch because she and Edwards had been smoking meth, and the kids were up eating candy Saturday night. She said that Edwards turned on the bath water because the 3-year-old boy had “pooped in his diaper.” She heard a struggle in the bathroom, but she did not get up to investigate.  In fact, Murphy did not report the child’s injuries until a neighbor noticed the child walking strangely and called 911 at approximately 3 p.m. on Sunday.  The boy was taken to the Shriner’s Burn Center in Galveston for treatment of his burns. In addition to the burns from the hot water, the little boy also had a lacerated liver, internal bleeding, and cigarette burns on his body.  Authorities also determined that his 2-year-old sister was involved as well since the little girl had bruises between her legs and all over her body.  The Groveton Police Department arrested Terrance Edwards, 33, for injury to a child, which is a first-degree felony. Kendra Murphy, 25, was charged with failure to report a felony, which is a Class A misdemeanor.  The report said that the matter was still under investigation, and more criminal charges could be pending.  I certainly hope so!

In North Carolina, a Wake County Sheriff’s Deputy stopped Russell Carmona and his passenger, Felipe Gomez, on eastbound U.S. 264 at approximately 5 p.m. on Nov. 4, 2013 for a window tint violation.  The deputy noticed the smell of marijuana from inside Carmona’s 2010 Dodge Charger, and a K-9 team was called to check the car.  The dog alerted to drugs in the car, and Deputies found 47 1-liter plastic soda bottles in the back seat.  The bottles were filled with what tests showed was methamphetamine.  The bottles weighed approximately 81 pounds with an estimated street value of $10 million.  Carmona and Gomez were charged with two counts of trafficking in methamphetamine and with conspiring to traffic in the drug.  Carmona, 20, was charged with maintaining a vehicle for keeping and selling drugs.  Gomez, 33, was also charged with resisting an officer. Gomez attempted to run from the deputies and suffered non-life threatening injuries by the time officials got him into custody.  Gomez was being held for federal immigration authorities after a computer check indicated he twice entered the U.S. illegally. Carmona was being held in lieu of $500,000 bail, and Gomez was being held in lieu of $1 million bail.

I have been asking the readers to tell me about your own personal experiences with meth.  I would also welcome success stories – people who have been able to beat meth and no longer have meth controlling their lives.  My columns are always filled with the horrors of meth.  If that prevents one person from trying meth, then this has been worth it.  But I know that there are people who have stopped using meth – I have met some of them.  So if you have broken free of meth, I would love to hear your story.  I would like to repeat it in this column, but will never identify you unless you gave permission.  I want to give hope to the people who may think that they have no hope, and success stories from real people will do just that. And finally, I have learned more people who use or have used meth than I have from all the medical books and papers on the subject that I have read over the years.  Please share your stories with me!  You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com.  I will never betray your confidence.

For more examples of Meth in the News, go to Fav Meth Heads of the Day: http://fav-meth-head-of-the-day.com/

November 8, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

I saw a variety of news reports from across the United States this week that I decided to share with the readers in Meth in the News.  They are all difficult to believe for one reason or another, but almost nothing surprises me anymore when it comes to methamphetamine.

The first report is from Arvada, Colo., near Denver.  In this horrific case, 39-year-old Robert Felix Gonzales used Craigslist to offer sex with an underage girl for cash and methamphetamine.  The girl was an apparent runaway who had a “relationship” with Gonzales from between 2011 and 2013, when she was only 14-16 years old.  Gonzales provided alcohol and drugs to the teenage girl, and they had a physical relationship.  The girl told authorities that she thought that the two were in love, but over time their relationship changed. That’s when “Gonzales began staying in motels and drinking and then Gonzales was having other men join their sexual encounters.” He “advertised” for sex with the minor girl using naked pictures of her, and she felt pressured to do whatever Gonzales told her to do. She told the officers that Gonzales preferred using Motel 6’s but also used hotels called, “No Tell Motel,” “Triangle T,” and a “Howard Johnson.”  She also said that she and Gonzales had sex every time that they went to a motel.  In addition, Gonzales forced her to have sex with over 30 men, most of whom were drug dealers, and Gonzales would barter sex with the girl for methamphetamine and then use the drug.  She said that Gonzales also participated in the sex acts and that he would assault her if she refused to comply to his wishes.  On July 22, 2013, the girl decided that she did not want to live like that anymore and jumped from Gonzales’ moving Mitsubishi in Denver.  Gonzales was subsequently arrested and charged with trafficking in children, pandering of a child, two counts of a pattern of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, soliciting for child prostitution, procurement of a child, keeping a place of child prostitution, pimping of a child, inducement of child prostitution, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, harboring a minor and four counts of committing a violent crime.  I wonder if he will be charged for the meth!

In another tragic case, a 2-year-old girl died from dehydration and malnourishment as she was neglected for several days while her mother was high on methamphetamine. Brandy Lee Rose Devine, of Turlock, Calif, was found guilty earlier this week of second-degree murder in the death of her own daughter, Stephanie Torres, due to neglect.  Devine told authorities that she smoked meth with an unknown man in her home while Stephanie remained alone in her closed room for an entire weekend without giving her food, water or medication. Devine told the detective that she was feeling “too ill” to check on Stephanie and assumed that her little 6-year-old daughter would feed and look in on her younger sister.  Devine said that even though she got up to use the bathroom several times that weekend, she never stopped to check on her daughter.  As Deputy District Attorney John R. Mayne told the jury, “This is a child who starved to death.”  He said that the little girl had been dead a day or two before she was discovered.  “She put that child in the room to die,” Mayne argued. “She just didn’t care, or she executed her child.” Devine was also found guilty of committing willful cruelty to a child with an enhancement of inflicting great bodily injury on the child, along with a misdemeanor charge of using methamphetamine.

The next report comes from Groveton, Texas.  In this case, Terrance Edwards, 33, dunked a little 3-year-old boy into a bathtub full of scalding water for soiling his diaper, causing first- and second-degree burns to his buttocks and genitals.  The boy’s mother, Kendra Murphy, 25, told police that she fell asleep on the couch because she and Edwards had been smoking meth, and the kids were up eating candy Saturday night. She said that Edwards turned on the bath water because the 3-year-old boy had “pooped in his diaper.” She heard a struggle in the bathroom, but she did not get up to investigate.  In fact, Murphy did not report the child’s injuries until a neighbor noticed the child walking strangely and called 911 at approximately 3 p.m. on Sunday.  The boy was taken to the Shriner’s Burn Center in Galveston for treatment of his burns. In addition to the burns from the hot water, the little boy also had a lacerated liver, internal bleeding, and cigarette burns on his body.  Authorities also determined that his 2-year-old sister was involved as well since the little girl had bruises between her legs and all over her body.  The Groveton Police Department arrested Terrance Edwards, 33, for injury to a child, which is a first-degree felony. Kendra Murphy, 25, was charged with failure to report a felony, which is a Class A misdemeanor.  The report said that the matter was still under investigation, and more criminal charges could be pending.  I certainly hope so!

In North Carolina, a Wake County Sheriff’s Deputy stopped Russell Carmona and his passenger, Felipe Gomez, on eastbound U.S. 264 at approximately 5 p.m. on Nov. 4, 2013 for a window tint violation.  The deputy noticed the smell of marijuana from inside Carmona’s 2010 Dodge Charger, and a K-9 team was called to check the car.  The dog alerted to drugs in the car, and Deputies found 47 1-liter plastic soda bottles in the back seat.  The bottles were filled with what tests showed was methamphetamine.  The bottles weighed approximately 81 pounds with an estimated street value of $10 million.  Carmona and Gomez were charged with two counts of trafficking in methamphetamine and with conspiring to traffic in the drug.  Carmona, 20, was charged with maintaining a vehicle for keeping and selling drugs.  Gomez, 33, was also charged with resisting an officer. Gomez attempted to run from the deputies and suffered non-life threatening injuries by the time officials got him into custody.  Gomez was being held for federal immigration authorities after a computer check indicated he twice entered the U.S. illegally. Carmona was being held in lieu of $500,000 bail, and Gomez was being held in lieu of $1 million bail.

I have been asking the readers to tell me about your own personal experiences with meth.  I would also welcome success stories – people who have been able to beat meth and no longer have meth controlling their lives.  My columns are always filled with the horrors of meth.  If that prevents one person from trying meth, then this has been worth it.  But I know that there are people who have stopped using meth – I have met some of them.  So if you have broken free of meth, I would love to hear your story.  I would like to repeat it in this column, but will never identify you unless you gave permission.  I want to give hope to the people who may think that they have no hope, and success stories from real people will do just that. And finally, I have learned more people who use or have used meth than I have from all the medical books and papers on the subject that I have read over the years.  Please share your stories with me!  You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com.  I will never betray your confidence.

For more examples of Meth in the News, go to Fav Meth Heads of the Day: http://fmhotd.wordpress.com/

November 1, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

The results of a new study conducted by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) were released in late October, 2013 (scoopsandiego.com).  The report suggested a number of trends that may hold true for other parts of the United States, including the Ark-La-Tex, which is why I decided to review this study in this weeks’ Meth in the News column.

SANDAG personnel have been conducting interviews with adult and juvenile arrestees regarding their drug use and other risky behaviors since 1987 as part of the San Diego Substance Abuse Monitoring (SAM) project.  Information from this project “provides useful, objective indicators regarding methamphetamine use trends over time, as well as other information regarding treatment access, distribution, and other risky behaviors of concern.”

The first thing that caught my eye about this study was the finding that more than half (53 percent of adult male and a whopping 60 percent of adult female) of the people arrested in San Diego County in 2012 reported ever having tried meth.  More empirical urinalysis results showed that 47 percent of adult female and 31 percent of adult male arrestees actually tested positive for meth when they were arrested in 2012, which compared to 39 percent and 26 percent, respectively, in 2011.  These data indicate that meth use by arrestees is on the upswing, with meth use among at-risk groups rising back to levels not seen since 2006. And interestingly, meth has consistently ranked as the second most commonly used illicit drug among arrestees, after marijuana, for several years now in San Diego County.  I wonder how these data compare to arrestees in the Ark-La-Tex.   My first guess is that we are also seeing an increase in meth use in our community.

Dr. Cynthia Burke, SANDAG Director of Criminal Justice Research said “Despite exemplary, collaborative efforts such as the Methamphetamine Strike Force, meth use remains a chronic problem in our region. While some progress has been made, law enforcement agencies, emergency rooms, and public drug treatment programs continue to have to pour valuable resources into tackling the problem.”  This is seen time and time again across the United States as the meth epidemic continues to grip America.  Dr. Burke went on, “Meth use is often an underlying factor in family violence, child abuse and neglect, work problems, and high-risk behaviors, such as driving under the influence.”  I have also reported about these problems many times in this column in the past.

The results of the SANDAG study reflect other trends in San Diego County.  According to the county Medical Examiner’s Office, the number of unintentional deaths associated with meth use also jumped 16 percent between 2011 and 2012 (from 122 to 142), and meth-related emergency room admissions went up by nearly 13 percent between 2010 and 2011 (from 3,412 to 3,846). Overall, 32 percent of local substance abuse treatment admissions in 2012 reported meth as the primary drug of choice.

The typical meth-using arrestee has been using the drug for about 13 years on average – usually smoking it, but sometimes snorting or injecting it about three times a day, five days in a row.

About one-third (34 percent) of the arrestees reported that they were also involved in the distribution of meth in the past year, meaning that they had either sold meth or acted as a middleman.  Of those, 60 percent reported that they were still involved in the distribution of meth, and that they had been for an average of 4.5 years.  They said they had sold to an average of 5 people in the past week and that they had made $200 in the past 30 days. When asked if they thought that the demand for the drug had increased, 58 percent said that they believed that it had, which was an increase from 52 percent in 2011.

As I have repeatedly reported in this column in the past, meth can have a number of significant negative side effects for those who use it. In the SANDAG study, the four most common complaints included sleeplessness (81 percent), weight loss (65 percent), legal problems (63 percent), and family problems (61 percent).  As an aside, since these were arrestees, it was curious to me why legal problems were not reported as a problem for everyone.  At least a third of the responders also reported financial problems, dental problems, work problems, and hallucinations.  Interestingly, male arrestees were significantly more likely to report weight loss, sleeplessness, and paranoia than female arrestees.  On the other hand, females reported having skin problems more often than males.  These are all symptoms commonly reported by meth users.

The arrestees were also asked if they had engaged in any sexual practices while using meth that might increase their risk for contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Overall, 83 percent of the arrestees who had sex in the last six months reported they had engaged in sex while high at least once during that time. In addition, about one in five said they engaged in sexual practices while high on meth that they would not normally do, and 21 percent said they had been somewhat worried that their behavior may be putting them at risk for getting HIV or a STD.  These numbers are not especially surprising since meth use is almost always associated with sex.

The SANDAG report also compared meth users to people who did not use any illegal drugs or who used different drugs.  Specifically, meth users were more likely than users of other drugs to: 1) be female, White, currently unemployed, and homeless at some point in their life; 2) have tried other illicit drugs in the past; have prior justice system contact and to be arrested for a drug offense; and 3) have gone to work while under the influence, and have driven under the influence.

The bottom line from the SANDAG report is that meth use continues to increase.  Furthermore, as I have repeatedly reported, meth appears to be a significant problem for women, more so than for most other drugs.

I am still very interested to hear about your own personal experiences with meth.  I have learned more from talking to people who use or have used meth than I have from all the medical books and papers on the subject that I have read over the years.  You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com.  I will never betray your confidence.

For more examples of Meth in the News, go to Fav Meth Heads of the Day: http://fmhotd.wordpress.com/

October 25, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

I have discussed the problems associated with cooking meth in this Meth in the News column in the past.  However, KTVB in Boise, Idaho ran an online article this week on www.ktvb.com regarding methamphetamine-contaminated homes in Boise and surrounding areas.  The story highlighted the fact that despite “The Clandestine Drug Laboratory Cleanup Act” that was passed in Idaho in 2005, property owners and renters are not being notified in a timely manner according to the law.  So I saw this as an ideal opportunity to revisit this problem.

The “one-pot” or “shake & bake” procedures for cooking meth use a variety of caustic, explosive and dangerous chemicals to convert pseudoephedrine into methamphetamine.  Some of the chemicals often found in meth labs include: Drano, Comet, paint thinner, iodine, matches, pseudoephedrine, antifreeze, lighter fluid and acid.  Most of these ingredients have hazardous warning labels on their own, and when mixed together can be much more dangerous and volatile.  That is why the crews called in to clean these labs have to wear extensive hazmat suits and breathing masks.  That is why Walter White always wore a hazmat suit to cook meth in a more traditional meth lab in Breaking Bad.  These chemicals can be deadly!

Officials with the Idaho State Police told reporters that the cost of removing the bulk of these chemicals can run from $800-$8,000 per property, depending on the extent of the exposure.  Typically, when these labs are “cleaned” the officers basically just remove the chemicals from the house.  They do not clean the property after the chemicals are removed.  However, if the property is left as is, hazardous chemicals will remain long after the officers have left.  The police are not responsible for cleaning the property; that responsibility rests on the homeowner.  But the chemicals get into the air when meth is cooked and when it is smoked.  These chemicals can get into carpets and curtains and permeate into walls and insulation.

To properly decontaminate a property, the owner must remove all but trace amounts of meth-making chemicals. Things that soak in chemicals, like carpet, have to be thrown out. The average cost of cleanup is estimated to be around $5,000, and the cost of testing by a qualified industrial hygienist is around $4,000.  It depends on the extent of the exposure.  Sometimes property owners have to rip up the carpets. Sometimes they have to take the drywall out. Sometimes they have to take all of the appliances out. It varies from lab to lab.  Once cleaned according to state standards, an industrial hygienist will come in and collect wipe samples to send to a certified lab.

Sometimes a home is not cleaned, either because the police did not find the lab, or there was meth use, but no lab.  In this case, how is a potential property owner or renter to know whether or not there are dangerous chemicals lurking on the floor and in the walls of a property?

Exposure to the chemicals found in homes where meth was cooked or smoked can produce a variety of symptoms. In addition, the elderly, very young, and those with pre-existing conditions can have worse reactions.  Many of these volatile chemicals can produce significant problems when exposed to the skin or inhaled.  Hydrochloric acid and anhydrous ammonia, chemicals used to cook meth, can produce significant burns and irritation on the skin, and if they are inhaled they can significantly damage the lungs. Sometimes the emergence of allergies or disease symptoms can lead back to meth as described below.

Helen Leeper moved into a duplex in Boise in 2012.  Ms. Leeper was already dealing with the auto-immune disease lupus, and her health took a turn for the worse once she moved into the home.  “When I got in there, after the second week, I had hives,” said Helen Leeper. “My labs started getting weird, and I had shortness of breath, and I was dizzy.” Even her doctor could not determine why she was getting worse. Finally she received a clue from one of her neighbors.  “I had no idea what was going on. One day I was talking to the neighbors and they said, you know the people that lived in there used to do meth? And the bells went off,” Leeper said.

Leeper ordered a $50 kit to test her duplex for meth.  She used the kit to wipe down some of the walls in her apartment, then she put the wipes back in an envelope and sent them back to the lab.  She obtained an entire analysis for meth, and her results confirmed that there was meth where she lived.  Her lab results showed that her contamination was at a level 11 times higher than Idaho law would certify as “cleaned.”  Leeper told her landlord about the results she got, and about a month later, found a new place to live. She says her symptoms slowly decreased, thus confirming the link to meth.

However, the investigation conducted by KTVB revealed that even when a contaminated meth lab is found on a property, it often takes dozens or even hundreds of days to be placed on the contaminated homes list.  And since the new law went into full effect in 2005, police in Idaho busted meth labs on 58 properties that went on the list.  Only 14 property owners have gone through Idaho’s cleaning procedure. That means 44 are still sitting on the list and legally should be unoccupied.

KTVB checked out nine homes on the list.  Doors opened at four homes, proving that people were definitely living inside. Three properties had signs that people could be there, and one apartment still had the police hazardous material sticker on the door from the previous summer, but a neighbor still saw people living there.  Only two of the nine properties were clearly vacant.  Property owners say that the high costs associated with testing and cleaning the properties often prevent them from properly cleaning their property.

And remember, people have been caught cooking meth in motel rooms as well as in homes.  So the public should be aware of their surroundings.  Some people say that the odors associated with meth cooking are like a chemical smell, sometimes described as a cat urine smell type thing. If you smell a chemical smell or feel lightheaded and get headaches, it might be time to move to a different room or motel.

I don’t know what the answer to this problem will be.  Meth is being used and cooked in homes, apartments and hotel rooms all across the Ark-La-Tex.  They will have to be cleaned to be made safe, but the costs will be significant.  At this time, be aware and be safe out there!!

I am very interested to hear about your own personal experiences with meth.  I have learned more from talking to people who use or have used meth than I have from all the medical books and papers on the subject that I have read over the years.  You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com.  I will never betray your confidence.

October 18, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

The October 18th edition of San Angelo LIVE! (sanangelolive.com) contained an interesting report on the resurgence of the methamphetamine problem in San Angelo, Texas.  A number of important points were made, and while I have written about many of these before, they bear repeating in Meth in the News.

Authorities in San Angelo are seeing a significant rise in meth use after a slow but steady decline over the past several years, and they are asking the same questions that people in the Ark-La-Tex and elsewhere across the United States have been asking recently.  In particular, why is the use of methamphetamine increasing again?  Who is using meth?  Where is it coming from?

Lieutenant Fincher is the Division Commander of the San Angelo Police Department’s Intelligence Division and a narcotics detective.  He told reporters that San Angelo was in the grips of a serious meth epidemic in the mid 2000s that peaked in 2005.  Lt. Fincher said that the 350 meth-related arrests in 2005 were an all-time high in his 11 years on the job.  Over the next two years, the numbers of meth arrests began to diminish, falling to as few as 70-80 in the years from 2009-2011.  “The past two years it’s picked back up,” according to Lt. Fincher. “In 2012, we jumped up to 151 arrests. In 2013 year-to-date we’re at 162…I don’t know how the rest of the year is going to pan out. It’s going to be more than last year.”

Most people attribute the decline in meth use in the late 2000s to the government’s crackdown on over-the-counter medications containing pseudoephedrine, the major precursor used for manufacturing meth.  This made it more difficult to obtain enough precursor material for large scale “cooks” in the typical clandestine lab that would occupy an entire basement, shop or bedroom.  The Mexican “superlabs” picked up a lot of the slack.  As I reported last week, Homeland Security suggests that 80 percent of the meth seized in the United States comes from these superlabs.  The rest is made in much smaller “laboratories” – the “one-pot” or “shake & bake” labs contained in a plastic, two-liter soda bottle.  These “one-pot” labs require much less precursor material and can cheaply produce enough meth for personal use, with perhaps a little extra to sell, in a couple of hours.

Another change reported in San Angelo is that people who are using meth today come from all walks of life.  Years ago, meth was mainly a problem for the west coast and was used primarily by specific groups of people.  Today, everyone seems to be using it, and they are using it everywhere.  “It has no demographics, it has no financial restrictions on it, it has no racial restrictions, no male/female restrictions, it affects all walks of life,” said Lt. Fincher.  I have heard similar things in discussions I have had with people who use meth here in the Shreveport-Bossier City area.  People tell me that they had no idea that so many people were using meth until they started using it too.  Then they discovered that many people that they had known for years were also using meth, and for whatever reason they did not realize it until they started using meth too.  And as I have said repeatedly, I believe that the “official” estimates of meth use are significantly underreported.  Time will tell whether or not I am right.

But treatment centers are also reporting an increase in admission rates for meth-related addictions.  In San Angelo, Jerry Wheetley is a Counselor at the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council for the Concho Valley (ADACCV).  He told reporters, “For about the past three years, meth has been on the rise, at least here in our facility. On average, the ADACCV handles 36 patients at a time. Of those 36, 75 percent are meth addicts.”

Yet it is almost paradoxical that anyone would try meth these days with the amount of media attention that the drug has received over the past several years.  Almost everyone has heard of and seen “Faces of Meth” online, where the deterioration and aging of many meth users over a span of time has been documented, showing slack skin, gaunt figures and extreme tooth decay known as “meth mouth.”  But meth continues to increase in popularity due to the extreme euphoria and pleasure it can produce, which makes this insidious drug so addictive.  Lt. Fincher told reporters, “I know they know what it’ll do. To my knowledge, [there’s no casual user]. I’ve interviewed so many people involved in meth that say once you try it, you can become addicted from the first time.”

A final consideration associated with the meth epidemic is the link between meth users and other criminal activity.  “I can’t give you a percentage…I can tell you that it is directly related to the drug use market…we have a bad problem with drug addicts stealing stuff,” said Lt. Fincher.  Meth users are often behind home and auto burglaries, theft and shoplifting.  Meth users need money to support their addiction, and even though the cost of meth is relatively cheap compared to many other drugs, theft is a common means for addicts to support their habits. There are also reports of increased rates of sexually transmitted diseases in meth users, likely the result of needle-sharing and trading sex for drugs.

Will the use of meth continue to increase, and if so, how far?  At this point, I do not believe that anyone has the answer or a quick fix.  Awareness and education represent a good start, but I am afraid that we will have to deal with this epidemic for quite a while, and I am not sure how this “beast” might evolve next.

I am very interested to hear about your own personal experiences with meth.  I have learned more from talking to people who use or have used meth than I have from all the medical books and papers on the subject that I have read over the years.  You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com.  I will never betray your confidence.

And as always, be safe out there!

October 11, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In past Meth in the News columns, I have repeatedly reminded the readers about the relationship between the Mexican Drug Cartels and the methamphetamine epidemic that the United States is currently experiencing.  And while many meth users “cook” their own meth using the “one-pot” or “shake & bake” methods, Joe Garcia, Deputy Special Agent in Charge for ICE Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego recently told reporters that “(today) more than 80 percent of the meth seized in the U.S. is made in Mexico. And that’s despite Mexico’s own attempts to curb its production.”  During the week of October 7, there were several reports that further documented the major influence that the Mexican Drug cartels exert on the meth trade in the United States today.

In a story out of San Diego, kuow.org reported that methamphetamine seizures at San Diego’s ports of entry have risen by more than 300 percent since 2008, more so than any other drug.  Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents at the San Ysidro Port of Entry suggest that more than 70 percent of methamphetamine illegally trafficked into the U.S. passes through U.S.-Mexico border crossings in the San Diego area.  In the past, biker gangs controlled the production and distribution of meth while Mexico simply provided the precursors.  In fact, San Diego became known as the meth capital of the country in the 1990s. This rampant meth use led to several high profile crimes, including the man who hijacked a tank and drove it down the highway and the couple who scalded their four-year-old niece to death in a bathtub.  Such meth-induced damage resulted in a crackdown on domestic meth production.  However, with continued demand organized crime realized a tremendous opportunity.  Mexican Drug cartels, especially the Sinaloa cartel, soon determined that it was more profitable to control both the production and distribution of this lucrative but insidious drug than to be the middleman simply supplying the precursors while others made all the profits.

In Fort Meade, Florida, a methamphetamine distribution ring was recently broken up after detectives with the Central Florida High Intensity Drug Area (HIDTA) task force received a hot tip. According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, detectives made several undercover purchases of the drug before intercepting a package intended for Gabriel Zamarripa, 47, that contained more than 4 pounds of meth. On September 30, the task force seized about 15 pounds of the drug and more than $5,500 in cash from Zamarripa’s house.  Detectives soon learned that the Zamarripa drug trafficking organization had ties to the Gulf cartel, one of the more violent drug cartels in North America and Mexico.  Six individuals were arrested on a variety of charges including the possession and trafficking of methamphetamine.

In Utah, the Davis Metro Narcotics Unit recently received a tip regarding a drug cell working out of Park City.  This led to a three-month undercover investigation involving the DEA Metro Narcotics Task Force, Davis Metro Narcotics Strike Force, Summit County Sheriff’s Office and Park City Police Department.  As part of this investigation, 17 pounds of meth were discovered with a street value of approximately $170,000.  $17,000 cash and an SUV were also seized.  Summit County Sheriff David Edmunds told reporters that this bust was directly tied to the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico since three individual members of this cartel were arrested as part of the investigation.  The two men and one woman arrested were distributors and transporters for the drug, and their ring branched in northern Utah, Colorado and finally Mexico. “The arrest of these individuals sends a strong message to the drug traffickers in Park City and Summit County,” Sheriff Edmunds said. “You are not welcome here, and we will use the full force of the law to bring you to justice.”

An undercover investigation into a suspected drug trafficking organization operating in southern California known as Inland Crackdown and allied with the California Attorney General’s Office led to the arrest of four suspected members of the La Familia Michoacana Mexican Cartel in Bloomington, Fontana, and Riverside last week.  Authorities say the four suspects were arrested after they arrived in a Dodge Caravan and Honda Pilot at a predetermined meeting place in Bloomington where undercover agents conducted a “buy bust” sting, purchasing 10 pounds of meth before arresting the suspects.  The task force subsequently served a search warrant at a home in Fontana where agents discovered 107 pounds of methamphetamine, five kilos of cocaine and a half pound of heroin.  Special agent Steve Utter said that “The total street value of the narcotics seized is over $5,916,800.00.”  U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, Andre Birotte, said that this was the single largest crackdown since the 1990s.  Authorities vowed to continue cracking down on the cartels to try and stop meth from being made and distributed throughout the United States.  “These drugs are poison,” said one undercover agent following a news conference. “We’re the poison control, and we aim to stop this disease before it gets any worse.”  Amen to that!

These were just the most recent examples linking major methamphetamine distribution rings to the Mexican Drug Cartels.  Not only do these organized crime families supply thousands of pounds of pure methamphetamine to eager users in the United States, they are also well known for the extreme violence that they inflict upon anyone who gets in their way.  Another website I maintain, http://arklatex912project.wordpress.com/, documents the atrocities committed by these cartels.  View with caution – some images are extremely graphic and difficult to forget once you see them.  But this type of violence goes hand-in-hand with the obscene profits that the cartel leaders make.  Expect to see more and more of this as the cartels continue to fan out across the United States.

And remember, I am very interested to hear about your own personal experiences with meth.  You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com.  I will never betray your confidence.

And as always, be safe out there!

October 4, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In our first report this week, a woman from Auburn, WA, AND her mother found themselves behind bars after the woman’s 22-month-old daughter showed up at an Auburn hospital exhibiting signs of methamphetamine poisoning.  Patrice J. Tannehill, 23, and her mother, Michelle Orndorff, 45, were both smoking meth on a daily basis when Tannehill’s daughter managed to ingest some of the drug, according to King County prosecutors.  What made a horrible event even more egregious was the contention that the two women waited hours before taking the girl to a hospital.  Senior Deputy Prosecutor Cecelia Gregson charged, “Despite (the girl’s) suffering obvious physical manifestations from a highly dangerous drug, neither (her) mother nor (her) grandmother bothered to seek emergent medical care for this drug afflicted baby, who according to the defendants stopped breathing several times throughout the night.”

Tannehill told Auburn police that her daughter was “licking the air” the night before she was hospitalized. According to police reports, Tannehill said she “felt right off the bat that she had been drugged.”  You think??  But rather than getting help for her daughter, Tannehill contacted some of her friends and asked them to come to the home to check on her daughter.  Tannehill told police that she didn’t want to go to the hospital because she had outstanding warrants.

The baby’s grandmother initially claimed that no one used drugs at her home, but police later found a baggie of meth in the woman’s pants pocket.  Orndorff went on to claim that her daughter sometimes brought her “drug friends” to her home and suggested that her daughter and her friends may have been making meth in her home’s garage.  Thus, the little girl’s mother and grandmother, rather than caring for the health and well being of their own flesh and blood, were more interested in placing the blame on each other.  Is there no honor among thieves?

The little girl was finally taken to the hospital on September 26 after she “had been breathing rapidly since the night before.”  Detectives told the court that “The hyperactive girl was running and pacing, and bobbing her head oddly.”  She was clearly under the influence.  Hospital staff also noted that the girl’s palm had been burned with a cigarette.  A second, two-inch-long burn was visible on her wrist, as well as a bruise on her back and a cut on her foot.  The hospital also conducted a drug test that showed that the toddler had ingested amphetamines.  Authorities allege that Orndorff tried to leave the hospital with the little girl when she learned of the drug test.

According to detectives, “Orndorff’s neighbor and several of Tannehill’s friends saw the child on (Sept. 25) and all told Tannehill and Orndorff that the child should be taken to the hospital. Even after realizing that (the girl) was probably exposed to methamphetamine from their reckless lifestyle … Tannehill and Orndorff waited over eight hours to provide medical assistance to the child.”

Auburn police found pill containers, glass meth pipes, scales and methamphetamine strewn about the home.  The detective noted that at least one pipe with meth residue was left on the floor, easily accessible to the girl.  Both women were booked into the King County Jail and charged with first-degree criminal mistreatment, a felony. Each remains jailed on $250,000, and has been barred from having any contact with the child.  Good!  My guess is that methamphetamine-related charges will soon follow.

On a lighter note, Oleg Orestorich Lakotiy, 19, was spotted running naked down the street in downtown Portland around 3:30 AM last Thursday after dispatchers received several 911 calls.  When police caught up with Lakotiy, a foot chase ensued, and the man made a 15-foot jump down onto I-405 westbound. He ran through oncoming traffic, with cars swerving around him, and police had to taze him in order to take him into custody. There were no crashes or injuries.  Lakotiy was cited for second-degree disorderly conduct and reckless endangerment and was taken to a Portland hospital for treatment for a meth overdose.  Police could not charge him for possession of meth; he was naked!

Finally in a story out of West Virginia, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Deputies told reporters that they made the biggest methamphetamine bust in department history when someone made a call to their anonymous Tip Line.  Deputies claim that this “monster meth bust” involved the entire Gores Trailer Park, located in West Hamlin, where a hazardous dump of drug waste was discovered.  Deputies said that they found two active meth labs, a trail of needles, and seven used shake-and-bake pots. “Empty bottles, tubes, coffee filters…we found meth-making materials completely as far as you could see.” Chief Deputy J.J. Napier said.  Although Alan Strother was arrested in connection with the bust, the amount of drug waste suggests that he did not act alone.  Deputies told reporters that all it takes is just one tip for them to step in.  “We’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got,” Napier said. “We need people to speak up.”  I agree.

And remember, I am very interested to hear about your own personal experiences with meth.  You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com.  I will never betray your confidence.  And as always, be safe out there!

September 27, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In September, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) provided statistics to the Associated Press that showed that 12,694 meth lab incidents were reported in the United States last year, down 5.5 percent from the 13,390 reported in 2011.  And this represented the second straight year that the number of incidents declined, as the nation recorded 15,196 meth lab incidents in 2010.  So how does this reconcile with the fact that week after week there are reports of more people arrested for the possession, manufacture and trafficking of methamphetamine?  Well, there are several factors to consider.

It is true that the number of the larger “traditional” meth labs seized by authorities has been in decline around the United States since increased restrictions were placed on the availability of cold medications containing pseudoephedrine.  The old favorites, like the Red Phosphorous or P2P method and the Anhydrous Ammonia or Nazi method are not used as often these days.  Both of these procedures extract methamphetamine from ephedrine (or pseudoephedrine), and the aforementioned restrictions have significantly reduced the ability of meth “cooks” to be able to obtain enough precursor materials to make these traditional methods viable.

That is why more and more meth “cooks” are turning to more low-tech methods of “cooking” the drug, such as the so-called “one-pot” or “shake & bake” technique that allows them to make meth in a 2-liter soda bottle. As dangerous as the traditional meth labs are to the occupants of the houses where they are located, particularly to children and neighbors, the portable meth labs have the potential to spread contamination, fire, explosions and injury almost anywhere.

These new “low-tech” procedures are also more difficult for authorities to detect.  Anyone who has watched an episode of Breaking Bad has seen the hazmat-style clothing that Walter White insisted on wearing when “cooking” his blue meth using the more traditional manufacturing process.  The noxious fumes can be detected over great distances and can be harmful even in well-ventilated areas.  But a “one-pot” or “shake & bake” lab can be easily carried in the backseat of a car or in a backpack, and detectable odors are minimized except when the soda bottle is “burped” to reduce pressure.  And these “labs” are easily disposable when compared to the more traditional labs, although they can pose a significant danger to the public if not properly disposed.  If the “one-pot” lab was in a vehicle, the “cook” could just throw it out of the window after the meth had been obtained.  That is why I have warned the readers repeatedly about how to spot a discarded meth lab and to call the authorities if they discover something unusual.

But if you talk with “long-term” meth users, those who have been using meth on and off since the 1980s or 1990s, they will readily tell you that the meth produced using the “one-pot” or “shake & bake” labs is not of the same quality as it was “years ago” when the P2P or Nazi method was dominant.  It is not clear if this is because the final product contains impurities, if the final product is somehow modified when different manufacturing processes are used or for some other reason.  In general, people who began using meth more recently are generally satisfied with the “one-pot” or “shake & bake” style meth.

In addition to the proliferation of the “low-tech” meth labs, remember that significant quantities of relatively pure methamphetamine are produced in “superlabs” in Mexico, run by the Mexican Drug Cartels.  Each year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents literally seize thousands upon thousands of pounds of meth at crossings along our southern border.  Imagine how much meth gets across the border unnoticed!  Every report I have seen highlights the surge in meth crossing our southern border and in the increased numbers of “one-pot” or “shake & bake” meth labs uncovered.

A final reason why the DEA statistics showed a 5.5 percent drop in meth lab incidents in 2012 has to do with reporting.  It is not clear that every agency is reporting every meth-related incident to the DEA.  And a 2-liter coke bottle found on the side of the highway might not be recognized as a discarded “shake & bake” meth lab.  So until more uniform and accurate reporting policies are established, such statistics must be taken with a liberal grain of salt.

While there may be a decline in the number of the larger, more traditional meth labs reported as seized in 2012, this does not mean that meth use is also on the decline.  In fact, every source that I have read has indicated just the opposite.  And in the same DEA report, they also indicate that some states are already reporting increases in meth lab seizures and arrests so far in 2013.  City after city, county after county, and state after state is reporting increases in meth use, and this epidemic has all the makings of a world-wide phenomenon, stretching from the Americas to New Zealand, Australia, North Korea, China, Indonesia and elsewhere.  Don’t let the DEA’s numbers fool you – meth is not going away any time soon.

I am very interested to hear about your own personal experiences with meth.  You can safely contact me at nickgoeders@gmail.com.  I will never betray your confidence.  And as always, be safe out there!

September 20, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In this week’s meth in the news, I am going to present several different news stories reported over the last week or two that highlight the increased involvement of women in the manufacturing, possession and distribution of methamphetamine.  This is not to say that women are not involved in the possession and trafficking of other illegal narcotics, it is just that you seem to find the association between women and methamphetamine much more often than with other drugs.

Our first report this week comes from Rifle, Colorado, located near Glenwood Springs.  The Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team (TRIDENT) was investigating suspicious drug activity in Rifle last spring when they uncovered a methamphetamine distribution ring.  While such a discovery is not that unusual, it turns out that two pairs of mothers and sons were involved.   According to Rifle police and TRIDENT agents, Debra Black, 52, and her son, Gilbert Cuevas, 36, as well as Karma Montgomery, 40, and her son, Brett Montgomery, 18, were involved in selling meth to undercover agents starting in May at several locations in Rifle.  An arrest warrant affidavit for Cuevas revealed that he allegedly was using the names “Gil” and “Gilby” while meeting with his meth customers, meetings that often took place at a Rifle home that Cuevas shared with his mother.  At one such meeting, the TRIDENT agent entered the home to find Cuevas, his mother and a “Karma Zarlingo,” whom he also identified as Karma Montgomery.  During different encounters with the agents, all of the suspects sold meth in packages of different weights.  Talk about keeping it all in the family!  Not only did these “mothers of the year” expose their sons to meth, they encouraged them to traffic the drug as well.  There was no mention of whether the meth was homemade or was manufactured elsewhere.

Such arrangements don’t only happen between mothers and their sons – meth-using mothers also get their daughters into the act as well.  In Gatlinburg, Tennessee last week, a mother, Shannon Garner and her daughter, Shelby, were arrested after police were called regarding suspicious activity in a townhouse.  Shannon Garner is the property manager at the Faronia Square Town Homes in Whitehaven. When police arrived on the scene, they found two men cooking meth,
but the men were able to escape police.  Upon further investigation, police learned that Shannon had given the two men the key to the townhouse a few hours before police showed up.  When they checked the database, police also discovered that Shelby had made excessive purchases of the meth precursor, pseudoephedrine.  Shelby Garner admitted trading pseudoephedrine for meth. The two men suspected of actually cooking the meth have not been named or charged.  Both women were charged with the promotion of methamphetamine manufacturing.

And still keeping it in the family, twin sisters, Kerri L. Graham, 40, and Kristi M. Graham, 40, of Bushkill Township, Pennsylvania, were arrested and $2,000 worth of meth seized in a raid on a meth lab at their home.  The raid was conducted by the Northampton County Drug Task Force, which consists of police from Easton, Bushkill Township and Plainfield Township.  State police also assisted with a Special Emergency Response Team and a Clandestine Laboratory Response Team.  Three young boys, 4, 11 and 12 years old, were living at the home at the time of the raid and were turned to the custody of Northampton County Children, Youth and Families.  Both Kerri and Kristi Graham were charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and possession of drug paraphernalia.  Kerri Graham also was charged with manufacturing a controlled substance, operating a meth lab, illegal dumping of meth waste and manufacturing meth in a home where minor children live

The next story will send shivers down the spine of every parent reading this column.  Last week in St. Charles, Missouri, Brooke Mitchell, 29, was arrested and charged with intent to distribute a controlled substance, possessing a controlled substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia.  Ok, no big surprise here.  However, Ms. Mitchell also ran a daycare out of her home where she cared for her two children and the children of other local families.  A St. Charles County Sheriff’s deputy responded to a disturbance call at Mitchell’s home last week.  When Mitchell gave the deputy permission to search the home, he found meth as well as the associated paraphernalia and “it was obvious the methamphetamine had just been smoked” according to St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar.  Although Mitchell initially agreed to cooperate with authorities in a narcotics investigation, she later refused.  When the Sheriff’s department went back to the house, five pre-school aged children were escorted outside before deputies found more illegal drugs.  “These parents have every right to be outraged,” said Lohmar. “You’d certainly never expect that somebody that you’re going to entrust your kids every day while you’re at work is going to be doing these sorts of things while you’re not there. This is a very disturbing situation and I feel very sorry for these parents.”  I could not have said it better.

The Monona County Auditor was arrested in Onawa, Iowa last week.  Brooke Kuhlmann, 27, was charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia after she allegedly bought meth from an undercover state trooper.  The Iowa Department of Public Safety said in a press release that law enforcement officials watched as Kuhlmann picked up the meth after she unknowingly scheduled a purchase and pickup with the trooper who had seized a dealer’s phone the day prior.  Ms. Kuhlmann pleaded not guilty to the charges.  A Democrat, Kuhlmann was elected to the auditor position in 2008 and was re-elected in 2012.

And briefly, Josie Lee McCormick, 33, of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, pleaded not guilty last week during her arraignment in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, according to the county District Attorney’s Office, to operating a meth lab that exploded in her home.  However, Waynesboro Police Chief James Sourbier told reporters, “A search of the residence resulted in the discovery of chemicals and precursors used in the illicit manufacture of methamphetamines.”   And police found a bag of meth hidden in a body cavity of Justine Jackson, 27, of Lewiston, Idaho, when she was being booked into jail after authorities found meth in her car.  When will they ever learn that smuggling meth this way does not work very well?  Finally, as I read about almost every day, children living in homes where meth was used have tested positive for meth.  Maggie Burchett, 29, of Abilene was arrested by Taylor County Sheriff’s Office narcotics agents after her eight-month-old boy tested positive for meth.  It is believed that the child tested positive for methamphetamine because of inhaling “second hand” smoke from the drug.  And Marci Nicole Berry, 21, of Lufkin, who is now pregnant with another child, was ordered by Angelina County district judge Paul White to attend substance abuse treatment at a facility in Longview for probation violations related to exposing her 1-year-old son to meth.  It always makes me sad when innocent babies are put at risk just because their mothers want to use meth.

And yes, men are as guilty as women when it comes to meth.  My main point here is to illustrate that meth affects women to a greater extent than any other abused substance.  I am interested in your experiences with meth.  You can contact me in complete confidence at nickgoeders@gmail.com.

As always, be safe out there!

September 13, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In this week’s meth in the news, I am going to discuss the use of methamphetamine by women.  This column has been focused on the harm that meth can produce, both during the manufacturing process and during the use of the drug.  I am focusing on women in this column to illustrate some of the unique features of methamphetamine.  I am also writing this column since realistically, women are the primary caregivers for their children.  If mom is on a 3-day meth binge, it is safe to assume that her children might be neglected during this time.

So, what is known about women and methamphetamine in the scientific medical research literature?  Records generated by the US Department of Health and Human Services indicate that between 1996 and 2006, admission rates for the treatment of methamphetamine/amphetamine addiction increased by 156% in the US, while at the same time cocaine admission rates decreased by 16%.  Women are seeking treatment for meth more than they are for any other substance (46% vs. 31%), and are presenting for treatment in larger numbers than men.  Records also indicate that women are using meth in almost equal rates to men.  This is in contrast to heroin or cocaine, where the use of these substances by men is two- to three-fold greater than by women.

Women tend to initiate meth use at an earlier age than men, are more susceptible to dependency on meth, and are more likely to seek treatment.  Women appear to maintain a preference for meth over time while men are more likely to use other substances as well.  Thus, women are more committed to meth than men are, and the time from the initiation of meth use to regular use (addiction) is shorter for women compared to men.  And while men usually begin using meth with a friend, women are typically introduced to meth by an intimate partner, and such relationships for these women are often characterized by violence, risky sexual behaviors and trauma related to the meth use by both partners.

Until recently, the profile of a female meth user has typically been a White woman in her thirties.  Lately, there has been a shift as meth addiction has been increasing at the fastest rates for Latina and Asian women ages 18–25 years. There has also been an increase among young Native American and African American women.  A recent study also found more adolescent girls reporting meth as their primary drug of choice (63.7%) compared to their male counterparts (15%) who reported marijuana or alcohol as their drugs of choice, indicating that adolescent females are significantly more likely to use meth than males of the same age. Thus, the effects of meth appear to be particularly appealing to females of varying age, race, and ethnicity.

Meth has distinct physical properties that make the risk and harm associated with its use more detrimental than those associated with most other abused substances.  Perhaps the most appealing property of meth is that it activates the brain’s pleasure or reward pathways more than any other substance of abuse or pleasure-generating activity.  Meth produces an extreme surge in the concentrations of the chemical dopamine in the brain.  Dopamine is the primary “neurotransmitter” involved in feelings of pleasure and euphoria resulting from all enjoyable activities, including eating a good meal, chocolate, exercise, sex and all abused drugs.  Meth is often compared to cocaine since they are both stimulant drugs. However, meth produces a surge in dopamine that is almost 3.5 times the amount produced by cocaine and 12 times more than that produced by sex.  The meth-induced surge in dopamine and related neurotransmitters results in brain levels of dopamine that are about 1200% more than the baseline levels found in a normal brain not exposed to meth.  Furthermore, meth remains in the body approximately 12 times longer than cocaine (12 hours vs. 1 hour, respectively) resulting in a longer, more sustained “high”.

Although there is the belief that many women are initially attracted to meth because of its positive effects on weight loss, energy and mood, a more in-depth look reveals that women are also using meth for reasons that are similar to what men report.  One such reason is an enhanced sexual experience associated with meth intoxication and with this, women end up suffering the same consequences of use as men, including being at an increased risk for contracting the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Female meth users are often in abusive relationships, engage in antisocial behaviors including drug production and trafficking, and report difficulty controlling violent and aggressive behaviors

Compared to cocaine, opiates, and alcohol, more meth users report that their drug use made them obsessed with sex and were more likely, along with cocaine users, to engage in sex acts that were out of the norm for them while under the influence. Alcohol and opiate users were the least likely to become obsessed with sex or to engage in unusual sexual practices while using their drugs.  Although men were more likely than women to report a strong association among cocaine use, sexual thoughts and behaviors, females reported as powerful an association between meth use and sexual behaviors as men, and this relationship between meth use and sex appears to depend on meth’s combined intense aphrodisiac effects and loss of inhibitions.  However, chronic users of meth often describe the need to participate in novel or taboo sexual activities in order to be able to reach orgasm.  Thus, not only is sex enhanced for women and a major appeal of the drug, but women are also engaging in sexual risk-taking behaviors at rates that have sometimes been found to surpass those reported by men.

So meth is unique among drugs of abuse in its appeal to women.  This, in turn, can lead to the neglect of their dependent children, and I read news reports every day that tell such sad stories of children being removed from their homes due to their mother’s meth use.  This is what has sparked my interest in meth use among women.  I have been talking with former and current meth users about their drug use, and I have learned volumes of information from them.  My hopes are that this knowledge may lead to the development of tailored treatments especially for the female meth user who wants to stop using the drug.  If you are a meth users, current or former, or know a meth user and want to tell me your story, I would be very interested to talk to you.  You can contact me in complete confidence at nickgoeders@gmail.com.  I am confident that I can learn from you too.

As always, be safe out there!

September 6, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In Meth in the News each week, I try to inform the readers about the dangers associated with methamphetamine.  And while I may repeat some things in this column, many do bear repeating.  Not everyone sees my column each week, and sometimes it may take several readings before this important information is remembered.  And my interest in methamphetamine grew out of the serious harm that often befalls the innocent victims of meth manufacture and use — the children who live where meth is being manufactured and/or used.  I am going to review these dangers once again in this week’s column.  Be sure to read to the end; you may be able to help me.

The number of meth labs – the “one pot” or shake-and-bake” labs – continues to grow throughout the United States.  Authorities in state after state report significant increases, often more than doubling the number of labs seized in the previous year.  As the larger labs continue to dwindle and the smaller labs continue to proliferate, more and more children are going to be exposed and harmed.  The U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Victims of Crime reported (www.ojp.usdoj.gov) that “a child living at a clandestine methamphetamine laboratory is exposed to immediate dangers and to the ongoing effects of chemical contamination.”  Reports of neglect, burns, and poisoning have become almost routine for children of meth-addicted parents and caretakers.

The chemicals used to “cook” meth and the hazardous byproducts resulting from its manufacture produce toxic fumes, vapors, and spills.  A child living in a home containing a meth lab may inhale or swallow toxic substances or inhale secondhand smoke from adults who are using meth in the home.  The child can receive an injection or an accidental skin prick from discarded needles or other drug paraphernalia.  Meth and other toxic substances can be absorbed through the skin following contact with contaminated surfaces, clothing, or food.  And a child may become ill after directly ingesting chemicals or an intermediate product during the “cook”.  Exposure to even low levels of some meth ingredients may produce headaches, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. Exposure to higher levels can produce shortness of breath, coughing, chest pain, dizziness, lack of coordination, eye and tissue irritation, chemical burns to the skin, eyes, mouth, and nose, and even death.

Reports suggest that about 15% of meth labs are discovered as a result of a fire or explosion.  The chemicals use to make meth are extremely dangerous.  I cannot state that emphatically enough!  The careless handling of these highly volatile hazardous chemicals and waste products and unsafe manufacturing methods can cause solvents and other materials to burst into flames or even explode.  Since meth cooks have not typically been trained in proper laboratory procedures, improperly labeled and incompatible chemicals are often stored together, compounding the likelihood of fire and explosion.  Highly combustible materials left on stovetops, near ignition sources, or on surfaces accessible to children can be easily ignited by a single spark or cigarette ember.  Hydrogenerators used for the production of meth constitute “bombs” waiting to be ignited by a careless act if they are uncapped or punctured at the wrong time.  And of course, the proper safety equipment is typically nonexistent or inadequate to protect a child in the case of an accident.

Children living in homes containing meth labs are at increased risk for severe neglect and are more likely to be physically and sexually abused in their own homes by members of their own family and known individuals.  Parents and caregivers who are meth dependent typically become careless, irritable, and violent, often losing their capacity to nurture their children.  Sometimes older siblings in these homes have to try to assume the role of caretaker.  Some meth-addicted parents sleep for several days after a long binge and cannot be awakened, further increasing the likelihood that their children will be exposed to toxic chemicals or to abusive acts committed by the other drug-using individuals who are still in the home.

Corrosive substances can cause injury to children (and adults) through inhalation or contact with the skin. Solvents can irritate the skin, mucous membranes, and respiratory tract and affect the central nervous system. Chronic exposure to the chemicals used to “cook” meth may cause cancer; damage the brain, liver, kidney, spleen, and immunologic system; and result in birth defects.  This creates a clear and present danger – not just to the people living in the home with a meth lab, but to the unknowing and innocent people who may purchase or rent a home that had been used to “cook” meth.  Why is that?  Normal cleaning will not remove methamphetamine and many of the chemicals used in the “cooking” process.  These substances can remain on eating and cooking utensils, floors, countertops, and absorbent materials. There have been many reports in the news about people becoming strangely ill for no apparent reason.  Upon further investigation, many of the symptoms were traced back to the home containing a meth lab that was insufficiently cleaned.  Accordingly, many states have passed stricter laws regarding the cleanup of homes where methamphetamine was manufactured.

This is where I could use the help of an attorney! I checked the Louisiana “Civil code-ancillaries” and found under RS 9:3198 and RS 9:3198.1 that a “property disclosure document” must include a “statement of acknowledgment as to whether or not an illegal laboratory for the production or manufacturing of methamphetamine was in operation on the purchasing property.”  This is to be reported to the Department of Environmental Quality and placed on a list of contaminated property.  This property can only be removed from this list “upon confirmation by the department that property has been properly remediated to its established standards.” If these codes are laws, it is unclear if they are being followed.  I fear that children and adults are being put at risk if they unknowingly move into a home that formerly contained a meth lab.  If these codes do not have enough teeth to force enforcement, then perhaps legislative action is necessary.  As reported above, many states have enacted tougher laws in this area.  I would love to hear from an attorney familiar with these Legislative codes.  You can contact me through The Inquisitor or at LSU Health.

As always, be safe out there!

August 30, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In last week’s Meth in the News, I reported on how methamphetamine has become a world-wide epidemic.  Not just a problem in the western hemisphere, methamphetamine has become a significant problem, not only in Australia or New Zealand, but in countries such as China, North Korea and Singapore, where personal freedoms are severely restricted.  And while I sometimes see claims that meth use in the United States has not reached epidemic proportions, I read report after report that the number of meth labs discovered is reaching record levels.  Since the number of meth labs seized may be a rough indicator of the number of meth users, this indicates that meth use is also on the rise.  When one factors in the huge seizures of meth along the southern border with Mexico, the premise that meth use is on the rise is no stretch of the imagination.

In Indiana, authorities have seen a 16% increase in the number of meth labs busted compared to last year, which was a 31% increase over 2011.  And according to Sgt. Niki Crawford, Meth Suppression Section Commander with the Indiana State Police, “Since 2006, we have more than doubled the number of labs we have seized.” This year, the Indiana legislature passed and the governor signed into law a measure placing an annual limit on how much of the drug’s main ingredient, pseudoephedrine, can be legally purchased.  However, so far this year, 1,093 meth labs have been seized, suggesting that efforts to restrict are not helping. Sgt. Crawford told reporters that the meth makers are getting around the law by simply using more people to “smurf”, or buy the drug for them.  And he also said that most meth cooks (89%) are also using the “one-pot” method for making meth. “It’s much quicker, it’s much easier. But unfortunately for the public, for the meth cookers themselves and for our folks who are certified on the State Police to work these meth labs, it’s much more volatile,” said Sgt. Crawford.  This, in turn, means that more people are at risk for serious injury or even death, either while “cooking” the drug or while police are busting the operation.

Sgt. Crawford also said that police are finding more children inside the homes where meth is being made, and that can lead to more jail time for meth makers. “Many times, there will be a neglect of dependent charge filed on that defendant as well as the manufacturing or possession or whatever state law they are violating,” said Sgt. Crawford. Indiana State Police have found 306 children in or near meth labs so far this year, which is roughly a 50% increase over the same time period in each of the last two years.  Indiana State Police Meth Suppression Coordinator Brock Russell told reporters that “Generally speaking, the odors [from “one-pot” labs] aren’t as strong as the birch reduction method. It’s probably a little easier to conceal and harder to find or locate.”  Sgt. Russell said some meth labs are discovered through pseudoephedrine sales checks, which can now be done online in Indiana. Other labs are discovered through meth users who have been arrested and often give up locations and other users.  But he said that most of the labs are discovered through tips from the general public.  In fact, The Inquisitor reported in the August 24, 2013 issue that a meth lab was discovered by a homeowner based on what he read in this column.

A similar problem is occurring across the United States.  In Montana, “[People] are turning to shake-and-bake because it’s easier and it’s mobile,” according to Charmel Owens, director of the Ravalli County Drug Free Communities Task Force. “Once they’re done they can discard the containers wherever. The potential danger to the environment is really high.”  Law enforcement officials believe that the days of “large-scale” meth labs in America (as depicted on Breaking Bad) are over, and most meth production has switched to these smaller operations.  In 2010, the DEA reported that up to 80% of the labs shut down throughout the United States were using the “one pot” or “shake-and-bake” method.  The older methods required up to six hours and large volumes of chemicals to produce relatively low-quality meth in a relatively large (lab) space. The “shake-and-bake” method uses fewer amounts of the same chemicals and requires only a two-liter bottle and a few hoses to produce a small amount of purer product in less than an hour.  I have been told that I could take $200 to Wal-Mart just before lunch, purchase everything that I need, and be high by 1 PM.  This frustrates authorities since a “shake-and-bake” operation can spring up basically anywhere. In fact, a woman was arrested in a Tulsa, Okla., Wal-Mart in 2011 for trying to actually make meth inside the store with materials she had just shoplifted.  A couple months earlier, a man was arrested in the same Wal-Mart store for carrying an active “shake-and-bake” lab in his backpack.

Even though it is cheaper and faster than the traditional methods, “cooking” meth in a “shake-and-bake” lab is really analogous to making a bomb.   The chemical reactions involved in the production of meth create excessive heat and, under intense pressure, can easily explode if mishandled, uncapped too soon, or punctured.  As I wrote in an earlier column, hospitals in states reporting the highest meth use also have significant increases in the number of patients in burn units due to injuries suffered while attempting to “cook” meth.

Another major risk associated with these “one-pot” labs is that the “cooks” often carelessly dispose of the potentially dangerous waste materials left over after the procedure is finished.  The seemingly harmless plastic bottles often contain a toxic brew that has the potential to explode, ignite or emit poison gas when opened or, importantly, when combined with water.  Lithium should never be exposed to water.  Law enforcement officers must wear full face protection and flame retardant suits and gloves when dealing with “one-pot” waste.

And while I have reported this week about the increases in meth lab seizures in Indiana and Montana, those states are not alone.  In the last two weeks, I have seen very similar reports from Ohio (authorities report a 467% increase over 5 years ago), Wisconsin (reporting an 86% increase over last year), and West Virginia, where meth lab seizures have doubled compared to last year.  Clearly, the meth epidemic is not going away any time soon.

As always, be safe out there!

August 23, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In Meth in the News each week, I have told you about the significant and growing problem with the manufacture and use of methamphetamine in the United States.  Many of the traditional labs are things of the past due to the increased government monitoring of the sale of cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine, but the Mexican Drug Cartels have more than taken up the slack.  Hundreds and hundreds of pounds of remarkably pure methamphetamine flow across our southern border with Mexico each year.  I have reported many times about the seizures made on an almost daily basis, but it is difficult to actually calculate how much meth gets through undetected.  If one takes into account the number of – whatever they are called now – undocumented workers, estimated at around 11 million, it quickly becomes apparent that significant quantities of Mexican meth must have also been smuggled across the border.  And as I have also reported, the number of “one pot” or “shake & bake” meth “labs” seized in large cities and small towns throughout America are increasing at an alarming rate.  If you talk to former or current meth users, they will readily tell you that practically everyone that they know is using and possibly also cooking meth.  Although it is doubtful that everyone is using meth, I firmly believe that the number of meth users is dramatically underestimated.  And if it is not already there, I fear that the use of methamphetamine will reach epidemic proportions very soon, and the meth problem will become even more severe.  However, the non-medical use of methamphetamine is not just an American problem.  Methamphetamine is a world-wide phenomenon!

Would you believe that methamphetamine is quickly becoming the “drug of choice” in China?  It’s true, according to recent publications on www.healthintelasia.com and  www.abc.net.au.  They reported that officials for the Chinese Ministry of Health said that while the abuse of more traditional drugs has declined, the abuse of “synthetic” drugs is on the rise.  And guess what the Ministry of Health claims is of special concern?  You guessed it – they are concerned with what they call “new ice,” which is actually crystal meth.  Bao Yanping, from the Peking University Institute of Drug Dependence claims that crystal meth is preferred above all other synthetic drugs.  And data collected in 2012 show that China has more than 20 provinces where the amount of crystal meth seized was more than the amount of heroin seized.  At the same time, however, the use of multiple drugs has also increased, and data from China’s drug abuse monitoring centers indicate that 30% of the heroin users also use synthetic drugs.  Another concern is that sex workers comprise a very high percentage of crystal meth users, and this increases the risk of HIV sexual transmission.  In addition, China is concerned that young people under age 35 are most likely to use new synthetic drugs such as “new ice.” They often use the drug recreationally and in groups, and engage in what is termed “mass promiscuous sexual behavior or group behavior,” which can also lead to increased HIV infection.  And where does this meth come from?  China shares a 2,500 mile border with Myanmar that is extremely remote and porous.  Poor Burmese farmers sneak into China along this border, many looking for work, but others are drug couriers who are paid a couple hundred dollars to smuggle drugs.  Wu Jiang, a former policeman who is a leading authority on drug crime in China told reporters that Yunnan police seized 9 tons of “ice” (meth) coming out of Myanmar in 2012, which was a 26% increase over the year before.  So China may also be in the grips of a growing methamphetamine epidemic.

Would you believe that North Korea is also experiencing a methamphetamine problem?  Well, according to a study published in the journal North Korea Review titled, “A New Face of North Korean Drug Use: Upsurge in Methamphetamine Abuse Across the Northern Areas of North Korea,” the production of methamphetamine has gone from government-owned factories to privately run underground laboratories and “home kitchens.”  In the 1990’s, opium was the drug of choice for both the cash-strapped Kim Jong Il regime and the populace.  But by the mid 2000’s, the poppy fields began to dry up while meth – called “bingdu” or “ice” – became more widespread.  A co-author on this study, Kim Seok-hyang, told reporters, “Almost every adult in that area (of North Korea) has experienced using ice and not just once.  I estimate that at least 40% to 50% are seriously addicted to the drug.  Everyone from middle school students to government officials use it,” he said.  Some claim that North Koreans are using meth as a cheap alternative for hard to find medicines, but they are seriously mistaken.  It is not clear how this epidemic in North Korea will turn out, but if it is like China or the United States, there is no end in sight.

Here are a few other fun facts about this growing world-wide epidemic.  In Singapore, the Central Narcotics Bureau said that the number of drug abusers arrested increased 3% in the first half of this year, compared to the same period last year, and heroin and methamphetamine continue to be the most commonly abused drugs.  In fact, 92% of all drug abusers arrested were heroin or methamphetamine users. The estimated street value of drug seizures in the first half of 2013 amounted to about $9.4 million.  Surprisingly, cannabis was the third most commonly abused drug.  In New Zealand, 66 kilograms of meth and 3.3 tons of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine have been intercepted through international mail, sea cargo and air cargo shipments, and from individuals entering the country, according to Customs Minister Maurice Williamson.  The value of the meth and its precursor drugs seized since 2009 is worth up to $1 billion.  Again, I wonder how much was actually smuggled into the county.  In Australia, meth has overtaken heroin and even cannabis as the drug of choice among regular injecting drug users.  The South Australian Drug Trends 2012 survey reported, “Methamphetamine was the most commonly used illicit drug among injecting drug users, as well as the drug injected most often in the past month, overtaking cannabis and heroin respectively.” In Bangkok, Thai authorities recently seized over 980,000 illegal methamphetamine pills, known as “yaba”, worth almost $6 million that were stashed in a truck thought to be heading to the capital from northern Thailand.  It is estimated that at least 1.4 billion yaba tablets — with an estimated street value of $8.5 billion — are being produced each year in the region, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Methamphetamine is clearly becoming a world-wide epidemic.  It will be interesting, and possibly quite frightening to see what the future holds.  Be safe out there!

August 16, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

For my meth in the news column this week, I am going to illustrate the problems that methamphetamine is causing throughout the United States by focusing on Central Valley, California.  As reported online at www.modbee.com, the scourge of meth shows little signs of abating, even after 20 years!  This continuing problem can be determined in a variety of different ways.

First of all, one can take a look at the number of people who enter a licensed and certified treatment program.  Of the 2,034 people who entered treatment in Stanislaus County in the year ending in June, 2013, 35 percent said that meth was their primary drug of choice.  An official with the Stanislaus County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services told reporters that meth has held the distinction as the No. 1 drug of choice in the county for many years.  Thus, there is no indication that the use of meth is declining.

Modesto, California, is at the top of a nation-wide list for automobile theft.  Many officials point to the continuing meth problem as playing a major role.  According to the Modesto Police Department, there were 1,618 meth-related arrests over the last two years.  That is an average of more than 2 meth-related arrests each and every day!  Frank Scafidi, of the National Insurance Crime Bureau said to reporters, “There’s a notorious methamphetamine problem in this state. Where you have a lot of drug problems, police will tell you, you have a lot of property crimes. It’s like peanut butter and jelly.”  So there appears to be a link between the extent of meth use and auto theft in Modesto, which is likely repeated time and time again all over the country.

Last year, the Stanislaus County district attorney’s office filed charges in about 6,700 cases, and 27 percent of these were drug related, primarily involving methamphetamine.  Even so, it is difficult to estimate the number of cases that involved meth by looking at the number of drug cases prosecuted.  District Attorney Birgit Fladager and Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson agree that a meth addiction might be what motivates a person to steal a car or commit a burglary, but if that person does not possess meth when arrested, it won’t show up as a drug case, even though it might actually be the underlying cause for the burglary.  Sheriff Christianson said, “It’s safe to assume there’s an element of meth in many of the crimes we investigate, primarily property crimes.”

Authorities have indicated that they are seeing a reduction in the typical meth lab, due in part to new state laws that made the precursor drugs, most notably pseudoephedrine, more difficult to purchase — a change that also has made it less convenient for the average consumer to buy cold and allergy medicines.  But while there are fewer labs producing meth, it is still readily available, with most brought in from Mexico where is is made in elaborate superlabs run by the Mexican Drug Cartels.  The demand has also remained high since meth is relatively cheap, especially compared with a drug such as cocaine.  Street dealers, many gang-related, often sell meth for only $20 to $30 for a “teener” (one-sixteenth of a gram).

I have mentioned the extreme and bizarre behaviors that often accompany long-term meth use many times in the past in this column, and these behaviors have also been observed in Stanislaus County.  Examples include a woman driving under the influence of meth that ran over and killed a 6-year-old boy and injured his 8-year-old brother while they were walking to school.  In May, a 31-year-old Oakdale mother was sentenced to nine years in prison for using methamphetamine while she was breast-feeding, resulting in the death of her infant daughter.  This “collateral damage” resulting from meth use is routinely seen by social workers from Child Protective Services. A Stanislaus Behavioral Health official says meth use has become so commonplace that officials don’t even talk about its prevalence anymore.

The methamphetamine epidemic shows no signs of ending.  And I truly believe that nationwide surveys have significantly underestimated the extent of meth use in the United States.  But if one looks at the seizures of meth (1,000’s of pounds are seized yearly along the Mexican border), the increases in the number of “one-pot” or “shake-and-bake” labs uncovered, the numbers of arrests of people for the manufacture, possession and distribution of the drug, and the often horrific crimes committed by people under the influence of meth, a different picture begins to emerge.

Like it or not, meth is all around us.  You cannot identify a meth user by her looks.  While some do begin to resemble the pictures posted on the Montana Meth and other related sites, many look no different than the girl next door.  And if you ask around, people will tell you that it is all around – and that everyone is cooking meth now.  Experts who deal with the effects of meth agree that a three-pronged approach is needed that includes prevention, treatment and disrupting the market by going after the manufacturers and distributors.  And the best way to prevent meth use is education.  That is what I am trying to do with this column; make the reader aware of the dangers associated with meth.  If just one person reads this column and does not use meth because of what she read, then this has all been worth it!

August 8, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

For my meth in the news column this week, I am going to discuss several different but interesting cases involving methamphetamine.  The first case involves a woman who was recently found naked in a SoMA (South of Market) neighborhood alley located near the AT&T Park in San Francisco, according to sfist.com.  When 26-year old Drusilla Holmgren was found by San Francisco Police Department officers in the alley near Stanford and Townsend Streets around 7 AM, she was said to be “struggling” to put on a nightgown, but was otherwise completely naked.  She told the officers that she had been up all night smoking meth.  It was not at all clear what else she had been doing all night and why she was naked, but it obviously had something to do with the meth she had been using.  She also informed the police that she was, in fact, Jesus Christ.  A serious side effect associated with long-term meth use is the development of psychoses and delusions, and Ms. Holmgren was definitely delusional.  Emergency medical technicians were called to take the woman to the hospital due to her condition (naked on the streets and delusional at 7 in the morning).  When they placed her on the gurney for the trip to the hospital, officers noticed that she had the numbers “666” (the “mark of the beast”) tattooed on her wrist.  Unfortunately for the woman, her troubles were just beginning.  One of the officers noticed that a similar tattoo was seen on a suspect involved in the attempted robbery of a nearby branch of Wells Fargo just the week before.  That bank robbery was a failure as the bank teller did not respond when Ms. Holmgren passed a note to her claiming that she had a gun.  Video surveillance footage and eyewitnesses verified that Ms. Holmgren was indeed the same woman who tried to rob the Wells Fargo bank.  It turns out that she was also a convicted felon out on probation when she was arrested.  She was booked into the County Jail on suspicion of attempted bank robbery.  She is scheduled to appear in court in October.

The next case comes from walb.com in Brooks County, Georgia and involves the arrest of a notorious methamphetamine “King Pin” and one of the largest drug busts in over 30 years.   In fact, this was one of the biggest meth busts that Brooks County investigators ever remember seeing.  Clarence Edmondson was arrested on suspicion of cooking meth on his property, which was located on Moultrie Highway, just outside the Quitman city limits, after authorities received a detailed tip and were able to obtain a search warrant.  The Brooks County Sheriff’s Department found so much meth-making material there that they had to enlist the services of multiple enforcement agencies, and it still took agents two days to pack up the elaborate meth operation that was housed in old hog barns found on Edmondson’s property.  DEA agents and a clandestine lab task force out of Atlanta removed multiple 500 gallon tanks of meth-making chemicals and many other materials used to cook meth.   Brooks County Sheriff Mike Dewey called this “One of the largest that I’ve ever even heard of.”  He went on to say that Edmondson is the “meth king pin” of Brooks County and that his arrest will choke off the supply to smaller drug dealers in the area.  “It spreads out to who they’re distributing to and it branches out from there. But when you cut off the main supply, you cut off all these other little branches also,” said Sheriff Dewey.  Edmondson also has a prior felony conviction for trafficking marijuana several years ago.  Oh, I forgot to mention one important fact. Clarence Edmondson is 70 years old and a well known land owner in the area.  I would have never guessed that the Brooks County, Georgia Meth King Pin was a 70-year-old man, but here he is.  Edmondson’s neighbors were as surprised as I was.  Neighbor Daphney Walker told reporters that he was her landlord. “I was shocked, very shocked, surprised.  And then to find out actually who was involved, the rent man, that’s just really scary right now.”  Edmondson was charged with conspiracy to manufacture meth, possession of meth, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and is being held without bond.  As I say time and time again, no one is immune to the effects of meth – or the profits that can be made if one chooses to ignore the associated dangers.

Our last case comes from Jefferson County, Nebraska (beatricedailysun.com) in regards to the discovery of the largest methamphetamine lab operation in the Fairbury area in more than a decade.  It seems like the “largest meth bust” is occurring over and over again across the United States.  In this case, Fairbury Police Department officers found meth as well as several components used in the production of meth, including anhydrous ammonia and pseudoephedrine tablets, when they searched the home of David G. Stenson, 43, located at 1528 Garber Heights in Fairbury.  A 12-gauge shotgun was also found.  Approximately 70 “gas generators” — common plastic coke or soda bottles — used to cook meth were found on the property, with one bottle used for each batch of meth made.  Fairbury Police Chief Chad Sprunk told reporters, “We found receipts in the shed that showed components of a meth lab being purchased as early as 2008.  We’re not sure exactly how long it was active, but going off the components that were located, it was a large number of times meth was produced at the residence.”  Neighbors were surprised to see several police cars, a fire truck and an ambulance in front of Stenson’s home.  They described him as a “friendly” man, and some thought that the allegations against him were “shocking.”  Nevertheless, Stenson was charged with a total of seven felonies, including manufacturing a controlled substance and delivery of a controlled substance, possession of methamphetamine, possession of a firearm during a drug crime, possession of anhydrous ammonia with intent to manufacture methamphetamine, possession of pseudoephedrine with intent to manufacture methamphetamine, and failure to pay drug tax stamp, all felonies.  Stenson was arrested and taken to the Jefferson County Jail where he was being held without bond.

None of these cases ended well, although no one was seriously injured.  But while the lure of meth — the euphoric effects it produces and the profits that can be made — can be quite powerful, the dangers — the potential brain damage and other medical complications, the constant paranoia, the risk for fires and explosions, and getting caught — should be reason enough to stay away from Meth!

August 1, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

For my meth in the news column this week, I am going to talk about the innocent victims of the methamphetamine epidemic that is sweeping the nation.  These victims are the little children who are forced to live in homes, apartments, trailers and other places where meth is manufactured and used.  And as the number of “one pot” or “shake and bake” labs continues to skyrocket, police and child protection services are going to discover more and more children suffering from abuse and neglect.  Some estimate that in up to 90% of home meth lab busts, neglected, abused and sick children are taken away from their meth-using parents.  This is the very reason I began to focus attention on methamphetamine.  These children have done nothing wrong and are powerless to stop their parents from using this insidious drug, and they only find relief when they are removed from their parents and placed with relatives or foster parents.

I have shared many stories about these children in my weekly columns.  I have shared with the readers how children’s sippy cups and pacifiers are often found sitting alongside dangerous chemicals and substances such as liquid drain cleaner and lithium batteries as a record-setting number of meth “cooks” are using the “shake and bake” or “one pot” method.  Diapers, baby bottles and crayon drawings have also been seen sitting next to blister packs, “shake and bake” bottles and countless dangerous and volatile chemicals.  A report earlier this year by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) indicated that the number of clandestine meth incidents more than doubled in 2010 to 15,000.  Estimates are that this year, the number of incidents will be even greater.  The GAO also tracked the effects of these meth labs on children over a ten-year period beginning in 2002.  The GAO found that more than 21,000 children had been impacted during that time.  And the numbers continue to grow.

There have been many examples in the news of children who faced significant injury and even death after exposure to meth-making chemicals, and some of these have been reported in this column.  For instance, just last month, two-year-old Frankee Arroyo was rushed to the hospital after swallowing drain cleaner that was contained in a glass in her mother’s boyfriend’s car.  The sulphuric acid in the drain cleaner burned through her throat and into her stomach. The acid was so strong that it even ate through the leather upholstery in the boyfriend’s Cadillac Escalade.  Little Frankie was in a medically-induced coma for a month due to the extent of her injuries.  In a similar sad case last February, Jonathan Wayne Glass and Victoria Lauren Cain were arrested in Florida after their three-year-old drank drain cleaner from a sippy cup left in the bathroom of their home.  And a 20-month-old boy died in Kentucky’s Wayne County after drinking from a cup left on a bedroom table that was filled with Liquid Fire.

In an even more chilling case, Patrick Nicholas Lerch was just 17-months-old when he was found unresponsive in his crib at a house in Ohio where methamphetamine was being cooked.  The little boy subsequently died in the hospital.  An autopsy determined that he suffered from meth intoxication due to the inhalation of chemicals associated with cooking meth.  And 6-week-old Michael Acosta died last year after drinking breast milk that was laced with meth; his mother pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter.  Just last week, 36-year-old grandmother Marsha Stevens was arrested in Arkansas after her 10-month-old granddaughter was rushed to the hospital and meth was found in her system.  Courtney Stevens told the police that her mother handed her a plastic bag of meth that was “wet and appeared to have been chewed on” when the ambulance arrived at their home.

Missouri has the country’s second-highest number of meth lab incidents – 2,114 in 2011 – the Department of Social Services reported that it has spent $3.4 million since 2005 on custodial care alone.  Monroe County Juvenile Court Judge Reed Dixon told reporters that, “I’d estimate about 75 per cent of the kids I see taken into (state) custody are due to meth in the home.  We’ve had parents who have gone through the process and got the child back. That’s a pretty long path to follow. It can take as long as six months to a year.”  The Judge went on, “We had one case where the parent was on meth and kept doing, doing and doing. When the kids came into court, they asked to eat. They described the method for making (meth) and talked about watching their mother suck it up with a straw.”

I did hear about a case in southern Louisiana recently that sent chills up my spine.  I was told that when police raided a suspected meth house, they saw a chain kennel similar to those that normally house guard dogs.  When no dogs were found on the premises, the homeowner told authorities that the kennel was used to house the children when they were cooking meth.

Carol Cha, the GAO’s acting director of Homeland Security and Justice, recently told the New York Daily News, “Children are dragged into this unwillingly.  Law enforcement sees the lab problem as having the greatest impact on children.”

Of that there can be no doubt.  If for no other reason, please stay away from meth for the sake of your children.

July 24, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

For my meth in the news column this week, I am going to discuss a few interesting stories and then something more personal in nature at the end.  In the first news item, cleveland.com reports that a 27-year-old man was seen by Portage County Sheriff’s deputies walking down Waterloo Road in Atwater, Ohio.  What caught the deputy’s attention was that there was smoke emanating from a backpack that the man was carrying.  Can you imagine how this might have looked?  Here deputies see a man walking down the road with a smoking backpack.  I wonder if he even noticed!  Fearing for the man’s safety, and that of others, the deputies stopped the man and searched his smoking backpack.  There they discovered smoking chemicals used to make methamphetamine, other meth manufacturing equipment and a stolen gun.  Furthermore, information that the deputies subsequently obtained led to the discovery of four more meth labs in the area.  This information took agents from the Portage County Drug Task Force to a home located further down Waterloo Road.  There agents arrested a man and woman on suspicion of operating a meth lab after they found numerous chemicals and components used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine.  The woman’s two children, ages 6 and 16, were living in the house where the meth lab was located, so the man and woman were also charged with making meth in the presence of children.  In the next nearby bust, agents arrested a 20-year-old man from Ravenna and an 18-year-old woman from Rootstown on suspicion of manufacturing meth.  The final lab was also found in Ravenna Township where agents arrested a man who police said was making meth at his grandfather’s garage.  The Portage County Drug Task Force has members from the Portage County Sheriff’s Office, Portage County Prosecutor’s Office, Aurora, Kent, Ravenna and Streetsboro, Garrettsville, Hiram and Windham, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The next story comes from Trinity County, Texas as reported on fox19.com.  I was almost shocked when I first read this story, but these days, nothing surprises me about meth anymore.  But who ever heard of an 88-year-old lookout?  Trinity County Sheriff Woody Wallace told reporters about a house in The Landing subdivision that he and his deputies had been watching for a long time.  “We’d see known drug users go into the house, all hours of the night. They would go in, come back out within two or three minutes – it’s a good indication they’re trafficking drugs out of there. So like I said it was well known. They were doing major quantities out of this house.”  Authorities were called to the house on July 11 for a suspected drug overdose, and one man was arrested on outstanding warrants.  Even after the Sheriff indicated to the other people in the house that they were watching them, the Sheriff sent an undercover officer to the home on July 13.  Sheriff Wallace told reporters that while they were conducting the undercover buys, they would notice an elderly woman who was watching out the window as the drug transactions were taking place inside the home, indicating that she was acting as a lookout.  When the house was raided by the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office and the deputies “busted in” the door, the woman, who turned out to be an incredible 88 years old, began “screaming and hollering,” according to the Sheriff.  When she realized that they were the police, she started crying.  But Sheriff Wallace said that the 88-year-old woman was “ready to fight when we first showed up.” Apparently people of all ages have become involved in the methamphetamine trade.

You may have already heard about the third case.  As reported recently on nbcnews.com, the brother of ailing country superstar Randy Travis was arrested and charged with trafficking methamphetamine.  Investigators told reporters that “a working meth lab” had allegedly been found inside the home of David Brownlow Traywick, 50, of Marshville, North Carolina.  Traywick’s wife Jessica and two other women were also arrested.  No one is immune to the dangers of meth!

On a personal note, I write this column and maintain my online blog on meth in an attempt to increase awareness and knowledge about the dangers associated with the manufacture, distribution and use of meth.  I also point out the dangers to the general public from exposure to meth-making materials.  My blog is what is referred to as OSINT, or Open-source intelligence, which means that I collect the news for my blog from online news reports; I don’t make up these stories.  And I am not paid for my blog or this column.  I do this basically as a public service as indicated above.  I do not do this to make fun of or denigrate anyone; they have done this to themselves by getting caught.  Nevertheless, some people take exception when I include a news story about their involvement with drugs on my blog; some have sent messages cursing me for re-reporting a news item that can also be easily found elsewhere.  That is no big deal.  But recently I received an email to my private email address from a former sheriff (or perhaps from a relative of his) in Indiana.  Several news outlets reported that this former sheriff, along with 14 others was arrested in a major undercover operation in southern Indiana.  The former sheriff was outraged that I included his name on my blog.  What was the reason for this outrage?  You should have seen the language he used!  He was so angry because he was not charged with selling methamphetamine.  Instead he WAS charged with four felony counts of dealing a Schedule III substance (likely hydrocodone, although there is a push by Congress and the FDA to reclassify this drug as Schedule II, just like meth), not methamphetamine.  That was the basis for the outrage even though my report was that the former sheriff and 14 others were arrested on methamphetamine and drug charges, which would include hydrocodone.  Several news outlets, including one that contained a video can be easily found reporting this same story.  I mention this here due to the last email I received from this fine person.  The last line of this email read, “I hope a tweaker finds u n ur wife n Louisiana n fills u both full of meth till your heart’s explode.”  My skin is becoming quite thick, but when someone mentions where I live AND my wife, I take notice.  Don’t worry; I don’t intend to stop reporting OSINT news on meth.  But if something happens, you all know where to look.

Meth is a messy business.  Be safe out there!

July 17, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

For my meth in the news column this week, I am going to talk about some of the extreme measures that people will go to for their methamphetamine.  The first case was reported earlier this month on phoenixnewtimes.com.  In this case, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents noticed that a 31-year-old woman was acting very nervous at the port of entry in San Luis.  She was exhibiting signs often observed by people attempting to smuggle drugs and other contraband into the United States from Mexico.  Claudia Ibarra crossed the border alone and on foot, and is a U.S. citizen from Yuma.  When the CBP officer looked more closely, the agent noticed what appeared to be part of a broken condom hanging out of the woman’s pants.  Ms. Ibarra was subsequently transferred to a secure area for further examination.  CBP spokesperson Teresa Small told reporters, “When they were patting her down, they realized there was something down there.”  Since the condom had already been noticed, officers asked Ibarra to remove her pants and panties.  When she complied, one of the officers was able to see “a piece of plastic protruding from her groin area,” according to the complaint.  At that time, Ms. Ibarra admitted to concealing a package of methamphetamine inside her vagina.  Officials said it is not unusual for drug smugglers to hide drugs inside human bodies, either by swallowing the package or inserting them by other means.  Ms. Ibarra was taken to a hospital in Yuma so that a medical official could carefully remove the package since exposure to the amount of meth that was hidden inside her vagina would have killed Ms. Ibarra if the condom had broken.  The drug could have been easily absorbed through the mucus membranes inside the woman’s body.  The package weighed exactly one pound, which is a relatively large bundle to insert, and contained meth wrapped in black tape and a condom before being inserted.  Ms. Ibarra was subsequently turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations where she faces two federal drug charges.

Actually, it is not all that unusual for the police to find methamphetamine or drug paraphernalia hidden inside a woman’s body.  In Louisville, KY, officers arrested Alisha Brewer on an outstanding warrant, according to whas11.com.  When she was searched, authorities discovered a small bag of white powder in her jacket pocket.  The powder tested positive for meth.  At Metro Corrections in Louisville, a full-body scan indicated that some type of object was lodged inside Ms. Brewer’s vagina.  A subsequent strip search revealed that the object was indeed a meth pipe.  Therefore, in addition to the original charges, Alisha Brewer was also charged with possession of a controlled substance and promoting contraband in a correctional facility.  Whenever I hear about a case like this, it makes me wonder.  Did she really think that they were not going to check her for contraband?  Perhaps some people are able to slip through, but the meth in her pocket was a dead giveaway.

And yes, sometimes things do slip through the cracks.  Last year, a woman was pulled over for erratic driving in Centennial Lakes, MN after she was seen straddling the median.  Nicole Lynn Denzer, 23, was taken to jail, booked and placed into her cell, according to KSTP.com.  During a routine cell inspection that occurred after Ms. Denzer had already been processed, a canine detection unit alerted to the woman as the dog began sniffing at her crotch.  At this time, Ms. Denzer admitted to having drugs hidden inside her vagina.  After a strip search, authorities found “a clear plastic bag with 17 grams of meth and a clear pipe,” according to the complaint.  Ms. Denzer was charged with second-degree controlled substance possession and an additional charge of introducing drug contraband into jail.  She faces up to 25 years and a $500,000 fine.

In an earlier column, I told you about Christie Dawn Harris, 28, of Ada, OK.  When Ms. Harris was arrested and taken to jail, she continually complained about needing to go to the bathroom.  She also told police that she could not wear “prison clothes” since she was “on her period.”  I never knew that was an excuse for not wearing prison uniforms.  Once she was strip searched, authorities found several bags of crystal meth hidden in the crack of her buttocks and a loaded pistol hidden in her vagina.  Just last week, Ms. Harris entered no contest pleas to three felony counts of possession of meth with intent to distribute, gun possession, and bringing contraband into jail.  Judge Steven Kessinger sentenced her to 25 years for each count, with the three prison terms to run concurrently.  She also has to pay $1,363 in court costs and fees.

Finally, men are no smarter than women when it come to drugs.  Last week, Eric Joseph was arrested in Cobb County, GA after Smyrna police found a clear plastic bag containing nearly 42 grams of marijuana hidden under his genitals.  Police also found 16 individually packaged capsules containing 2.8 grams of a clear, crystal-like substance that tested positive for crystal meth, according to smyrna.patch.com.  The report did not indicate how the drugs were hidden under his genitals, so the reader can only imagine how Mr. Joseph hid his drugs.  The charges he faces include possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and marijuana possession. He remains in the Adult Detention Center without bond.

It is known that methamphetamine can affect a person’s judgment, and these cases clearly indicate poor judgment.  One more reason to stay away from meth!  Be safe out there.

July 10, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

For my meth in the news column this week, I am going to discuss some of the consequences that arise when a methamphetamine lab explodes and/or catches on fire during the cooking process.  This was also reported in great detail last week in a feature story about trauma surgeon Paul Blostein of Kalamazoo, MI (www.necn.com/).  The Associated Press has also featured several articles on the influx of methamphetamine-related burns in hospitals across the United States.  According to the AP, many hospitals have been filled with uninsured burn patients who literally require millions of dollars of advanced treatment.  In severe instances, the high cost of the treatment required for these injuries has even forced the closing of some burn units.

As I have reported here several times, methamphetamine-induced explosions and fires are occurring with increasing frequency.  The larger meth labs have been exploding and catching on fire for years and years.  These labs were usually located in basements, backyard sheds or other private locations.  While many people were hurt when these labs caught on fire, they could usually escape the flames by running from the lab.  This has changed considerably with the introduction of the “one-pot” or “shake-and-bake” cooking procedure.

The one-pot approach has taken off across the country; it requires much less pseudoephedrine, a common component of many cold and allergy medications.  The meth cooks are also able to produce their meth in a matter of minutes instead of hours, and it’s easier and cheaper to make.  Pat Johnakin, a DEA agent specializing in meth said that by 2010, about 80% of the meth labs busted by the DEA were using one-pot recipes.  The word on the street is that “everybody is cooking their own meth now.”

The one-pot labs consist of 2-liter plastic soda bottles where the “cook” combines raw, unstable ingredients into a noxious brew, eventually producing enough meth for the cook’s personal use.  Their small size makes these labs portable, and they have been found in backpacks, cars, public restrooms and along the side of the road.  If everything is done carefully and the cook is lucky, she may be able to produce her meth without being harmed.  However, if the cap is removed from the bottle prematurely or the plastic bottle is accidently perforated, the concoction can explode, searing flesh and causing permanent disfigurement, blindness or even death.  “You’re holding a flame-thrower in your hands,” reported Jason Grellner of the Franklin County, MO Sheriff’s Department.  The bottles spray flaming chemicals that splash and burn “sort of like napalm,” said Dr. Blostein.

“From what we see on the medical side, that’s the primary reason the numbers seem to be going up: greater numbers of producers making smaller batches,” said Dr. Michael Smock, director of the burn unit at Mercy Hospital St. Louis.  However, it is impossible to precisely determine how many people are burned while “cooking” meth.  Many people will avoid treatment as long as they can since they are paranoid about getting caught.  Those who do come in for treatment often make up very strange stories to describe their injuries.  “They’ll say they were working on the carburetor at 2 or 3 in the morning and things blew up,” said Dr. David Greenhalgh, past president of the American Burn Association and director of the burn center at the University of California, Davis.  Vanderbilt’s Dr. Jeffrey Guy recalled the case of a woman who arrived with facial burns that she said were caused by a toaster.   As a result, she didn’t tell the doctors that her meth-making chemicals also got into her eyes, thereby delaying treatment.  “Now she’s probably going to be blind because she wasn’t honest about it,” said Dr. Guy.

Dr. Blostein and his staff have studied the effects of meth-related burns — wounds that are slower to heal, lungs that take longer to regain function, pain that is more difficult to manage, and patients who require much more care.  And unfortunately, while the meth “cooks” are those who are the most frequently burned, bystanders are often also burned, too.  Dr. Blostein has treated patients as young as age 2 and as old as 60 for meth-related burns.  This 2-year-old was obviously an innocent victim!

Researchers at the University of Iowa have discovered that people burned while making meth typically have longer hospital stays and more expensive hospital bills than other burn patients.  Unfortunately, these bills are frequently absorbed by the hospital since a vast majority of the meth “cooks” lack insurance.  Doctors at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, MI also found that meth burn victims were more likely to suffer damage to the lungs and windpipe, spent more time on ventilators and needed surgery more often.  Doctors must be extra alert to signs of infection, extra vigilant about monitoring ventilators and fluids, and should not be surprised if recovery seems slower than normal with meth-burn patients, said Dr. Blostein.

Finally, it is often more difficult to control the methamphetamine burn patient’s pain and anxiety with medication since they often have other substance abuse problems in addition to meth.  If they are addicted to a narcotic such as Demerol, it may be difficult to get their pain under control.  If they also use Xanax, any associated anxiety will be difficult to treat.   And due to their meth use, these burn patients may become agitated, pulling out IVs and feeding tubes, or may even try to get out of bed.

Methamphetamine is without a doubt a dangerous and insidious drug.  Cooking meth is also extremely dangerous.  One simple mistake can injure and even kill the cook and anyone nearby.  Your best bet – don’t do meth!

July 3, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

For my meth in the news column this week, I am going focus on the import of methamphetamine across the southern border of the United States with Mexico.  In particular I am going to discuss the San Ysidro port of entry at San Diego.  The AP recently ran a feature story on this problem (www.courierpostonline.com), and it was followed up by a related story in the local newspaper in Cartersville (www.daily-tribune.com), which verified the AP story.  Reports from this region emphasize that most of the meth in the U.S. isn’t being cooked in kitchens, garages, basements or seedy motel rooms.  Instead, it “is increasingly coming from our neighbors to the south.”

The smuggling of meth across border crossings has increased significantly in recent years.  This has been especially evident at San Diego’s San Ysidro port of entry, which accounted for more than 40% of the methamphetamine seizures made in fiscal year 2012.  This represents more than 3 times the amount of meth seized at the port with the second highest percentage, which is located a mere 5 miles east of San Ysidro, and more than 5 times the third highest, which is the port located in Nogales, Ariz.  I previously thought that the Nogales port had the highest percentage of meth seizures, but San Ysidro clearly surpasses Nogales.

In the 2012 fiscal year alone, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspectors seized 5,566 pounds of meth at the San Ysidro port of entry. It is difficult to imagine that almost 3 tons of meth were seized; this would amount to over 10 million 250 mg hits of meth!  And that was the amount of meth that was discovered; imagine how much made it through!  Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations unit estimates that this was double the amount seized in 2011, and more keeps coming through.  Along the entire border with Mexico, CBP inspectors seized 13,195 pounds in 2012, also more than double that found in 2011.

What makes San Ysidro so attractive?  Gary Hill, assistant special agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in San Diego said, “This is the gem for traffickers.  It’s the greatest place for these guys to cross because there are so many opportunities.”  Unlike many other border crossings, San Ysidro opens up into a heavily populated area where over 18 million people live, which includes Los Angeles, one of the nation’s top distribution hubs.  On the other hand, the El Paso crossing in Texas is more than 600 miles from the closest distribution center in Dallas, and there are many Border Patrol checkpoints along the lonely roads.

During rush hour, thousands of motorists fill the streets of Tijuana en route to the 24 inspection lanes on their way to school or work in the U.S. Vendors weave their way between cars, selling their wares and adding to the confusion.  It is estimated that an average of 40,000 cars and 25,000 pedestrians cross the San Ysidro port of entry every day.  Imagine how difficult it must be to check every person and vehicle!  And the meth smugglers are becoming increasingly inventive at devising ways to try and defeat the efforts of CBP inspectors.

One method that truly makes my blood boil is the use of children as meth mules.  Joe Garcia, assistant special agent in charge of ICE investigations in San Diego said that they have seen an “alarming increase” in the number of children who are caught each week with meth strapped to their little bodies.  They usually carry about 3 pounds of meth and are paid from $50 to $200 for each trip across the border.

Smugglers also hide meth in automobile and truck bumpers, batteries, radiators and almost any other place you can imagine.  And the packaging is often smothered with mustard, baby powder and laundry detergent in an attempt to get past the drug-sniffing dogs.  Drivers are paid about $2,000 for each trip across the border.  Smugglers are also dissolving crystal meth in water in an effort to circumvent the giant X-ray scanners that inspectors order some motorists to drive through.  The water is later boiled and often mixed with acetone, a combustible fluid that yields clear shards of meth that are favored by users.  The meth typically remains in a liquid form until it reaches its final distribution hub to aid concealment.

All of this is taking place as the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives struggle with comprehensive immigration reform.  Capt. Mark Mayton is the Commander of the Bartow-Cartersville Drug Task Force, located on ground zero of the meth smuggling efforts.  According to Capt. Mayton, “The true solution is to shut down our borders … With the immigration issues that are coming up, we’ve got to secure that southern border.”  Capt. Mayton went on to say, “They’re still going to get it in here, but we will see a significant reduction in the amount of drugs that are coming across if we shut the border down.  Now, is that unrealistic and Utopian in nature?  Probably so!  But I think we could do a better job than we are doing securing our borders.”

I could not have said it better.  Although anyone can find a recipe for meth on the Internet these days, the purest, most sought-after meth comes from the superlabs in Mexico.  The Mexican Drug Cartels keep the prices cheap and have distribution networks crisscrossing the entire U.S.  This is where the true battle lives!

Be safe!

June 26, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

For my meth in the news column this week, I am going to share with you the case that initially ignited my passion for spreading the word about the dangers of methamphetamine.  This was the case of Candice Renée Alexander, who was only 15 years old when she was murdered by her parents on May 9, 2003.  Her death was obviously preventable; school officials and social workers knew that she was in danger at home.  Other drug addicts were actually in the home when she was being beaten to death.  Some testified at trial of the immense guilt they felt for doing nothing for fear of angering their drug connection.  It continues to haunts them!

I first heard of Candice’s story when I was contacted by Mr. Tom Owens in late 2006.  Tom and his wife, Dru Driver, are the Executive Director and President, respectively, of Healing Helpers (http://healinghelpers.org) an organization located in Nash, TX that was established “To see that every child in the extended family circle in the United States has the right to grow, be happy and healthy, in a drug/substance/violence free environment.”  Tom told me the story about the death of Candice Alexander; I even saw a PowerPoint presentation containing her shocking autopsy photos.  It hurt me to see a beautiful, young girl, filthy and beaten, lying lifeless on a morgue table.  I could tell that she had fought back, but I could also see that she had suffered a great deal.  This case really opened my eyes to the horrors of methamphetamine, and I have remained passionate about learning more about this insidious drug so that I could pass on this knowledge to others.  This passion also led to my idea of this meth in the news column as well as my website and blog.  If one child is saved, then this has all been worth it!

This is the story of the short life and tragic death of Candice Renée Alexander.

Candice Alexander was first given methamphetamine when she was just twelve years old. That’s also probably when the sexual abuse began. Candice reported the abuse to her school, but instead of calling social services, they called her mother, Rebecca Lee, who in turn removed her from school.

Candice was not the first child to be abused by her mother. Her older brother, Cody, was taken from his mother as an infant by child protective services in 1986. A bone scan at a local hospital revealed fractures to the right ulna and radius, the tibia and femur of both legs, and multiple rib fractures in varying stages of healing. He was also blind. Nearly six months old, Cody weighed only nine pounds.

While Cody was in foster care, his mother gave birth to two more children, Amanda and Candice. Amanda was the first of the two to be molested by her stepfather. When Rebecca caught the couple in a sex act when Amanda was fourteen, the girl was kicked out of the house and forced to live with older meth addicts. The parents then moved on to Candice.

Rebecca knew her husband was sexually attracted to her daughter, but didn’t mind if he molested Candice as long as she was also present. But one day, Johnny took Candice fishing without inviting her mother. When Rebecca found out they’d had sex on the trip, she went berserk.

For the next ten days, Candice was violently beaten by her mother with a horse bridle. Then on May 9, 2003, the 5-foot-3, 90-pound teenager was forcibly injected with enough meth to kill four 150-pound men. She had a wound on her arm where the drugs were injected and finger-shaped marks near the injection site that were consistent with her arm being forcibly held. Her mother and stepfather also injected her with saline to try to revive her, but it was too late. Candice, at the young age of fifteen, was dead.

The murderers waited more than three hours to contact law enforcement. By the time they arrived, the meth lab had been disassembled and the bathroom scrubbed with a water hose that had been brought in from outside. The crime scene had also been cleaned.

In the autopsy, Candice’s battered body revealed what had occurred during her nightmare. She had fingernail marks on her face from being held down. There were marks extending the length of her right arm from being struck multiple times with a hard, round, elongated object. There was a large abrasion on her nose and blood in her right nostril indicative of being struck in the face.

Candice’s hands and chest were covered with motor oil and dirt that had come from the transmission of a truck; at some point during the savage beating she had run out of the house and sought refuge under the vehicle. There were bright red abrasions on her hips that had occurred when she was pulled away from the car by the back of her leather belt, which was now stretched out. There was also a prominent linear bruise on the midline of her abdomen, an imprint of the zipper of her pants, and fingernail marks and grass in her pubic area.

In 2005, Rebecca and Johnny Lee were found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Candice’s younger sister, who was thirteen at the time of her death, spent time in a psychiatric hospital while her mother was on trial. She had witnessed part of her sister’s murder and was also forced to participate in the cleanup.

Tragically, the cycle of abuse did not end with the conviction of the Lees. On September 5, 2008, Benjamin Terrance Rawls, the biological son of Rebecca Lee, was indicted for abandoning and endangering his ten-week-old son after he allegedly shook the infant. He was also accused of endangering his eighteen-month-old son by leaving him alone in the house with drugs, weapons, and a pit bull.

June 19, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

For my meth in the news column this week, I am going to talk about a growing problem associated with methamphetamine, especially while cooking meth.  That problem is fire.  The manufacturing process requires a wide variety of volatile and highly explosive chemicals.  Lithium batteries are used, especially in the ‘shake & bake” or “one pot” method, and they will catch on fire if they are exposed to water.  But many of the other ingredients are also extremely dangerous.  These ingredients may include, acetone (explosive), starter fluid (flammable), gas additives, paint thinner, rubbing alcohol, and many other noxious, corrosive, and explosive chemicals.  This has led to fires in cars (due to those “mobile meth labs”) as well as in homes.  Although there are many examples of this problem, I am going to focus on two cases for this week’s column.

Our first case comes to us from www.connecttristates.com and describes a house fire in Bardolph, a village of about 250 people located in McDonough County, Illinois.  On June 16, authorities received a rather strange call.  A witness called 911 to report a fire on South Broadway at around 6 PM.  The caller went on to describe what appeared to lead up to the fire.  McDonough County Sheriff Rick Van Brooker told reporters that the caller told deputies that a resident of the house, later identified as Michael W. Mason, 31, was involved in some type of fight at his house.  In a rage, Mason got into his car and was then seen crashing his car into a parked car.  He then ran back into his house, came back out a short time later and drove away.  By this time, his house was also on fire.  The caller said that Mason was acting delusional.  I wonder what gave it away!  Police searched for Mason until shortly after midnight, when they finally captured him after a short foot pursuit through Bardolph.   Mason was subsequently charged with arson, procurement of meth precursors, endangering the life/health of a child, criminal damage over $300.00 and resisting arrest.   During their investigation, deputies learned that Mason shared the burned house with Holly J. Mason, 30, who was also arrested on charges of methamphetamine possession and possession in the presence of a 3-year-old child.   The couple is in the McDonough County Jail awaiting a court appearance, and the child was checked by medical responders and placed in protective custody.  Although this incident was quite tragic for the small child, luckily no one suffered serious injury or death in the Bardolph fire.  The same cannot be said for our next case.

Just before midnight on Mother’s Day in Pottsville, PA, a “horrific tragedy” occurred in the 300 block of Pierce Street, according to Pottsville Police Capt. Richard Wojciechowsky (republicanherald.com).  On this fateful night in May, Eric Brown, 31, died in a horrible house fire along with his children, Joy Brown, 8, Jeremiah Brown, 7, Elijah Brown, 2, and Emily Brown, 3, and his sister-in-law Kristina Thomas, 23.  Pottsville fire Chief Todd March said that there were “raging flames at the rear of the three-story building” by the time they arrived on the scene and that it took about two hours before the fire was under control.  Unfortunately, firefighters were unable to save the occupants.  Kelly Brown, 28, Eric’s wife and Thomas’ sister, was not home at the time of the fire.  County Coroner Dr. David Moylan said that Brown, all four of his children and his sister-in-law died of carbon monoxide poisoning and smoke inhalation due to the fire.  Capt. Wojciechowsky, in a statement made late last week, said, “To this point, there’s no evidence to indicate it’s the result of any direct criminal act.”  The cause of the fire is under a joint investigation by Pottsville Police, Illinois State Police Arson Investigators and the Pottsville Fire Department.

A bombshell of sorts was dropped last Wednesday, June 12.  Coroner Moylan told reporters, “We checked the adults to see if there were any substances in their blood.” Although Kristina Thomas’ results came back negative, Eric Brown tested positive for amphetamine, methamphetamine and THC, a substance found in marijuana.  Although the Coroner said that the amount of methamphetamine in his system was not enough to kill him, he might have been delusional, paranoid or not in his right mind, depending on the extent of his prior meth use.  In addition, the Coroner said that “It looks like he could have been smoking marijuana the day of (the fire),” because of the concentrations in his system.  But neither the Coroner nor Capt. Wojciechowsky was willing to say whether or not Brown’s drug use contributed to the fire or the tragic consequences it produced.  The home did not have smoke detectors.  Mark Atkinson, city public safety director and a firefighter said that the property can’t be demolished until the investigation is complete.  Once police give the OK, a private contractor would most likely be hired to demolish the building. The building had no insurance.

Six people die in a horrific fire on Mother’s Day.  While we cannot say that meth was absolutely the cause of this tragedy, it is very likely to have played a role.  Additionally, it was curious that the children’s mother was not at home on Mother’s Day.  But fires like this are becoming more and more commonplace, not only in homes and hotel rooms, but also in cars, trucks and even in the woods.  Burn units across the country are seeing a huge influx of patients suffering from meth-related fires and explosions.  Cooking meth is nothing to take lightly.  My advice; stay away!

June 12, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

For my meth in the news column this week, I am going to once again illustrate how methamphetamine harms the most innocent people of all, the small children who live in the homes where meth is cooked and/or used.  Obviously, there is a clear and present danger for everyone who lives in a house where meth is cooked.  But innocent children can also be injured just by living in a home where meth is used.

In the first case reported on tristatehomepage.com, a two-year-old child was taken to the Owensboro Hospital in Owensboro, KY on Sunday, June 9 for chemical burns to her mouth.  The little girl was taken to the hospital by her mother, 23-year-old Racheal Arroyo and her boyfriend, Jared McStoots, 20.  Medical officials determined that the infant needed to be transferred to Kosair Hospital in Louisville for specialized treatment due to the severity of her injuries, where she was listed as being in critical condition.  The Ohio County Sheriff’s Office was notified, and deputies questioned the couple about the burns that the little girl suffered.  The couple finally admitted that the child ingested sulfuric acid, an ingredient used to make meth.   They claimed that Arroyo’s two-year-old little girl swallowed the sulfuric acid in a vehicle located outside Loie McStoots’ home.  Loie McStoots is Jared McStoots’ mother.  Arroyo and Jared McStoots were arrested and initially charged with possession of a controlled substance, endangerment to a child and wanton endangerment.  After contacting McStoots’ mother, Jared McStoots was also charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, unlawful possession of meth, possession of a controlled substance, and drug paraphernalia.  Arroyo was also charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, and McStoots’ mother was charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, unlawful possession of meth, possession of a controlled substance, and drug paraphernalia.  The news report did not say whether or not the little girl would be scarred for life, but this was a sad and definitely avoidable injury.

A mother from Abilene was indicted Thursday, June 6 by a Taylor County Grand Jury for endangering a child, according to http://www.ktxs.com.  Lacey Spykes, 22, told authorities that she was “doing meth” with her boyfriend in January when her 13-month-old son somehow ingested the drug.  There was no information regarding how the drug was being used at the time (injected, smoked, or ingested), and it was not clear how the small infant could have obtained the drug.   My guess is that the couple was smoking the drug and the child inhaled the vapors.  The couple eventually noticed that the infant was experiencing seizures and had somehow hit his head, producing noticeable head trauma.  The baby tested positive for meth at a local hospital and was ultimately taken to Cook Children’s Health Care System in Fort Worth for treatment.  This was not Spykes’ first incident involving meth.  She was spotted pulling into a hotel on Pine Street in Abilene in May of last year and, when she was searched, an officer found meth on her person.  Spykes was also charged with possession of meth.

Finally, Amanda Mae Harris, 34, of Lufkin was arrested by Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Brandon Boulware on a Diboll Police Department warrant on Friday, June 7.  Harris is being held in the Angelina County jail on state-jail felony charges of abandoning or endangering a child and possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) less than one gram according to us.topnewstoday.org.  The mother of three admitted to using meth in the presence of her children, and Department of Family Protective Services personnel subsequently requested that a drug test be conducted on Harris and her children.  One of her children tested positive for meth, and the child that tested positive was under the age of 15.

So here are three cases where young, innocent children were harmed because their mothers used meth.  These are just some recent cases that made the news.  I am sure that, unfortunately, this happens all the time.

There are so many ways that children can suffer if they live where meth is used and/or cooked.  By now everyone knows that children can ingest meth or get caught up in an explosion or fire that leads to serious injury or death.  But the ingredients used to make meth are just as harmful as the drug itself, if not more so.  Some of these chemicals can include ammonia, methanol, ether, benzene, methylene chloride, trichloroethane, toluene, anhydrous ammonia, red phosphorous, and iodine.  Common household items such as carpeting and draperies, as well as items like baby bottles and nipples, and clothing, can absorb the vapors from these chemicals and retain them for months.  So the children are forced to endure long-lasting and lingering effects from exposure to these chemicals.  Children living in “meth homes” are also at risk of abuse and neglect due to parents who use the drug, a drug that often makes its users extremely violent—irritable and careless at the lower end of the spectrum.  Parents who are meth users often fall asleep for many hours or days after binging on meth, leaving small children to care for themselves.  And at some in-home meth labs, the “cook” often dumps the toxic byproducts into the plumbing drains, contaminating the entire waste system, including sinks and toilets.  Small children have been found with meth powder on their clothing and bare feet.  Meth homes/labs are also notoriously filthy.

I think that you get the idea.  And remember, these children also often suffer from emotional effects due to neglect, abuse and physical injury.  And finally, meth users often become involved in criminal activities, and may even sell the drug on the side, which also put their children at great risk.

So if you really love your children, DON’T DO METH!  There is no way that you can protect them from the harm that this insidious drug produces.

June 5, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

For my meth in the news column this week, I am going to discuss some cases where the methamphetamine users’ paranoia got out of control and resulted in their subsequent arrests.  In the first case from lilburn.patch.com, a 40-year-old woman from Lilburn, GA was staying at the Marriott Hotel in Duluth one Saturday in May.  She was alone and getting high on meth.  While sitting in her hotel room, the unidentified woman started to experience meth-induced paranoia.  She became convinced that someone had put a “hit” on her, so around 5:55 PM she dialed 911.  The Gwinnett County Police report stated that she thought that there were men chasing her because of the “hit” that had been placed on her.  She asked the officer that she spoke with on the phone if he would drive her to the Extended Stay America down the road so that the “men” could not find her.  Of course the officer said that they could not come out and drive her to another hotel. Nevertheless, the woman dialed 911 three more times, asking for the same officer each time.  She alleged that she was still being followed by the hit men, but every time that the police came to check, they could not find anyone who might have been chasing or following the woman.  At 7:57 PM, the woman called 911 once again, this time to tell the officer that she was having a nervous breakdown and was going to hurt herself.  She also said that the “hit men” were still after her, following her.  This time, however, she also admitted to the officer that she had been smoking methamphetamine since noon, but denied that her meth use was the reason why the men were following her.  She said that she did not feel safe at the Marriott any longer and that she wanted to go to her aunt’s house where she would be safe.  The officer suggested that she take a taxi to her aunt’s house.  The officer also told her that she better not call 911 again or else she would be arrested.  Wouldn’t you know it?  At 8:47 PM she called 911 for the sixth time that day.  Apparently, three men in the hotel lobby stood up when she sat down, and even though the men did not pay any attention to the woman, she became terrified that they were going to grab her.  When the woman became irate because the officer did not believe her, she was arrested and charged with the possession of meth, among other things.  So her meth-induced paranoia resulted in getting arrested on meth-related charges.

There have been several other reports about people calling 911 in fear due to meth-induced paranoia.  In Boise, ID, police responded to the home of Anthony A. Naclerio, 54, after he called 911 but hung up before talking to officers.  When officers went to check on his welfare, they found several bags of meth, but no one else was there, and Naclerio was arrested for possession of meth.  In Lincoln, NE, Patrick Benn Schulte, 36, drew more than a dozen police officers to the D’Leon’s Restaurant when he called 911 to report that a sniper was on the roof of the restaurant and that the “gunman” had threatened people at the restaurant.  Police arrested Schulte for meth possession when no sniper was found.  And I reported in this column recently about “death metal” guitarist Allen West who called 911 to report that two male intruders had “forcibly entered his house by kicking in the front door.” The guitarist allegedly ran out of his back door and into nearby woods for safety.  Police did not find any intruders, but they did find the makings of a meth lab and arrested West.  I could go on and on, but I think that you get my point.

Paranoia is almost always associated with long-term methamphetamine use.  Ask any meth user and they will tell you about their paranoia.  They will tell you about the voices they hear, the attempts the police and FBI have made to discover their meth use to arrest them, or about the intruders who are out to get them, their money or most importantly, their meth.  They become suspicious of friends and family, thinking that everyone is out to get them, to steal their meth supply or their money, and to put them in prison.  And if they are lucky enough to get into treatment, they will tell you that what they believed was actually true – even after they stop using meth and even though they logically know that what they believed cannot possibly be true.  This paranoia arises from the same biological actions that make meth such a powerfully addicting drug.

Most people are aware that the cells in the brain use chemicals to communicate with each other.  Dopamine is one of these chemicals.  While dopamine is related to many different biological functions, perhaps it is best known to the lay public as the “pleasure” chemical.  When we eat something we like, such as chocolate, dopamine is released in the pleasure centers of the brain.  When we have sex, watch an exciting movie, or do anything that we really enjoy, dopamine is released.  Methamphetamine also works through dopamine.  But unlike “normal” pleasures or rewards that increase dopamine approximately 2-fold, meth produces increases in brain dopamine that are more than 10-20 times more than that produced by food, sex, or any other natural reward.  That is why meth users often refer to meth as producing feelings more pleasurable than anything that they have ever felt before.  But upon subsequent use, it is almost never as good as that first time, so the addict will use more and more meth in an attempt to produce that initial, wonderful high.  And this is where the problems arise.  It just so happens that schizophrenia, especially paranoid schizophrenia, is also associated with increased activity in dopamine-containing brain cells.  Thus, the paranoia and hallucinations that often accompany methamphetamine use arise from the same chemical messenger in the brain, dopamine, that produces feelings of pleasure but is also overly active in cases of paranoid schizophrenia.  So while a little dopamine may be (feel) good, too much can lead to paranoia, fear and distrust.   There is no getting around it; paranoia is a resulting hazard of methamphetamine use due to the very same biological effects that make the drug so pleasurable and addictive in the first place.

What does this tell the reader?  The same thing that I tell you every week – stay away from meth!

May 29, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

For my meth in the news column this week, I am going to use several different reports to illustrate a few points about methamphetamine that the reader may find as interesting as I do.  First of all, no one is immune to the ability of meth to take total control of their life.  In the first report from www.tulsaworld.com, a 46-year-old former Ottawa County Sheriff’s detective from Miami, OK, was found guilty of selling methamphetamine near a school.  Troy Leroy Wilmoth pleaded no contest on May 17, 2013 in Ottawa County District Court to two counts of delivery of a controlled dangerous substance within 2,000 feet of a school.  He was accused of selling 0.5 gram of meth for $40 to an undercover narcotics agent.  Five hours later, the undercover agent bought another gram of meth from Wilmoth for $120.  During a subsequent search of Wilmoth’s house, narcotics agents found a working meth lab, an unloaded 9 mm semi-automatic pistol, marijuana and associated drug paraphernalia.  Therefore, Wilmoth also pleaded guilty to manufacturing meth within 2,000 feet of a school, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, possession of meth and marijuana, and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia.  It was not stated in the news reports whether or not Wilmoth had been part of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s narcotics team, but he still should have known better.

The next report comes from the other side of the world in Kalasin, Thailand.  In this case,   Athikanprayong Papassaro, the abbot of a temple in tambon Kut Khao of Kuchinarai district, was arrested while using methamphetamine, or yaba as it is called in Thailand, in his living quarters.  The 41-year-old abbot, who had been in the monkhood for 13 years, confessed to police that he took a few yaba (meth) pills daily to lose weight after his weight ballooned to 90 kg (198 pounds).  The former monk’s height was not given.  Police said they seized seven meth pills, drug equipment and several pornographic CDs depicting gay sex from his living quarters.  The abbot was asked to leave the monkhood and was taken into custody, charged with using an illegal drug.  So a Buddhist monk in Thailand falls prey to meth, just as happened to the former Roman Catholic priest, Kevin Wallin, from Connecticut.  Wallin recently admitted to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 25 to 11 to 14 years in prison.

The next case illustrates the lengths that meth addicts will go to for their drug of choice.  In this case, reported on www.kait8.com from Mountain Home, AR, Bethany Nicole Williams, 24, a former inmate at the Baxter County Jail called the Detention Center several hours after she was released on May 19.  She said that she had left a small container in her jail uniform and wanted to retrieve it.  What was she thinking?  Didn’t she suspect that the authorities might look to see what was in this container that was so important to her?  They did of course and found 8 white pills identified as Trazadone and one clear rock substance that tested positive for meth inside the container.  When Williams, of Flippin, AR, returned to the Detention Center on May 20 to collect her possessions, she identified the container as hers.  Baxter County deputies subsequently arrested Williams on 2 charges, Possession of Controlled Substances and Furnishing Prohibited Articles, both felonies and on a parole violation for testing positive for meth.  So we know that Williams had access to meth while in jail, and if she had only remembered that rock in her pocket before she was released, she might still be free today.

The final 2 cases this week describe some of the unbelievable, horrific behaviors that meth addicts sometimes commit while using the drug.  The first case is from Lucedale, MS, and was reported on www.fox10tv.com.  This report is unbelievably sad, sickening and disgusting.  The George County Sheriff’s office was called at 7:30 PM on May 21 through an anonymous 911 line about a man who set his little dog on fire.  Deputies reported that the caller said that a man was “going psycho while crazy on meth” at a residence on Greenwood Road in Lucedale.  The suspect was identified as Brandon Pierce, 20, who lived with his family at the residence.  He told the deputies that he “wanted to help the dog go to heaven.”  How sick!  Thankfully the George County Animal Clinic was willing to see the small breed dog that appeared to have been doused with a flammable substance and set on fire.  The little poor dog initially survived the fire, but according to a clinic representative, the dog was “critical, may lose a front left leg, may lose eyesight due to the burns on the face, and the tip of its nose is burned off.”  The little dog eventually succumbed to its injuries.  Pierce was charged with cruelty to an animal in addition to drug-related charges due to his meth use.  It is just inexcusable to hurt a poor defenseless animal this way!  No punishment is too severe.  But it gets worse.

The last case this week involves 10 men, 1 woman and a 16-year-old girl.  According to www.chron.com, the 11 adults gave the teenage girl methamphetamine sometime in March and then took her to a Madisonville trailer home in Southeast Texas where she was sexually assaulted in an apparent drug-fueled attack that continued over several hours.  The trailer used in the attack was one that was often used by drug abusers, according to authorities.  Two people were recently arrested, including a woman, Sondress Lotts, 35, and Earl James Tyler, 33.  Both suspects were charged with child trafficking and sexual assault of a child.  The crime was reported as a drug-fueled attack, suggesting that the assaulters were meth users and that they also used meth to control the young girl.   Madisonville Police Chief Chuck May said that as of May 28, all but 1 of the 11 suspects had been arrested.  He also stated that this was a “hideous crime.”  Indeed!  “Any abuse of a juvenile is a hideous case, but then to have one of this magnitude … Luckily, my men are well-trained to know how to handle these cases,” May said.  This crime would be considered sick and depraved if the 10 men and 1 woman had committed these crimes on an adult, but to gang rape a child in this way is beyond my comprehension.  And how could a woman be part of this depravity?  Oh the things that meth makes people do!

All of these reports are telling you the same thing – stay away from meth!

May 22, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

For my meth in the news column this week, I am going to focus on a case that has evolved over the past 10 days or so that once again illustrates the violence that is often associated with methamphetamine.  On May 12, 2013, www.usatoday reported that four people were found murdered in a home in Waynesville, Indiana.  When I initially read this article, I immediately thought that meth must be involved.  I have reported here in the past about other horrific murders:  the two sisters bludgeoned to death while they slept in Edgerton, MO by a man high on meth who was looking for sex; the parents shot and killed by their meth-using son in Boley, OK because he thought that they were intruders who were trying to attack him; and the four women who were shot to death in an apartment in Tulsa, OK by two brothers who wanted to steal the meth that they thought would be there.  This case in Waynesville, 50 miles south of Indianapolis in rural Indiana appeared to follow the same pattern – four people found murdered in the same home.  The victims were identified as Katheryn Burton, 53, and Thomas W. Smith, 39, who lived in the home, and Aaron Cross, 41, and Shawn Burton, 41, from Columbus, IN.

I was so convinced that this case was related to methamphetamine that I even posted it on my blog (fmhotd.wordpress.com) on May 13 with the heading, “Who could have murdered these 4 people in Waynesville, Indiana – was it related to Methamphetamine?”  There were a few clues that led to my suspicions.  Neighbors claimed that they smelled strange scents near the home and saw random cars occasionally driving through the streets of the neighborhood.  Shawn Burton’s half brother, who lives next door to the crime scene, told reporters that he suspected that drugs might have played a role.  Stevie Furkin, 55, said that he had smelled anhydrous ammonia coming from the house in the past. Remember that anhydrous ammonia is often used in the meth “cooking” process.  I thought that it was curious that he was so aware of the smells associated with methamphetamine production.  He also claimed that his half brother had struggled with addiction to meth and was also known as “the little cook” for cooking meth.  I wonder if Stevie also had problems with meth!  The layout of the neighborhood itself was another clue.  On one end of the street, one finds nice, well kept, one-story homes, but these quickly give way to dilapidated houses with pit bulls chained outside; a clear indication that something suspicious was happening there.  No Trespassing signs, oddly parked cars in the yard and piles of trash were also suggestive of potential criminal activity.

The nature of the murders was also disturbing.  The bodies were discovered late Saturday night (May 11) by Katheryn Burton’s son, Daniel Burton, 27.  He called 911 to report that his mother’s house had been ransacked, items had been stolen and that there were two bodies on the floor.  According to the transcripts of the 911 call, Daniel Burton told the dispatcher, “I just walked in and I had two bodies here. I think they’ve both been shot — there’s blood everywhere.”  He was unable to get into his mother’s bedroom because the door was locked.  That was probably a good thing because her body was found by police inside her bedroom in her bed.  Bartholomew County Coroner Larry Fisher said that Katheryn Burton had been shot and stabbed multiple times.  He declined to disclose how many times she was stabbed, but when asked by reporters if her body had been mutilated, Fisher said, “That’s kind of hard to define … It was very vicious.”  A fourth victim was found in another room, and all of the victims suffered from multiple gunshot wounds.  Truly a vicious, bloody crime scene!

On May 14, Bartholomew County Sheriff Mark Gorbett told reporters that police had found methamphetamine at the brick house where the murders took place, which is what I had suspected from the beginning.  Police also found spent shell casings and a knife possibly used in the slaying of Katheryn Burton.  A rifle also was recovered, but police said they didn’t know whether or not it was used in the killings.  Sheriff Gorbett said that investigators believed that the murders were drug-related, but he didn’t elaborate.  You think??  Methamphetamine was found in the home, neighbors reported smelling scents indicative of methamphetamine production, and all four people found in the home were savagely murdered.  That smells like a meth-related crime to me.  The Sheriff also said that police had interviewed two people of interest and that Daniel Burton was not considered a suspect.  There have still been no arrests in this horrific crime, which has rattled the neighborhood as you might have guessed.

Involvement with the production and sale of meth, while seemingly lucrative, almost never ends peacefully.  Someone under the influence of meth, experiencing paranoia and hallucinations, lacking reasonable judgment and impulse control, or just looking for money and/or more meth will do almost anything to get the drug, including murder, as we have seen time and time again.  But remember, the Mexican drug cartels have been infiltrating throughout the United States to cut out the middleman and increase their profits.  The savagery of the murders in Waynesville may be a signal that a new player is in town.  Only time will tell.  Be safe!

May 15, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In our first case in meth in the news this week, news.radio.com reported that a former guitarist for “Death Metal” bands Six Feet Under and Obituary found himself in jail in Bushnell, FL after Sumter County deputies responded to a 911 call from his Lake Panasoffkee home.  Apparently Allen West thought that there were two male intruders who “forcibly entered his house by kicking in the front door.” The guitarist then ran out of his back door and into the nearby woods for safety.  When the deputies arrived at West’s home, they did not find any evidence of intruders or a break in at the residence.  However, they did notice a “strong acidic odor from the bedroom.”  Further investigation revealed plastic bottles, tubing and other materials consistent with those used to produce methamphetamine hidden inside a cooler.  Ammonium nitrate, sodium hydroxide and lithium strips were also recovered.  West initially claimed that these meth-making materials were not his and that “they were cooking it,” but he could not tell the authorities who “they” might be.  After further questioning, the guitarist finally confessed to producing and smoking meth in the home as recently as the past two weeks.  West was arrested for production and possession of a controlled substance, specifically methamphetamine, and was being held at the Sumter County Jail on a $40,000 bond.  A quick online search revealed that West has not been a guitarist for Six Feet Under since 1998 and Obituary since 2006.  Good thing; it appears that his meth use is already producing significant paranoia and psychoses, and this could affect his ability to perform, among other things.

Our next case comes from Henryetta, OK on www.fox23.com.  On May 10, the Henryetta police department received a call around 7 AM about a man trespassing at a trailer park.  When they arrived on the scene, officers found William Brooks, who appeared “disheveled-looking” and possibly under the influence of methamphetamine.  Henryetta Police Chief Steve Norman told reporters that Brooks was subsequently arrested for public intoxication.  The patrol car was a K-9 unit, and Endy, Henryetta police department’s only K-9 officer was in the back seat in his dog cage, so the officer handcuffed Brooks and placed him in the front seat.  The next thing the officer knew, the suspect had moved his hands from the back to the front by slipping his legs between his arms and had taken off in the police car, with Endy “barking like crazy” in the back seat. The dog couldn’t get to Brooks because of the barrier dividing the front from the back.  Chief Norman said that “It’s a very desperate measure for somebody. However he appeared to be high on methamphetamine and those people do desperate things.” That is definitely an understatement!  Imagine driving away in a police car with a police dog in the car and possibly a frantic police officer in hot foot pursuit.  The Oklahoma Highway Patrol was called, and they quickly discovered Brooks hiding in a nearby field using their tracking dogs.  He had abandoned the police car with Endy still safely in his cage in the back seat.  “He’s an officer and we see him as an officer and a partner, and I can tell you that we are so very fortunate that nothing happened to Endy,” said Chief Norman.  Brooks was charged with motor vehicle theft, drug possession, and a host of other charges.  Once again methamphetamine use leads to extreme behavior!

The final case this week occurred early in the morning on Friday, May 10 in Auburn, IN as reported on www.wane.com.  At about 2:30 AM, Auburn police officers said they found a car, with its engine running, parked near the gas pumps at a service station in the 1900 block of Wayne Street.  When officers approached the vehicle, they discovered a woman slumped over the steering wheel, apparently passed out.  The officers also saw a variety of items commonly associated with drug use inside of the car next to the woman.  She was later identified as

Holly A. Slone, 23, of Auburn.  A K-9 officer was called and alerted officers to the presence of illegal drugs.  Upon further investigation, officers found an active meth lab along with several methamphetamine precursors inside the vehicle.  The Indiana State Police Methamphetamine Lab Team was called to the scene to process the active meth lab with the assistance of the Auburn Fire Department.  Slone was subsequently arrested and booked into the DeKalb County Jail on charges of manufacturing methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a park, possession of methamphetamine, possession of precursors, possession of paraphernalia and criminal recklessness.  Auburn police told reporters that this situation could have turned into a serious disaster if the meth lab had exploded inside of the running car next to a fuel pump.  I join police in urging the public to call the authorities whenever they observe situations that appear suspicious or out of the ordinary.  You never know when methamphetamine might be involved.

May 8, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

For our first case in meth in the news this week, ajc.com reports that Snellville Police in Georgia received a tip from a concerned citizen that drugs were being stored at a home located at 858 James Road in unincorporated Lawrenceville.  On May 1, 2013, Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Deputies and Homeland Security Investigations agents were dispatched to the residence, along with the Gwinnett Metro Task Force (GMTF), which is composed of Deputies from the Sheriff’s Office along with Officers from the Lilburn, Lawrenceville, Snellville, Duluth, and Suwanee Police Departments.  Once inside the home, officers discovered two containers filled with what appeared to be methamphetamine, according to Gwinnett County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Deputy Shannon Volkodav.  GMTF officers also found methamphetamine in liquid form at the site.  Once the officers inventoried all of the meth they found at the home, they realized that they had uncovered 131.2 pounds (that’s about 2100 ounces or 59,511 grams!) of meth!  None of the reports on this evolving situation mention that that there was any evidence that the residence was also used as a meth lab; there were no reports of dangerous chemicals (other than meth) or that hazmat crews were called to clean up any toxic residue.  This suggests that the James Road house was being used to store the meth until it could be distributed and sold.  Authorities estimated that the street value for this amount of methamphetamine would be $2,099,200.  I am not sure how they estimated the value so precisely (it looks like the estimate was $16,000 per pound, just under $1,000 per ounce or about $35 per gram – which seems a bit low to me).  If they had estimated this meth conservatively at $100 per gram, then the street value could be as high as $5.95 million.  But no matter how you look at it, this is a lot of meth worth a heck of a lot of money.  And while there are likely superlabs within the United States that could produce 100+ pounds of methamphetamine, it is more likely that this much meth was produced in a Mexican superlab and transported across the border by the members of the Sinaloa, Los Zetas, La Familia or Knights Templar cartel.  My guess is that these days this probably represents the work of the Sinaloa cartel led by Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán, thought by many to account for up to 80% of the meth smuggled into the United States.  Jesus Eduardo Cansino-Gonzalez was listed as living at the James Road house, and he was arrested on site by Snellville Police.  Gonzalez was charged with trafficking in methamphetamine and is being held for immigration.  He is going to have a lot of explaining to do if he is returned to Mexico.  Cartel justice can be excessively brutal, and the loss of $2-5 million worth of methamphetamine is no trivial matter.  Another suspect, Nahum Enoe Rodriguez of Norcross, was also identified and captured the next day.  So far, Rodriguez has only been charged with conspiracy to commit a crime.  There have been reports that the Mexican Drug cartels have dispatched their members throughout the United States to cut out the middlemen and increase their profits, and this might represent the disruption of one of these distribution networks.

As I was preparing my column this week, I saw a news article on tbo.com reporting that $2 million worth of meth was discovered at a home.  At first I thought that this was another news report concerning the same house from my first case reported above.  However, when I read more closely, I saw that this was a separate case from Tampa, FL.  The discovery of another 110 pounds of meth was the result of a traffic stop conducted on May 2 by Polk County Sheriff’s Deputies on a Jeep Cherokee on Highway 98 West near southbound Highway 27 in Frostproof.  Scott Eargood, 21, was driving the Jeep, and Santos Zamora-Escobar, 27, was his passenger.  When Deputies searched the Jeep, they found $3,494 and 229 grams of meth.  Authorities learned that Eargood had just rented a home in Poinciana 4 months prior at the suggestion of Zamora-Escobar, and this led to a search of the Platte Lane home.  There officers found more than 110 pounds of meth, which was valued at $2.2 million (at $20,000 per pound).   If we use the $100 per gram estimate, then the meth could have been worth as much as $5 million!  United States Attorney Robert E. O’Neill alleged that Zamora-Escobar, Eargood and others stored large quantities of meth in the house for sale throughout Polk County, suggesting that this might have represented another Mexican Drug cartel distribution network within the United States.   Then on May 3, agents and detectives executed a search warrant in Highlands County at a mobile home on East Oak Island Road in Avon Park.  There they seized another four ounces of meth, a long rifle, an AK-47-type rifle, and three handguns. Investigators also executed a search warrant at an apartment on 3rd Street Southeast in Winter Haven.  Numerous wire transfer documents were seized from that location, further indicating that a major drug distribution ring had been disrupted.  Eargood and Zamora-Escobar were indicted on multiple drug-related charges, including felony possession of and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.  The penalty for each count is a mandatory minimum of 10 years, up to life in federal prison.  This case is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office as part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation.

In the last case this week, abclocal.go.com out of Modesto, CA reported that drug enforcement agents with the Stanislaus Drug Enforcement Agency (SDEA), Modesto Narcotics Enforcement Team (MNET) and Homeland Security Investigations made one of the largest meth busts in recent memory in the area.  Acting on an anonymous tip, agents served a search warrant at 2112 Hardy Ct in Ceres.  There they found approximately 290 pounds of meth concealed in several storage containers and $66,000 in cash.  This much meth would have a street value, depending on how it is calculated, from $4.6 to $13.1 million.  Luis Bartolo Madriz Sandavol, 32, from Everett, WA and Victor Ramiro Torres, 23, from Ceres, were arrested near the home and were booked into Stanislaus County jail for felony possession of meth for sale and transportation of meth.  In what can only be considered as an understatement, law enforcement officials suggested to reporters that this methamphetamine seizure will create “a noticeable disruption to the availability of this dangerous drug in our community”.

So in the first week of May, 2013, there were at least 3 major methamphetamine busts with more than 531 pounds of meth removed from the streets.  The street-value for this much meth would be in the tens of millions of dollars.  And if you consider that the “average” hit of meth is about 250 mg, then this would represent about 963,793 “hits” of meth.  Imagine how many people that much meth might have harmed.  And remember, this just represents some of the meth that was discovered by authorities; I wonder how much was successfully smuggled into the United States and sold.  And also remember, many meth users also make their own meth using the “one-pot” or “shake & bake” method in their bathrooms, cars, backpacks and motel rooms.  It is my opinion that there is a lot more methamphetamine being used out there than the surveys, authorities and experts have estimated.  I fear that there is a tidal wave of meth that is gradually covering every part of the United States.  I only hope that we are prepared.

May 01, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In this week’s meth in the news column, I am going to once again focus on the domestic production of methamphetamine.  Many meth users “cook” their own meth using “one-pot” or “shake & bake” labs.  And while they are called meth labs, they are unlike any lab I have ever worked in, from my high school chemistry class to the state-of-the art labs where my research is conducted today.  In reality, these “meth labs” are nothing more than 2-liter plastic coke or Gatorade bottles in which the toxic ingredients are mixed, yielding 2 to 6 grams of meth in a couple of hours, which is just enough for the user’s personal use.  There are many meth-cooking recipes that can be found on the Internet, and these recipes often include pseudoephedrine, a nasal decongestant found in certain cold medicines such as Sudafed®, along with various household items, including water, first-aid cold packs, Coleman fuel and lithium batteries.  But who knows who actually posted the recipes on the Internet or how much formal training in chemistry and pharmacology the “cook” or recipe writer ever received.  And another point to consider is the mindset of the cook.  Is she in a rush to make her meth, is she already high or tweaking, or is she substituting a more toxic substance for something that her recipe called for but that she did not have on hand?  My guess is that very few if any of the one-pot meth “cooks” have had any training in proper laboratory techniques.  Taken together, the lack of formal training, the toxicity of the ingredients used to make meth and the effects of meth on the judgment and impulsivity of the user makes these one-pot labs a disaster waiting to happen.  As I have warned repeatedly, one-pot labs are extremely combustible and can explode or catch on fire.  The ingredients themselves can also generate toxic fumes or may contain caustic materials that can burn the skin.  And since meth users tend to experience varying degrees of paranoia, they become extremely fearful that they will be caught.  For this reason, the “cook” often disposes of the waste, including the “lab” itself, by tossing it along the highway or in the woods once the methamphetamine has been obtained.  They often are unaware or don’t care about the proper disposal of the waste materials, and they fear that if they put the waste in with their regular trash, the authorities will trace it back to them.

Sometimes the meth “cooks” make more methamphetamine than they “need” at the time so they can sell it to other users.  They may be “Breaking Bad” wannabes or they may need the money to purchase more raw materials for future one-pot labs or to splurge for pure Mexican crystal meth.  In doing so, these “cooks” amplify the dangers.  In an incident from Rockvale, TN reported online at murfreesboropost.com, Rutherford County Sheriff’s narcotics detectives discovered eighty-two one-pot methamphetamine “labs” (2-liter bottles) at a single residence.  This broke a record for the most one-pot bottles ever seized in Tennessee.  Director Tommy Farmer of the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force said he didn’t know of a larger “shake and bake” seizure in Tennessee than the 82 bottles that were confiscated on April 8.  Can you imagine what would have happened if just one of these 82 bottles exploded?  That might have led to a series of explosions that could have affected not only the residence where the bottles were discovered but could have produced serious damage to nearby homes, putting countless innocent families at risk.  Incidentally, Tennessee has ranked among the top three states in illegal methamphetamine production in the United States for the past seven years.

But an even more dangerous practice is also ongoing with these one-pot labs.  Many one-pot meth “cooks” have taken to the road, cooking methamphetamine inside their car or other vehicle.  When they cook meth at home, they might be discovered by a friend or family member who might “rat” them out to the authorities.  But when they are in their car driving around town or out in the country, no one knows where they are.  Authorities claim that it can often be difficult to detect a car doubling as a meth lab.  Sgt. Niki Crawford, head of the Indiana State Police’s meth suppression unit told reporters, “You might get a smell of ammonia or another strong chemical smell, but that doesn’t necessarily hang around.  You’d have to catch someone as they’re cooking it.”  The types of vehicles that are used vary from cars to pickup trucks to tractor-trailer rigs.  RVs, such as the one used by high school chemistry teacher Walter White of “Breaking Bad” fame are also popular according to Sgt. Crawford.

On April 18, deputies with the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office in North Carolina made a very fortuitous find according to wbtv.com.  When deputies pulled over Ian Corneck, 26, of Boone, NC, for a routine traffic stop, they soon found what appeared to be a meth lab in his car.  When the State Bureau of Investigation’s Clandestine Laboratory Response Team was called to further examine the evidence, they discovered 3 one-pot (Shake & Bake) meth labs, along with an active HCL gas generator containing an unknown liquid, which officials say was producing a white cloud of smoke from the bottle.  The Clan Lab Response Team processed the multiple labs and neutralized the hazardous chemicals.  Cornick faces multiple meth-related charges and is being held in the Watauga County Detention Facility in lieu of a $105,000 secured bond.  There have been countless cases of cars and other vehicles that caught on fire and some that have even exploded when the meth-making ingredients were not handled properly.   Imagine if Cornick had been in an accident while his labs were actively percolating!  Please be safe out there!

April 24, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In this week’s meth in the news column, I am going to once again describe some of the strange and awful behaviors that methamphetamine use often produces.  As you may have read before in this column and elsewhere, methamphetamine can lead to aberrant sexual activities, and people high on meth often engage in behaviors that they would not as readily commit when sober.

The first case comes from kpho.com in Scottsdale, AZ where an unnamed 25-year-old woman was spotted running down the road in traffic wearing only a shirt.  She was discovered around 9:30 PM on Sunday, April 28 near the intersection of Scottsdale and McDowell roads with her 3-year-old son in tow.  David Pubins of the Scottsdale Police Department said that when police caught up with the woman, she was speaking incoherently about being in a fight and that she also had blood on her body, which caught the attention of the officers.  Officer Pubins went on to say that the woman’s son was wearing only his pajama bottoms with a “pretty bad cut” on his leg.  This was truly a bizarre sight, and officers were concerned about the welfare of mother and child.  Upon further investigation, police officers were able to trace the blood to a chain-link fence located near the intersection where the woman was found.  There they also found the boy’s pajama top caught on the fence, suggesting that the woman tried to climb over the fence with her son.  It was subsequently determined that the woman was high on methamphetamine, which likely contributed to why she was half naked in the middle of the road.  It was unclear what she was doing before she headed outdoors, but her attire indicated that something of a sexual nature was likely involved.  She was very lucky that neither she nor her son were injured or killed as they ran in traffic after dark.  Paramedics took the woman to the Scottsdale Healthcare-Osborn Hospital for treatment of her cuts and meth intoxication, while the child was taken to Maricopa Medical Center.  The child will be turned over to Child Protective Services and the woman will be charged when they are released from the hospital.

The next case could easily be titled, “Every father’s nightmare” and was reported on whas11.com from Louisville, KY.  In this case, an unidentified 16-year-old girl was reported missing by her mother last week but was found the following day by Louisville Metro Police in a closet located in a south Louisville home.  The only problem was that the girl was high on meth, allegedly provided to her by 46-year-old Gary Iburg.  And it gets worse.  Iburg is a convicted sex offender, convicted of a sex crime in Arkansas involving a 13-year-old!  But it gets even worse.  The police said that the place where the girl was found was a “home full of pornography.”  The girl’s mother told reporters that “There was porn all over the basement and there were toys, sex toys and stuff like that.”  She went on to claim that Iburg and his fiancée Mahala Meyer tried to perform sex acts on her daughter after getting her high on meth.  But Meyer disputed all of the allegations.  “That they would confiscate my sex toys and try to say they would be used on anyone but myself is ridiculous,” Meyer exclaimed. “Yes there’s pornos, but that’s for us.”

Nevertheless, Iburg was arrested and held under a $25,000 bond, and Meyer was arrested for possession of meth.  The girl was taken to Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville where she remained for several days.  Court records indicated that the sex crimes unit was also investigating this case and that other charges were possible.

The final case this week is another truly tragic crime reported on kansascity.com that took place on July 13 last year in Edgerton, MO.  Just before sunrise on that fateful day, 32-year-old Clifford D. Miller from Northland went to the home of sisters Ashley Key, 22, and Britny Haarup, 19 with the intention of having sex with Haarup even though the two had never had a sexual relationship.  You see, Miller admitted that he was high on meth when he entered the home.  There Miller found Key, who was sleeping on the living room couch.  When Key confronted Miller, he punched her, grabbed an object from a table and struck her in the head, and smothered her until she stopped moving.  Haarup was asleep on her side facing away from Miller when he entered her bedroom still intending to have sex with her, forcibly if necessary.  Haarup sat up in her bed and screamed as Miller repeatedly struck her in the head with a stick until he finally suffocated her with a pillow.  Haarup’s 18-month-old daughter was in the same bedroom, but Miller moved her to a crib in another bedroom where Haarup’s 5-month-old daughter was sleeping.  He then tried, but failed, to have sex with the lifeless 19-year-old woman.  He remained in the home for about an hour, smoking meth.  He then wrapped the women’s bodies in bed sheets, placed them in the back of Haarup’s pickup truck, grabbed the truck keys from Haarup’s purse, and dumped the bodies next to a soybean field near County Line Road.  Sadly, no one even knew that the sisters were missing until Haarup’s fiancé, Matt Meyers, came home and found Haarup’s two daughters alone in a crib.  Miller was captured soon thereafter; he was spotted driving Haarup’s truck and he tried to sell several rifles and shotguns that he had stolen from Haarup’s home.  Miller pled guilty to the murders and was sentenced on April 23 to two life terms without the benefit of parole by Platte County Circuit Judge Owens Lee Hull Jr., who further stated that Miller must serve those life sentences back-to-back.  Two beautiful young women, both mothers of young children, were brutally murdered and these babies have lost their mothers, all due to one person’s meth use.  The more I learn about methamphetamine and the harm it causes to innocent people, which is in addition to the toxic effects that it produces in the people who choose to use it, the more I am convinced that there is no valid reason for anyone to ever try meth!

April 17, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

Most of my columns in meth in the news have focused on the hazards associated with the manufacture and use of methamphetamine.  I have described the risks associated with “cooking” meth, including the risks of explosions, fires and chemical burns.  I have also warned the readers about the dangers the public faces if they come across discarded chemicals and other materials used in the “shake and bake” or “one-pot” methamphetamine “cooking” processes.  Finally, I have discussed how children and adults can be harmed if they live where meth is “cooked” or smoked, even if this had occurred in the past.  This week I am going to discuss the involvement of the Mexican Drug Cartels in the distribution of pure crystal meth throughout the United States.

During the past two weeks or so, several different news outlets have highlighted the extent of the infiltration of these Mexican Drug Cartel into the United States.  On April 2, ABC news (abcnews.go.com) reported on a study named, “Methamphetamine Traffic: Asia-Mexico-United States” that was conducted by a Mexican think tank organization.  According to this study, the Sinaloa Cartel, headed by the Mexican “kingpin” Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, accounts for 80% of the meth trade in the United States.  But the influence of the Sinaloa Cartel reaches far beyond the United States, with lucrative markets for meth found in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.  The RAND Corporation estimates that the Sinaloa Cartel makes about $3 billion each year from drug trafficking activities.  In fact, “El Chapo” has made the Forbes’ list of the world’s billionaires for the past four years in a row.

Beginning in the 1990’s, Guzman and his lieutenant, Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, focused their efforts on the importation of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, precursors necessary for the production of crystal meth, from China, Thailand and India, into ports at Lázaro Cárdenas and Manzanillo in Mexico, or at Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala.  In December, Mexican authorities seized 675 tons (you read that right, tons!) of methylamine, another key precursor for meth.  534 tons of the precursors phenylacetate and monomethylamine were seized in Lázaro Cárdenas in less than a month in January.  And these are just the chemicals that were discovered; how much was never found or was allowed to enter the country due to corruption, bribery and fear?  The precursors are then moved to superlabs in the states of Michoacán, Jalisco, Sonora and Sinaloa, where they are processed into pure crystal meth.  Coronel, who has been called the “King of meth” used the cartels’ already established drug-smuggling networks to distribute pure but inexpensive meth throughout the United States, thereby claiming a market that has led to the gradual decline of meth production in this country.  This lucrative market has made Guzmán and other cartel leaders billions upon billions of dollars.  It is difficult to imagine the amount of crystal meth this represents, but it is staggering!

I have reported time and time again in this meth in the news column about pounds and pounds of pure crystal meth that have been seized at the border and throughout the United States.  Imagine how much is really out there!  On April 7, WFAA out of Dallas (www.wfaa.com) reported that more meth is being smuggled into the United States than ever before.  Unfortunately, much of this meth is coming across the Texas-Mexico border.   Customs and Border Enforcement spokesman Phil Barrera told reporters that “A good 80 percent of the seizures involving narcotics here in the passenger environment, passenger vehicles, deal mostly with methamphetamine.”  Agents seized a record 2,200 pounds of meth last year along the stretch of this Texas-Mexico border from the Rio Grande Valley to Del Rio alone, which was a 100% increase over the seizures made in 2011.

On April 17, www.rockmartjrl.com out of Chicago reported that the Mexican Drug Cartels have sent agents from their inner circles into the United States to run their drug-distribution networks in at least nine non-border states.  The leaders of these cartels reasoned that if they cut out the middlemen and assumed more direct control, pushing aside the American traffickers, then they could keep more of the obscene profits for themselves.  According to Jack Riley, the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Chicago office, “People think, ‘The border’s 1,700 miles away. This isn’t our problem.’ Well, it is. These days, we operate as if Chicago is on the border.”  Cases involving drug cartel members have emerged in the suburbs of Chicago and Atlanta, as well as Columbus, OH, Louisville, KY, and rural North Carolina.  Suspects have also surfaced in Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania.  Richard Pearson, a lieutenant with the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department, said “This is the first time we’ve been seeing it — cartels who have their operatives actually sent here.”  The Louisville Metropolitan Police Department arrested four operatives from the Los Zetas Cartel last November in the Louisville suburb of Okolona.

Danny Porter, chief prosecutor in Gwinnett County, GA said that he has tried to entice dozens of suspected cartel members to cooperate with American authorities.  Nearly all declined, and some actually laughed in his face.  According to Porter, “They say, ‘We are more scared of them (the cartels) than we are of you. We talk and they’ll boil our family in acid.’”  In Mexico, the cartels are known for a staggering number of killings; more than 50,000 people have been murdered.  I have been following this violence for several months through a companion website linked in my website found below at the end of this column.  Beheadings are often a signature of drug cartel violence, and the drug cartels often publish videos of these murders online.  The last video I saw included the beheading, dismemberment and acid boiling of 3 young men and 2 naked young women captured from a rival cartel.  There are some things that I wish that I had never seen; I just cannot un-ring that bell.  Nevertheless, these Mexican Drug Cartels are here, the profits are astronomical, and the violence is worse than anything that the reader can ever imagine.  And the allure of that intense, powerful high that the drug produces and the incredible profits that can be made from selling methamphetamine portend that things are going to get a lot worse before they get any better.  Be safe out there!

April 10, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In this week’s meth in the news column I am going to focus on the awful violence that often accompanies methamphetamine.  The first report this week comes from Boley, OK via newsok.com and illustrates how methamphetamine not only hurts those who manufacture and use the drug, but it can cause collateral damage to innocent friends, family members and even strangers.  In this case, Denver and Martha Holloway were shot to death on March 8, 2013 in their home near Boley, OK by their own son.  Ross Alan Holloway confessed that he shot his parents after smoking meth and becoming disoriented.  Holloway told an agent with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation that on the night of March 8, he drank three beers and smoked meth.  He claimed that after smoking meth, he fell asleep on his bed with a Ruger .22 caliber magnum revolver in his lap.  Seriously!  He smoked meth and went to sleep!  I find that terribly hard to believe.  But according to his confession, Holloway was awakened by loud voices that he thought he heard yelling at him, so he “unloaded” the Ruger on the people that he saw in his bedroom doorway.  He went on to claim that he then realized that he had just murdered his parents, so he jumped into his Jeep and drove away.  Isn’t that what most sons do upon finding their parents shot to death?  At about 4:15 AM, Holloway was pulled over by a Le Flore County sheriff’s deputy in Panama for suspicion of driving under the influence.  The deputy found drug paraphernalia in the vehicle, and officers also found meth in Holloway’s bedroom at his parents’ home. Holloway ultimately hung himself in his Okfuskee County jail cell on March 29, shortly after being charged with the murders of his parents, according to a spokesman with the Oklahoma state medical examiner’s office.  Friends described Ross Holloway, 32, as “a good kid who got hooked on meth and let it ruin his life.”  But now three lives have been lost due to his meth use!  People who knew Denver and Martha Holloway described them as being very nice, down to earth people, the salt of the earth.  Tragically, they never even had to smoke methamphetamine to become casualties of the meth epidemic.

In the next case, the victims were not as innocent as the Holloways, but they did nothing to deserve the fate that they experienced.  In Tulsa, OK, four women were found shot to death at the Fairmont Terrace apartment complex on January 7, 2013.  The murdered women included two 23-year-old sisters, Rebeika Powell, and Kayetie Melchor, who were each shot twice. The other victims were Misty Nunley, 33, and Julie Jackson, 55, who were each shot one time.  Allegedly, the women were selling methamphetamine out of one of the apartments.  Tulsa Police arrested Cedric and Dwayne Poore and charged them with the murders.  Apparently, the two brothers went to the apartment to steal the meth that they expected to find there, and that led to the ensuing violence.  Autopsy reports showed that each woman had varying amounts of meth in her system, and all women died after being shot in the head.  This case clearly illustrates the extreme dangers associated with dealing meth.  Meth is known to increase aggression and violent behaviors, and such violence is often an unwanted but unavoidable consequence associated with meth use.  None of these women did anything at all to justify the horrible deaths that they experienced.  Hopefully someone will read this and realize that this is just one more reason to stay away from meth!

In the last case this week, I decided to add a little levity due to the extreme sobering nature of the first two cases reported above.  In a case reported on kcra.com last week, Homero Santamaria, 30, was stopped by TSA agents at the Modesto, CA airport because of a “suspicious bulge in his clothing.”  Modesto police were called after the initial pat down by TSA agents and found that Santamaria was carrying approximately 40 ounces (that’s 2.5 pounds!) of methamphetamine and 3 ounces of cocaine in his tight-fitting shorts. I wonder if the TSA agents thought, “Is that meth in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?”  That much meth must have produced quite a bulge!  Sgt. Steven Stanfield of the Modesto Police Department said, “That’s more methamphetamine than probably one person can consume in one day’s trip to Hawaii.”  Santamaria had booked a round-trip ticket to Hawaii and planned to return 24 hours later, but instead he was arrested and booked into the Stanislaus County Jail.   According to Sgt. Stanfield, “This morning there probably wasn’t that many passengers.  They have time to do a more thorough search and these TSA agents were on the ball.”  Authorities theorized that Santamaria thought that he could get through security easier at a small facility like the Modesto airport, where only a handful of TSA agents are on duty at a given time.  However, the size of the smaller airport actually helps security screen passengers better.  In fact, this is the second time recently that someone was caught with drugs trying to board a plane from the Modesto airport.  TSA agents could not comment on the incident.

April 3, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

With springtime finally here, people are starting to spend more time outdoors.  And while I have warned the readers about the dangers of the “one pot” or “shake & bake” labs and the toxicity associated with the materials used to manufacture methamphetamine in the past, I thought that this was an appropriate time to remind the reader about these dangers in this week’s meth in the news column.   Similar reports were recently published online in Michigan (thetimesherald.com) and Vermont (rutlandherald.com).

The “one-pot” or “shake & bake” methamphetamine manufacturing method is a relatively cheap, simple and quick way for meth users to produce the highly addictive stimulant at nearly any location, including inside a vehicle, then disposing of the waste along the roadside or wherever.  And while we don’t have problems with large windblown snowdrifts as they do in Michigan and Vermont, this is the time of year when the snow begins to melt up there, revealing all types of “stuff” that had been buried.  I was driving around northern Caddo Parish over the Easter holiday, and I was appalled at the amount of litter that people have thrown on our highways.  I wonder how much of that trash included materials used to make meth; it was hard to tell.  However, across the United States, various civic groups participate in “Adopt a Highway” projects to clear this garbage that has been thrown along the road.  Michigan State Police Trooper Derek Hoffmann claims that there have already been instances when materials from a meth lab have been found along the highways in St. Clair County, MI.  Therefore, it is very important that people participating in an “Adopt a Highway” program or who cheerfully pick up trash for the Sheriff’s Office are made well aware of the potential dangers out there.

Lt. Reg Trayah, a member of the Vermont State Police Clandestine Lab Team told first responders in Clarendon, VT that people using the “one-pot” or “shake & bake” method actually “cook” or shake the ingredients in a single container to generate heat and produce the drug in a matter of hours.  These ingredients are commonly found in kitchen and bathroom cabinets and in garages.  Lt. Trayah also said that a bottle of the cold medicine Sudafed may not be a big deal on its own, but several bottles with the bottoms removed would be suspicious since the “cooks” prefer to cut off the bottoms to get to the Sudafed faster.  And while lithium batteries are common in homes, spotting those same batteries stripped apart should raise concerns because the “cooks” use lithium to produce heat.  Cans of brake fluid, carburetor cleaner, or camp fuel are often found in garages, but they are also used in the “one-pot” labs.  So if you see such cans with small holes punctured in the bottoms, call the authorities immediately.

Trooper Hoffman said that people should look out for two-liter Coke bottles, or large Gatorade bottles, especially if they contain an off-white or yellow sludge.  Other objects to be aware of include tubing, Coleman camping fuel, disassembled lithium batteries, plastic bottles of lye or drain cleaner, blister packs of nasal decongestant, propane tanks with blue discoloration at the valves, coffee filters with a reddish tint or reddish granule substance, and glass cookware such as mason jars.  Detective Brian Kerrigan, of the Port Huron Police Department, said “Just one of those bottles wouldn’t necessarily be an indicator of meth, but different things all grouped together at a site could be a sign of a meth lab.”  These items might be packed inside a duffel bag or cooler and left on the side of the highway, or they might be scattered about separately.

Bottom line, please remember that leftover meth-making materials pose a serious threat to people and should never be picked up.  If an accelerant was left in the bottom of a canister, it could become a major fire hazard.   Other leftover substances could release dangerous gases.  Just picking up what appears to be an innocuous soda bottle might restart the chemical reaction, giving off noxious fumes such as deadly ammonia gas.  So if you come across any suspected meth-related materials, you should immediately contact law enforcement and stay away from these items.  In fact, it might even be advantageous to move upwind and a safe distance away before contacting authorities.  Be safe out there!

March 27, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

An interesting report posted on ctpost.com out of Bridgeport, CT on March 25 really caught my eye while I was preparing for my meth in the news column this week.  This article was titled “Meth Scourge Is Growing in the Northeast” and described how methamphetamine trafficking, manufacture and abuse has finally found its way to the northeast corridor of the United States.  I have been in the addiction field for over thirty years, and I have several colleagues in New York City, New Haven, CT and other cities in the northeast who treat people addicted to drugs and alcohol.  And while I have watched this so-called “methamphetamine scourge” sweep from the western United States across the heartland of America to also include the Ark-La-Tex, my colleagues in the northeast have continued to tell me that crack cocaine is the psychomotor stimulant that they see producing the most significant problems.  For years and years they have told me that they almost never see anyone seeking help for methamphetamine abuse.  However, this new report from Connecticut suggests that this trend is changing.

This report also reaffirms a fear that has been slowly growing inside me for several years, which is why I started this column and my methamphetamine-related website in the first place.  My fear is that the methamphetamine problem is much larger than anyone, including the experts, realizes and that this problem is also growing at an alarming rate.  What might cause meth use to be underreported?  First of all, as I have reported in this column and elsewhere, authorities have literally seized hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine at our southern border with Mexico and throughout the United States.  Imagine how many pounds were successfully smuggled and never recovered!  Secondly, there are also almost daily reports of the discovery of domestic meth labs, usually of the “one pot” or “shake and bake” variety, at locations all across this country, in large cities and small communities.  So the Mexican Drug Cartels are making obscene profits by trafficking almost pure crystal meth manufactured in their “superlabs” to our citizens.  At the same time, the average meth user can make her own supply of meth in her bathroom or bedroom at a remarkably small expense by following a “recipe” readily found on the Internet.  Thus, I think that we can all agree that there is a lot of meth out there; someone must be using it.  Finally, what would you expect a meth head to say if she is asked to complete a questionnaire or answer questions about her meth use?  Meth users are often paranoid, an inevitable hazard of continued meth use, so if she even bothers to respond at all, she is very likely to deny using the drug.  But if you look at arrest records reported here in The Inquisitor or in almost any community in the United States today, you will soon learn as I have that meth-related arrests are on the increase everywhere, suggesting that more people are cooking and using the drug.

So what happened in the northeast to suggest that meth has finally arrived?  Capt. Dale Hourigan, Head of the Connecticut State Police Statewide Narcotics Task Force reported that since July, 2012, they have seized 6,391 grams of meth, or about 14 pounds, which represents a more than 40-fold increase from the 154 grams that the task force seized the previous fiscal year.  Last December, the DEA and Massachusetts State Police seized 30 pounds of meth worth about $4.2 million from a car in Massachusetts.  And a 2011 study on meth use in New York City estimated that there were about 63,000 meth users spending roughly $640 million on the drug; these numbers have likely grown since then.  In a statement that I could have easily made myself, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas P. Smith recently called the growing problem with methamphetamine in the northeast a “dirty bomb unleashed like plutonium on an unaware society.”  But even this is an understatement according to Dr. Gary Blick, an HIV/AIDS specialist and internist in Norwalk, CT.  Dr. Blick says that “It’s already here in full force and not going away.”  And Capt. Hourigan said that he has been advised by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that crystal meth is also being manufactured in pill form and marketed in the United States as Ecstasy, a popular club drug.  Therefore all signs point to a large customer base for meth in Connecticut.  And it is becoming easier and easier to find there.  A meth addict in recovery from Bridgeport claims, “When I was addicted, five or six years ago, I had to search far and wide.  Now it’s within 10-minutes access.”  Yes, meth has indeed finally made its way to the northeast corridor of the United States.

So the scourge of methamphetamine has now spread from California, Oregon, Montana and other western states through the heartland of America, including Indiana, Tennessee and the Ark-La-Tex to Georgia and the southern east coast to now finally arrive full force along the northeast corridor, thus completing a full sweep across the United States.  In so doing, more and more people are now in danger of falling prey to this insidious drug.  Perhaps our best weapon to fight this scourge is education.  So I will continue to write this column and maintain my website, not to make fun of or to denigrate anyone or to take this problem lightly, but to try and make people more aware of the many dangers associated with the manufacture and use of methamphetamine.  If I can prevent just one person from ever trying meth, then this has all been worthwhile.

March 20, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In meth in the news this week, the first case is about a huge seizure of methamphetamine and cocaine discovered in a U-Haul truck on U.S. Highway 20 near Idaho Falls, ID on March 9.  Idaho State Police initiated a traffic stop at 2:07 AM on the truck for failure to “maintain the lane of travel” according to idahostatejournal.com.  I see this over and over again; a major drug bust is made after a vehicle is pulled over for a relatively minor traffic violation.  One would think that the driver would be more careful, but obeying traffic laws does not appear to be very important anymore for many people.  In this case, in fact, authorities actually found 52 pounds of methamphetamine and 27 pounds of cocaine hidden in the truck.  That’s right – pounds of cocaine and meth with an estimated street value of $1 million to $1.2 million.  Can you imagine how many people would have been harmed by this quantity of these highly-addictive drugs?  The driver of the truck was identified as Sergio Javier Varela-Vallecillo, 29, from Honduras, and the passenger was Felicia Inez Varela, 28.  Both were transported to the Bonneville County Jail where they were charged with felony trafficking of meth and cocaine.  Varela-Vallecillo was also charged with failure to purchase a driver’s license.  Varela had a valid Texas driver’s license, but State Police reported that they found another 5 grams of meth when she was searched at the County Jail, so she was subsequently also charged with introducing meth into a correctional facility.

The second case is from LaGrange County in northern Indiana where a woman unnecessarily put her four children in serious danger on March 15, as reported on theindychannel.com.  At about 11 PM, Indiana State Police Senior Trooper Deven Hostetler attempted to pull over a car for a traffic violation on County Road 650 North near County Road 1100 East.  However, the driver did not stop and instead led police on a short pursuit.  During the chase, “the passenger of the vehicle was said to have been throwing items out of his window,” Indiana State Police Sgt. Ron Galaviz said in a news release.  The driver of the vehicle, Jilyan Janelle Snyder, 29, of Hudson, IN finally stopped her car a short time later.  However, in addition to the driver and her passenger, police also found four children, ages 6 to 13, in the vehicle.  Not only were these children in danger from the effects of meth if Snyder had recently used the drug, but also from the possibility of a traffic accident that might have resulted during the flight from police.  The children were left in the custody of a family member, and Snyder was charged with four counts of neglect of a dependent.  In addition, Galaviz said, “An unknown amount of methamphetamine was located inside of Snyder’s purse at the time of her arrest.”  Therefore, Snyder was taken to the LaGrange County Jail where she was charged with resisting law enforcement and possession of meth.  So once again a minor traffic stop leads to a major methamphetamine bust.  Snyder had also been issued warrants in Noble County on charges of possession of meth and visiting a common nuisance.  The 25-year-old passenger was not charged.  I wonder why not – he could have at least been charged with littering!

Finally in Iron Mountain, MI, ironmountaindailynews.com reported that Kingsford Public Safety Department officers received a tip that individuals in a home located at 501 Sterling Street in Kingsford were making meth.  Kingsford Public Safety Department officers and the Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team, assisted by officers from the Iron Mountain Police Department, arrived at the house at approximately 7:30 AM on Tuesday, March 12 and received permission from the homeowner to enter the dwelling.  Once inside, officers reported smelling a strong odor that they suspected was due to vapors or fumes associated with cooking meth, and they soon discovered a working meth lab inside the rental house.  Three women were found in the home during the raid and were charged with operating/maintaining a laboratory involving meth.  These three Dickinson County women were Samantha Marie Matson, 21, of Vulcan, Nicole Janae Strutz, 30, of Iron Mountain and Jennifer Lee LaCosse, 26, of Norway. LaCosse and Matson also faced charges of manufacturing meth, and LaCosse and Strutz were also charged with conspiracy to manufacture meth.  Strutz was also charged as a habitual offender, fourth offense.  All of the charges are felony offenses punishable by up to 20 years in prison.  The three women remain jailed at the Dickinson County Correctional Center. The Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team (UPSET) assisted in the investigation and will conduct the clean up.  Hopefully the rental property will be properly cleaned of all hazardous meth-related toxic substances before the house is rented again!

March 13, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In meth in the news this week, I will share several cases that recently caught my eye.  In the first case reported on wuft.org in Gainesville, FL, investigators with the Levy County Sheriff’s Office Drug Task Force received a tip that methamphetamine was being cooked at the Bronson Motel located at 315 N Hathaway Ave.  When deputies served a search warrant for rooms 20 and 21 at the motel at 9:15 PM on March 6, 2013, they found 27-year-old Russell Girdler, 26-year-old Sean Franzius, and 24-year-old Judith Gazdun in the Levy County motel rooms according to Lt. Scott Tummond.  Unfortunately, deputies also discovered that Girdler’s 5-month-old baby was in the motel room where the two men were manufacturing meth.  Girdler and Franzius were subsequently arrested and charged with the manufacture of methamphetamine in the presence of a child.  Franzius was also charged with “keeping a drug dwelling”.  Gazdun was found in the other motel room and was arrested and charged with child abuse, possession of narcotics and possession of drug paraphernalia.  Bonds range from $100,000 to $200,000 for the trio.  No trial date has been set.  Lt. Tummond said the Department of Children and Family Services has taken custody of the baby.  “Unfortunately we find that innocent children are frequently subjected to situations like this based on the bad decisions of the parent or guardian,” Tummond said.  How many times have I said the same thing?  Methamphetamine obviously affects a person’s judgment and common sense.  Why would any sane person subject their own baby to the toxic and deadly fumes associated with the manufacture of methamphetamine?  Nevertheless, this happens time and time again!

With the next two cases, things really begin to turn bizarre.  The first case comes to us from Ada, OK and was reported on kfor.com and picked up nationally by foxnews.com.  Early on Monday morning, police found two Oklahoma women sitting in a parked Toyota Yaris outside the Dairy Lou Drive Inn in Ada.  Christie Dawn Harris, 28, and her friend Jennifer Delancy were just hanging out in the car with their seats fully reclined around 3:45 AM on March 4, which drew the suspicions of Ada police.  When police asked the women if there were any drugs or weapons in the vehicle, Harris responded that she did not think so.  A narcotics canine team was called, and the dog alerted to the car.  Police subsequently found methamphetamine and related drug paraphernalia inside the parked car and arrested both women on drug charges.  But the story does not end there.  On the way to the police station, Delancy told officers that she had a hypodermic needle hidden in her shoe, and it was removed.  However, Pontotoc County District Attorney Chris Ross reported that Harris told officers repeatedly that she had to go to the bathroom.  Officers soon discovered why she needed to go so badly.  During processing at the station, a female officer noticed “something strange” during the routine search of Harris.  “The officer observed the handle of a revolver sticking out from inside her body,” Ross said.  According to court records, the “wooden and metal item,” which was in fact a .22 caliber Freedom Arms revolver, was “sticking out from her vagina area.”  “It was a five shot,” Ross said. “It was loaded and as she turned around, she noticed more plastic baggies, larger plastic baggies wedged in the crack of her buttocks.”  Those baggies contained meth and were removed along with the gun.  “It would seem to be a very dangerous place to carry a loaded firearm,” Ross said.  Now that’s an understatement!  I wonder if she had a conceal and carry permit for her gun.  Both women have long criminal records already, and this time around they will be charged with possession of meth.  No mention was made of any additional weapons charges.

Finally, a 29-year-old man faced multiple charges after a crystal meth-filled afternoon at his Council Bluffs, IA apartment as reported on newsflavor.com.  Apparently Gerardo Martinez was high on meth and entertaining himself with a pornographic DVD when he found that his solitary activities no longer satisfied his urges.  Then in an act of pure human depravity, Martinez picked up his grey cat and had sex with it.  Yes, you read that correctly – a CAT!  My first question is how?  More importantly, have you ever tried to force a cat to do something that it does not want to do, such as giving it a bath?  If so, you likely ended up with a handful of teeth and sharp claws.  Nevertheless, after Martinez finished, he threw both the cat and the DVD he had been watching out of his 7th story window.  The cat was discovered on the sidewalk, bleeding heavily and unable to move.  Police were called and were able to quickly track the cat back to Martinez.  When police knocked on his apartment door, Martinez answered the door with his pants still around his ankles.  Martinez was charged with animal torture, bestiality, and indecent exposure and will spend time in prison for his actions.  As I have told you before, not everyone who uses meth is a sexual pervert, but some are.  Sadly, the cat died as a result of its injuries.

March 6, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In meth in the news this week, I am going to focus on the potential threat to children that methamphetamine cooking and methamphetamine use can be.  These first three cases again illustrate that children should never be around when meth is being made due to the extremely toxic nature of the chemicals used.  But meth itself is also a toxic substance, so children should also never be around when meth is being smoked.  The toxic vapors stick to everything; small children often explore the world around them by tasting, and they touch everything and stick their fingers into their mouths.  Such was probably the case when a frantic mother brought her 9-month-old son to the emergency room in Great Falls, MT on April 6, 2012 because he was “acting strangely”.  According to therepublic.com, the hospital checked the child and discovered that he had ingested meth.  On February 20, 2013, the boy’s mother, 26-year-old Brandi Rae Bargas pleaded guilty in District Court to endangering the welfare of her child. Sentencing is set for April 3.  A more serious case was reported by therepublic.com on February 21.  In this case, a 2-month-old Alexander City, AL infant died after inhaling methamphetamine fumes.  24-year-old Lindsay Nelson has been arrested for child endangerment, but more charges may be forthcoming.  Although police report that Nelson’s son died in May, a recent autopsy revealed that the baby died from inhaling meth fumes.  Police have not yet determined who, if anyone was smoking or cooking meth in Nelson’s Alexander City home.  It’s a great mystery I assume!  Nelson faces a minimum of 20 years in prison if she is convicted on the child endangerment charges.  Finally, a 3-year-old boy in Milton, FL was hospitalized in critical condition after drinking Drano out of a child’s “sippy cup”.  Apparently the boy’s father, 36-year-old Jonathan Wayne Glass, was storing the cleaning liquid in the cup and left it in the bathroom unattended.  The child was able to reach the cup and drink the Drano, experiencing an “immediate reaction,” the Pensacola News Journal reported.  Police reported that there were several people making meth that night in the apartment where the little boy lived.  Drano is one component used in meth production.  The boy’s father was arrested and charged with one count of child abuse, along with a number of charges related to methamphetamine production and possession.  The boy’s mother, Victoria Lauren Cain, has also been charged with child neglect and will likely be facing drug charges as well.  Bottom line – if you MUST use meth, don’t smoke it where your children live or play!

Methamphetamine has long been associated with risky, unusual and often aberrant sexual practices, but usually these activities occur between consenting adults.  This becomes a much more serious problem when one of the participants is a child.  Although this first case involves a 14-year-old girl, there have been cases where even younger children have been abused by adults using meth.  According to mywesttexas.com, James Duke Creel III, 30, of Midland, TX was being held on a second-degree felony charge for the sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl.  A member of this girl’s family went to the Midland County Sheriff’s Office on February 4 and told a sergeant there that James Creel gave meth to the girl and sexually assaulted her.  When investigators talked with the girl, she told them that Creel invited her to his home sometime after Thanksgiving “to do meth”.  She said that when she and Creel got high on meth they engaged in sexual intercourse.  If convicted, Creel could face up to 20 years in prison.  The second case had a happy ending only because the meth addict thought that he was communicating with a like-minded man in what was referred to as an “incest chat room”.  I did not even realize that such places existed, but nothing really surprises me anymore.  Luckily, Scott Allen Schaffer, 57, of Windsor, CA was instead chatting with an undercover police officer posing as a father who claimed that he was actively molesting his children (thus the incest chat room).  Schaffer made arrangements to meet him, and the “father” promised to bring his 10-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter to the Vagabond Inn in South San Francisco.  Schaffer arrived at the hotel on February 26 bearing sex toys, meth, and children’s toys (you read that right), intending to have sex with two young children.  However, Shaffer became hysterical and quite apologetic when a police officer opened the door rather than the incest-loving pal he expected to find there.  Schaffer was charged with two counts of attempting a lewd act on a child, communicating for the purposes of arranging a lewd act and two counts of attempting a sexual act with a child under 10.  Strangely, although he was also charged with a misdemeanor count of possessing a syringe, there was no indication of any methamphetamine-related charges.  Bail was set at $750,000 according to smdailyjournal.com.  Now I am not saying that all meth users are sexual perverts, but some are.  Do you know someone who changed dramatically after they started using meth?  I’d like to know.

February 27, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In meth in the news this week, I am going to focus once again on the efforts of the Mexican Drug Cartels to smuggle methamphetamine into the United States as well as the distribution schemes used to get the drug to their customers.  Interdiction efforts in the past week succeeded in removing over 100 pounds of meth from the street.  In the first incident reported on February 20 by ksat.com in San Antonio, TX, a 1998 Ford F-150 pickup truck was referred for a secondary inspection at the Laredo Port of Entry at the Gateway to the Americas Bridge along the border with Mexico on Saturday, February 16.  A search of the vehicle by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers resulted in the discovery of 23 individual bundles of meth hidden in her truck, containing a total of over 26 pounds of methamphetamine.  CBP officials seized the meth, valued at more than $400,000 on the street and arrested the driver, a 51-year-old woman from Mississippi. That is one shipment that will not make it to our neighbor state.

Early Sunday morning on February 17, a canine team alerted to a 1999 Volkswagen Golf driven by a 26-year-old Mexican citizen and lawfully-admitted permanent resident at the El Centro Sector Border Patrol checkpoint located between Westmorland and Salton City in California.  According to ivpressonline.com, CBP agents found 29 packages of methamphetamine hidden in the car at the Highway 86 checkpoint.  The packages weighed about 30 pounds and are estimated to be worth more than $980,000.  The driver was arrested and was turned over along with the vehicle and drugs to the Drug Enforcement Administration.  It is unclear why the methamphetamine seized at this checkpoint was worth more than $32,000 per pound while that discovered in the truck in Laredo was only valued at $15,000 per pound, but it may be related to the purity of the meth or the methods used to estimate the street value of the drug.  Nevertheless, this represents another successful effort by CBP.

A fortuitous traffic stop on State Road 60 in Bartow, FL for a broken taillight on a Ford Expedition resulted in an investigation that netted 50 pounds of methamphetamine and likely disrupted a major meth distribution network that authorities claim was a $1 million operation.   According to theledger.com, when detectives with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office asked to search the Expedition on February 19, the driver Lydia Santiago, 38, said, “Sure, go ahead. I have nothing.”  However, detectives found about 2 pounds of meth and $8,000 in cash in her purse.  Santiago led detectives to her home at 1820 Kissengen Ave in Bartow where the mother of four children had been discreetly selling the meth that she bought by the pound.  Detectives used Santiago to trace the meth back to her dealers by arranging for her to buy 2 pounds of the drug.  When Arturo Sanchez, 22, and Angel Castro, 24, arrived with the meth, detectives arrested them and Santiago’s son, Jorge Morales-Vallejo, 23.  This subsequently led the detectives to a house at 540 Ave L SE in Winter Haven where Castro and Sanchez kept their drug supply. There detectives seized 46 pounds of meth and two guns and more than $13,000 in cash.  Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said that the two suspects accused of keeping the stash house are cooperating with investigators.  “We’ve got your dope, we’ve got two of your boys,” Judd said. “So get ready.”  Detectives are trying to trace the meth to the suspects who produced and brought it into the county, he said.

Texastribune.org reports that seizures of meth in the Laredo customs district, the country’s busiest land port, climbed significantly for the second consecutive year, an indication that the Mexican Drug Cartels continue to bank on sales of the drug in the U.S. despite vigilant enforcement efforts on both sides of the Texas-Mexico border.  CBP agents working the Laredo district, which extends from Del Rio to Brownsville, seized more than a ton of meth in fiscal year 2012 alone. The amount represents a 116 percent increase over fiscal year 2011, which was a 34 percent jump over 2010.  Investigator Joe Baeza, a spokesman with the Laredo Police Department said that meth can be produced year-round and does not depend on rainfall or growing seasons like marijuana or opium harvesting do. The ability to produce meth all year and the fact that the Mexican superlabs are very efficient at producing it with domestic chemicals suggest that meth will likely continue to have a significant presence in Texas and the rest of the nation.

February 20, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

Our first case in meth in the news this week comes from carolinaline.com in South Carolina and should go into the “slow learner” files.  But at the same time, many drug offenders are given the opportunity to get clean through the “drug court” system.  With drug court, the offender must receive counseling, attend AA and related meetings and remain drug free during a probationary period set by the court.  Failure to abide by these conditions means that the offender has violated probation and must go directly to jail.  In this case, Joe Eddins, 43, and Cheryl Melton, 47, both of Hartsville, SC were arrested on January 30, 2013 following an undercover operation by the Darlington County Sheriff’s Office Drug Enforcement Unit that led to the discovery of a clandestine methamphetamine lab.  The lab was subsequently dismantled, and Eddins and Melton were charged with manufacturing methamphetamine and manufacturing methamphetamine within proximity of a school.  They were both booked into the Darlington County Detention Center.  The couple was arrested almost exactly one year ago in February 2012 for manufacturing methamphetamine at a different location in Hartsville.  That was why I called them slow learners!  If they are found guilty this time, it is likely that they will serve significant time in prison.

Our next story this week is all about keeping it in the family and comes from albanytribune.com in Albany, OR.  In this case, a mother and her daughter were arrested on Tuesday, February 12, 2013 on methamphetamine-related charges.  Dianna Denise Sutherland, age 47 and her 23-year-old daughter, Kattie Irene Sutherland were booked into the Lincoln County Jail after the Lincoln Interagency Narcotics Team (LINT), assisted by the Newport Police Department, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon State Police and the Department of Human Service (DHS) served a search warrant at their residence in the 200 block of NW 8th Street.  The report noted that this was in a residential area adjacent to a baseball sports complex in Newport.  Detectives seized small amounts of methamphetamine, packaging materials, and other evidence.  Four children, ages 8 years, 5 years, 3 years, and 10 months were also present in the house and were taken into protective custody by DHS.  Kattie Sutherland is the mother of three of the children and related to the fourth child.  It is truly a shame that neither woman cared enough about the safety of these children, three of whom actually belonged to this mother and grandmother, to refrain from using meth with such young children at home.  The report did not state if the children were tested or whether or not they tested positive for methamphetamine poisoning, but at least they have a fighting chance now.

I think that fans of the series “Breaking Bad” will appreciate this next story that comes from Purcell, OK as reported on nydailynews.com.  In this case, golf course employees were surprised to find out that meth cooks had used one of their Porta Potties to create a makeshift meth lab.  The authorities were alerted to the scene and found some of the chemicals used to make meth inside some strangely colored sports drink bottles found in the portable outhouse.  Purcell Police soon realized that the meth cooks were using the “shake and bake” method to manufacture the substance and that this led to two of the three sports drink bottles exploding.  Police sealed off the portable toilet with tape and reported that they already have a lead on one suspect since fingerprints were recovered from the scene.  Purcell Police Department’s spokesman Scott Stevens said: “If someone had been in the Porta Potty when (the bottles exploded), they might have gotten hurt by the flying plastic and the chemicals.”  This could have injured the meth cooks themselves or an unsuspecting golfer needing the facilities if the “meth lab” bottles had been left unattended in the outhouse while they were actively cooking.  And as I have told you repeatedly, if someone had opened one of the bottles at the wrong time, they could have found themselves with a flame thrower in their hand.  Imagine the injuries that could have ensued if that had happened inside the confines of a Porta Potty!  What will they think of next?

February 13, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

Our first case in meth in the news this week comes from magicvalley.com in Twin Falls, ID.  Last month, a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old girl turned in their own father for using methamphetamine.  One can only imagine how serious this problem must have become for these young girls to resort to such drastic actions.  According to the police report, both girls were previously in the custody of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare because of their mother’s meth use, so they were well aware of what would happen to them if their father was arrested.  However, the girls were also familiar with the signs of drug use because of their mother’s addition to meth.  So when they became suspicious because of unusual activity in their father’s shop located in the garage, the two girls conducted their own investigation in December 2012, complete with pictures.  The girls searched through the shop and found a wooden carved truck. They opened the top of the truck and discovered that the truck was being used to store drug-related items, so they took pictures of what they found inside the truck.  The pictures showed a glass pipe caked with white residue. In the same picture was a small plastic bag containing supposed methamphetamine. Another photo also showed the pipes along with a bag containing what appeared to be marijuana.  Then on Sunday, January 13, at about 3:30 PM, Twin Falls police received a phone call from the12-year-old girl who told them that she found meth pipes and other drugs in her 50-year-old father’s shop.  After receiving this call, officers soon arrived at the house on Sixth Avenue East.  The police report stated that “Both girls were very upset and said that they saw the illegal narcotics in their dad’s shop.”  The authorities spoke with the father, who denied consent to search his shop. However, while talking to the father, police saw the wooden truck on a shelf in the shop, and he was arrested for two misdemeanor counts of injury to a child.  There was no further information as to the nature of these charges.  Police returned to the house at about 7:30 PM with a search warrant for the garage and shop. According to the report, police found a small baggie containing meth, two glass pipes, a glass test tube commonly used as a meth pipe and a plastic baggie containing marijuana. The father was then further charged with two counts of possession of a controlled substance, one a felony and one a misdemeanor.  One can only imagine what the girls suffered through in their home to turn in their own father to the authorities, especially since they had been in the custody of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare because of their mother’s meth use and knew what to expect.  From Jan. 17, 2012 to Jan. 17, 2013, Twin Falls city spokesman Joshua Palmer said that Twin Falls police have received 421 calls for service about someone using or selling drugs. While it’s not uncommon for family members to call about each other, Palmer said typically the caller is a concerned parent.  “It’s less common for a child to call on parents. However, it does happen,” he said.

Our other case this week comes from www.mlive.com out of Kalamazoo, MI and once again illustrates the dangers associated with cooking meth.  On January 28 at 12:02 AM, police and fire units were dispatched to a Wendy’s restaurant located on the corner of South Westnedge and West Van Hoesen Boulevard in Portage, responding to a report that a man had walked up to the restaurant with severe burns on his hands.  A few minutes later, a neighbor in the 500 block of West Van Hoesen Boulevard called 911 to report an explosion. The front porch wall of a home at 514 West Van Hoesen had been blown off and the windows blown out at the location of the explosion.  No one was at the home when police arrived, but witnesses told police that they saw several people leaving the home on foot after the explosion.  I’m sure that they were beating a hasty retreat.  The man with the burned hands at Wendy’s admitted to cooking meth at the time of the explosion. He was taken by ambulance to a local hospital and a search warrant was served on the residence.  Meth-making components were located inside the home.  The man will likely be charged with manufacturing and possession of methamphetamine.

February 6, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

I have reported several times in this meth in the news column about the dangers of living in a place where methamphetamine was cooked or used.  Meth labs have been found in homes, apartments, hotel rooms, in the woods and even in cars.  And as I have told you before, even when a meth lab or a place where meth was used has been discovered, some experts estimate that a meth lab operating in a house for only a few weeks could introduce enough methamphetamine and related vapors into the insulation to sustain unsafe levels in the home for months, or even years, after.  But at this time is it not known what levels might be toxic, or if people become sick due to metal exposure, solvent exposure, meth exposure, by-product exposure or some combination of all of these.  And this problem is not going away anytime soon.  As reported last week on wave3.com from Louisville, KY, your family could be suffering from the after effects of methamphetamine use and not even know it.

Some states, such as Kentucky and Colorado, have passed laws requiring that a property where meth was cooked or smoked must remain quarantined until it is properly decontaminated and tested by certified professionals.  Unfortunately, not all states have these laws on the books.  In Louisiana, a 2008 law was passed by the legislature requiring sellers to disclose whether their house had been exposed to meth.  In addition, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) was tasked with maintaining a listing of residential real estate property that has been reported as contaminated.  However, I checked the DEQ website on February 5, and only 7 properties total throughout the state of Louisiana have been listed since April of 2012.  I know that there have been more than 7 meth labs uncovered in Louisiana in the past 10 months, so the site may be a little out of date.  It’s a start, but obviously more must be done.

Surprisingly, even when a property has been identified as contaminated by meth, many people continue to live there because they have nowhere else to go.  In the report from Louisville, an 80-year-old woman was still living in a home on South Shelby Street five days after police arrested a man for cooking meth there.  The Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness placed a bright orange sign on the door warning that “hazardous chemicals and residual contamination may pose a serious health threat to those that enter.”  Nevertheless, the elderly woman living in this house told reporters that she believed that it was safe for her to continue living there despite the safety warning.  In Jefferson County alone, there are still at least 72 houses where meth contamination has not been properly cleaned up, and many still have people living inside.  Exposure to meth residue or to the many toxic chemicals used to make meth can poison adults.  Imagine how much harm these chemicals can cause to children who also live there!

Only a third of all meth-contaminated properties in Kentucky are properly cleaned up and returned to safe habitable conditions.  Unfortunately, there are no laws that force the property owner to decontaminate a home where someone has been cooking meth.  However, there are laws that require that methamphetamine contamination notices, like the sign posted at the home on South Shelby Street above, remain posted until the property is decontaminated.  Without such a notice, it is a felony to sell or rent the property without disclosing the risk.  But these notices are often ripped down despite the fact that those homes had not been properly decontaminated.   And even where the warning signs remained, such as the case above, the people inside were often unconvinced of the threat.

I still do not know what can be done about this continuing and growing problem.  It is likely cost prohibitive to decontaminate every house, every apartment, and every hotel and motel room before a new tenant arrives.  Some estimate that it costs between $3,000 and $5,000 to hire a certified contractor to decontaminate a meth house, and many property owners simply can’t afford to pay that much.  So the properties remain contaminated, putting people, especially children and the elderly at significant risk for toxicity and even death.

January 30, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

I have reported several times in this meth in the news column about the dangers of cooking and using methamphetamine, especially with young children around.  A couple of weeks ago, I told you about a young boy who died in a fire that started when his mother was careless in the meth-making process and started a major fire.  The reader must understand that a large percentage of the people making and using meth are women of child-bearing age.  This means that the chances of a child coming into contact with meth or the chemicals used to make meth are significant.  In this week’s meth in the news, I will tell you about several recent cases where children were harmed or even died from exposure to methamphetamine.

On January 16th in San Bernardino, CA, cbsnews.com reported that a 7-year-old girl from Joshua Tree was taken to the emergency room of the High Desert Medical Center on Friday night, January 11.  Authorities say that the little girl presented with seizures, a severe fever and an elevated heart rate.  Medical personnel were so concerned about the severity of her condition that the girl was flown to Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital.  Doctors there ordered a urine drug screen that showed that the little girl tested positive for methamphetamine.  Luckily the girl was taken to the hospital in time, and although she remained hospitalized at press time, her condition was improving.  According to a San Bernardino County Sheriff’s statement, 32-year-old Johnnie Glenn Koranda and 30-year-old Michelle Lee Beamer were being held on $100,000 bail.  The San Bernardino Sun reported that Koranda and Beamer pleaded not guilty Tuesday to child abuse charges.  The couple have three other children, and they are now in protective custody.  The little girl’s parents told authorities that she became ill after eating some meth that she had mistaken for candy.  Seriously?  Methamphetamine is active by the oral route, but I am skeptical that it would taste like candy.  To the methamphetamine users out there, would you say that meth tastes like candy?

The second case was reported by kplctv.com in Vernon Parish, LA on January 29, 2013.  Vernon Parish Sheriff Sam Craft reported in a news release that Vernon Parish Narcotics Task Force investigators were contacted on January 17th by Beauregard Memorial Hospital staff when a 10-month-old child tested positive for meth.  Heather Jenkins, 22, and Michael Moore, 55, of Rosepine are facing numerous charges in this case.  Jenkins, the baby’s mother admitted to using methamphetamine at the residence in the past and that her child “may have inadvertently” been exposed to meth as a result.  Moore, who was located at a home on J.P. Calcote Road in the Rosepine area, also told detectives that the child was in the same room while he and others smoked meth.  Jenkins was arrested and booked with possession of meth and cruelty to a juvenile, and her bond was set at $35,000.  Moore was charged with possession of meth with the intent to distribute, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, illegal possession of a firearm while in possession of controlled dangerous substances, distribution of meth and possession of schedule IV with the intent to distribute.  Sheriff Craft said Moore was out on bond for prior methamphetamine charges at the time of the incident.  Bond for Moore was set at $42,000.   Hopefully this child will recover from these repeated exposures to meth.  However, the child in the next case was not so lucky.

The last case this week did not have such a happy ending, if you can say that the cases above had happy endings.  The blog.thenewstribune.com reported on January 30th that 2-year-old Nathan Iverson was taken to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Spanaway, WA on December 6, 2012.  The child’s symptoms when he arrived at the emergency room were not reported, but unfortunately the little boy died later that day.  The Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office said that the toddler had fatal amounts of methamphetamine in his system and died of acute methamphetamine toxicity. The hospital called law enforcement after the child was examined.   Deputies and emergency crews were sent to what Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said is a house well-known to deputies in the 16900 block of Sixth Avenue East in Spanaway.  Residents of the house admitted to authorities that they used drugs, Troyer said. However, he said there were no signs of drugs or drug use when deputies arrived on the scene.  Troyer went on to say that deputies believe that people were involved with drug use at the house in the past as well.  “We’ve got a mess to sort out,” Troyer said. “The bottom line is, one way or another, this kid ingested enough meth to kill him.”  As of press time, no one was in custody in this case.  This is just so sad and so tragic.  How could a 2-year-old ingest enough meth to die from toxicity to methamphetamine?

So I implore you, if you must use meth, don’t use it in your home where your children live.  In no way can this be made safe for them. Cases like those described above happen every day, and nothing is worth an innocent child’s life!

January 22, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

This week’s meth in the news report focuses on a truly bizarre case that kept getting stranger and stranger ever since the story first broke on foxnews.com on January 17.  It was initially reported that a 61-year-old former Roman Catholic priest was among five people who were indicted in an alleged drug operation involving shipments of methamphetamine from California to Bridgeport, CT.  Prosecutors say that Kevin Wallin, the former pastor at St. Augustine’s parish in Bridgeport received shipments of methamphetamine and repeatedly sold them to an undercover officer from the Statewide Narcotics Task Force over the past four months.  The undercover officer once saw a gallon-size plastic bag filled with crystal meth inside Wallin’s Waterbury apartment.  Kenneth Devries of Waterbury, CT, Michael Nelson of Manchester, CT, Chad McCluskey of San Clemente, CA, and Kristen Laschober of Laguna Niguel, CA were also charged.  The Diocese of Bridgeport said that Wallin resigned as pastor of St. Augustine’s in June 2011, citing health and personal issues.  I would say that meth use would qualify as a major health issue.  However, one would hope that the Catholic Church has programs for substance abuse among the clergy.  So maybe there was more to this case than initially reported.

Accordingly, on January 18 this case took a more bizarre turn.  The ctpost.com online presented an expose on the former priest that shed more light on why he resigned as pastor.  Methamphetamine has been reported to produce strange and often aberrant sexual behaviors with chronic use.  Well, it may have had such an effect on Wallin as ctpost.com reported that he was actually suspended by the church after officials discovered he was a cross-dresser who was having sex in the rectory at St. Augustine Cathedral.  Monsignor Wallin was relieved of his duties in May, but the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport continued to pay him a stipend until his January 3 arrest.  Interestingly, Wallin was planning to fly to London on vacation on that very day.  Diocese officials say that they first became concerned in the spring of 2011 when they began receiving complaints from parishioners regarding Wallin’s appearance and erratic behavior.  Sources came forward at that time alleging that Wallin would often disappear for days at a time.  Rectory personnel became concerned when Wallin, sometimes dressed as a woman, would entertain “odd-looking men”; some who were also dressed in women’s clothing and engaging in sex acts in the rectory of the church.  So what was their first clue that something was out of the ordinary?

Now dubbed “Msgr. Meth” by some, Wallin appears to have been living a double life.  At one point, Wallin was selling upwards of $9,000 of meth a week.  However, Diocese officials stressed that they were unaware that Wallin was selling drugs when he was pastor of St. Augustine’s Cathedral or when he previously served as pastor of St. Peter Parish.  “We had no indication he had a drug problem and never had complaints regarding him and drugs,” said Diocese Spokesman Brian Wallace.  However, they did know that Wallin was engaging in sexual behaviors that were definitely not appropriate for a priest!  Diocese officials actually found bizarre sex toys in Wallin’s residence.  Since being defrocked as a priest, Wallin allegedly bought an adult specialty and video store in North Haven called “Land of Oz” that sells sex toys and X-rated DVDs. Investigators believe that he laundered thousands of dollars in weekly profits through the store.

Understandably, Wallin’s arrest sent shock waves through the Bridgeport and Danbury communities where he was known as a charismatic speaker who was involved in many charitable activities and who enjoyed Broadway musicals and show tunes. He often attended musicals with his mentor, former N.Y. Cardinal Edward Egan and other parishioners.  “There is an evil invading our world and it has come to our church,” said Maria Spencer-Fonseca, a long-time parishioner at St. Augustine.

Wallin, who is represented by a federal public defender, is charged with possession with intent to distribute and distribution of methamphetamine. He has been detained without bond pending arraignment.  According to the affidavit, Wallin kept three cell phones, rented two Waterbury apartments and delivered meth in magazines. The crystal meth came in shipments from McCluskey and his girlfriend, Laschober, who live in California.  Both also have been indicted.  Wallin subsequently pled not guilty on January 22.

It is not clear if Wallin’s “unusual” sexual behaviors started before or after he began using and selling meth, but this case goes to show that no one, not even a priest, is immune to the effects of meth!

January 16, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

Here are more interesting reports in this week’s meth in the news.

The first case is a truly sad one from Indianapolis, IN that was reported online last week at fox59.com.  Investigators have charged Jessica Rogers with murder, arson and neglect of a dependent for causing a deadly fire in an Indianapolis apartment that killed her 7-year-old son during an attempt to manufacture methamphetamine.  Rogers’ son, Dreydon Webb didn’t live in the apartment near Elder and West Washington Street, but was just visiting his mother when the fire broke out.  Several people jumped out of windows in the apartment building to escape the December 8 fire, including Rogers, but she was apparently unable to hold onto her son due to the intense heat and smoke. When police asked Rogers why she left her son in the fire, she said that “the fire was too hot” and “I couldn’t stand the heat, it felt like acid was burning me.” When questioned why she lost her grip on her son “twice”, she said that he got loose because he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt.  However, the little boy was actually only wearing blue jeans when investigators found him in the burned out apartment.  Rogers’ boyfriend told authorities that he heard Dreydon cry out, “Help me, Mommy” four or five times during the fire and thought that Rogers had her son. Rogers’ boyfriend jumped out of a bedroom window, and Rogers jumped out shortly after that.  Several neighbors told police that they smelled a chemical or “Tiki-Torch” smell during the fire.  Investigators subsequently ruled out any known accidental or natural causes, and said the characteristics of the fire—and Rogers’ injuries—seemed to be consistent with a fire caused by the manufacture of methamphetamine, namely the “shake and bake” method.  Rogers suffered first- and second-degree burns to her hands and first- and second-degree “splash burns” to her chin and neck. Investigators didn’t observe any burns on her eyelashes, eyebrows, or hair. According to the probable cause, the injuries were “indicative of a rapid high heat thermal event” that occurs “in front of a person possibly holding an object with splashing from some type of liquid or from direct contact.”  Investigators found “suspicious burn patterns indicating a liquid accelerant” in the building. Investigators determined that Jessica Rogers tried to cook meth using the “shake and bake” method—an attempt that resulted in the fire that spread through the building and killed her son.  A search of Rogers’ apartment revealed “five used needle syringes, three new needle syringes, one narcotics pipe, one syringe plunger, one plastic funnel and one rubber IV tourniquet band.”  A toxicology screening of Rogers showed that she tested positive for several drugs, including amphetamines, methamphetamines, benzodiazepines, marijuana, cocaine and opiates.  So the desire for meth results in a fire that killed Jessica Rogers’ son and endangered more than 15 people.  And the little 7-year-old boy, Dreydon Webb becomes just another senseless, methamphetamine-related tragedy.

Generally, when I think about people cooking meth in a hotel or motel room, I think about some fleabag hotel on the wrong side of town.  Well, it looks like I need to reevaluate that thought.  According to staugustine.com, two people were arrested for cooking methamphetamine in a room on the sixth floor of the Marriott at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach near Jacksonville, FL.  Hotel security initially went to the room because a stolen credit card was used to book the room.  When the officer saw what looked like precursors for methamphetamine inside the room, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office was called to the scene.  Deputies arrived around 2 AM and found an active meth lab cooking inside the room as well as drug paraphernalia.  Corey McGann Smith, 34, of Panama Beach, and Amanda N. Underwood, 29, of Nashville, Tenn., were arrested on charges of producing meth, trafficking meth and possession of drug paraphernalia.  They were taken to the St. Johns County Jail on bonds totaling $46,000 each. Four adjacent rooms were evacuated as a precaution, and a hazmat team was called to the Sawgrass Golf Resort and Spa.  So this goes to prove that you never know where a meth lab may pop up.  If you smell a chemical smell, report it!

This week’s Meth in the News graphically illustrates how deadly methamphetamine cooking can be.  An innocent 7-year-old boy lost his life, and another 15 people were put in danger.  It was lucky that no one else was killed.  Imagine if a similar accident happened at the Sawgrass Resort!  How many people would have been put at risk?  So once again, if you smell a strong chemical odor, stay away and report it to the authorities.  As I have told you repeatedly, these one-pot labs can explode and catch fire unpredictably, causing serious injury or even death, as in the case of little Dreydon Webb.

January 9, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In this week’s report, I am going to talk about several more instances regarding meth in the news to illustrate how this insidious drug is literally all around us.  The first case highlights the caution I have suggested that you take if you come upon a suspected “one-pot” meth lab along the highway or while hunting.

In Spartanburg, South Carolina, two middle school students were lucky to escape serious injury when they stumbled upon the remnants of a meth lab in Union County, according to WSPA.com online.   The two children found a bag of items laying in a front yard on Williford Road near the Carlisle community.  Union County Sheriff David Taylor said that when the children threw the plastic bag down into a mud puddle, the contents caught on fire.  The fire was extinguished and deputies were called to clean up the toxic byproducts.   The deputies found a plastic bottle, cold medicine containing pseudoephedrine, lithium batteries and other ingredients used to make meth inside the plastic bag.  Apparently, whoever tossed the bag was likely making “shake-and-bake” or “one-pot” meth, an increasingly preferred way to produce the drug where users mix the ingredients in a plastic bottle, obtain their meth, and then toss the bottle.  Sheriff Taylor said that his deputies have been finding more of the bottles along the sides of roads and that it’s a growing problem.  Lt. Ashley Harris with the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office agreed and added that several brush fires in the county have been tied to discarded shake-and-bake meth labs.  The chemicals inside of these bottles are highly flammable and can explode if they come in contact with even the tiniest amounts of water.  As I have told you repeatedly, stay away from any bottle you may find on the side of the road or in your yard — especially if it has residue in the bottom or you smell a strong chemical odor. You should immediately call 911 if you suspect that you have found a meth lab.

The next case comes from Quincy, Illinois, according to therepublic.com.  I found this incident difficult to believe, but it is true.  Authorities in western Illinois say a drug bust at a Quincy home turned up more than 500 containers used to make methamphetamine.  500 containers in one place!  Imagine how bad the fire and/or explosion would have been if there had been an accident!  Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Patrick Frazier told The Quincy Herald-Whig that it’s the biggest bust he’s seen involving such “one-pot” shake-and-bake labs. Officers also found more than 180 cans of starter fluid, cans of drain cleaner and used boxes of pills that contain pseudoephedrine, a key meth-making ingredient.  A special truck had to be called to handle the toxic waste products, and the building where the meth labs were found was quarantined.  The two people who lived in the home were charged with participation in methamphetamine manufacturing. That’s a Class 1 felony punishable by between four and 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000 in Illinois.

In Valley Township, Michigan, mlive.com reports that Allegan County Sheriff’s deputies were led on a New Year’s Day car chase.  At around 12:20 AM on Tuesday, January 1, a Sheriff’s deputy saw a vehicle go through an intersection without stopping at the stop sign. You know, I see that happening here all the time, and it seems to be increasing in frequency.  The deputy attempted to pull over the vehicle’s driver, but he drove away and continued through a stop sign at another intersection.  He eventually drove through a wooded area before he was forced to stop due to trees and accumulating snow.  Police said that the suspect fled on foot, but the passenger who was in the car remained inside.  Footprints in the snow allowed the deputies to track the suspect to a local shooting range. He was found on the top of the skeet range house, police said in a news release.  Investigators said the suspect told them he had been awake for several days using meth and that he had just shot up before being pulled over.  How dangerous is that – driving while high on meth?  I wonder how many of the people who ignore stop signs in the Ark-La-Tex are high on meth or other drugs.  Be careful out there!

Once again, this week’s Meth in the News illustrates that a meth lab can be found almost anywhere; in your neighbor’s home, in the car next to you at the red light (if the driver bothers to stop), or out in the forest near your favorite hunting or fishing spot.  So if you smell a strong chemical odor, stay away.  As I have told you repeatedly, these one-pot labs can explode and catch fire unpredictably, causing serious injury or even death.  And I realize that I keep repeating myself, but the reader must understand how dangerous methamphetamine cooking and methamphetamine use can be!

January 2, 2013

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In this week’s report, I am going to talk about several cases where methamphetamine was found to illustrate how this insidious drug is literally all around us.  These cases come from around the country, but they could just as well be happening next door or at your local Wal-Mart.

The first incident was reported in the December 21, 2012 issue of newsandtribune.com.  In this case, Crystal N. Bowman, 28, of 4194 Scottsville Road in Floyds Knobs, IN was taken to the emergency room at a local hospital after overdosing on methamphetamine.  Indiana State Police Master Trooper Wilbur Turner said that Floyd County Child Protective Services (CPS) was notified after the nursing staff at the hospital interviewed Bowman, who said that she had a child at home.  Trooper Turner accompanied CPS when they visited the home on December 19.  Crystal Bowman, her husband Eric L. Bowman, 40, and their 4-year-old child were all present during the visit.  As Trooper Turner and the CPS officer conducted the walk through of the Bowman’s home, they found two baggies containing a white powdery substance sitting on top of a laptop computer lying on top of the bed.  It was later determined that each baggie contained approximately one gram of meth.  Turner initially charged the Bowmans with possession of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia and neglect of a dependent, but the Office of the Floyd County Prosecutor has only issued each with the possession charge.  Since her arrest, Crystal Bowman posted bond and was released from the Floyd County Jail, according to court documents.  Eric Bowman, who was given a $10,000 court-cash bond, is scheduled to appear for a pretrial conference on January 17.

The next incident was reported online in the December 29 issue of johnsoncitypress.com.  A black Chevrolet Impala was stopped for a window tint violation on 2606 N. Roan St in Erwin, TN.  This was quite a fortuitous traffic stop since police officers also found an active methamphetamine lab inside the vehicle.  The Drug Enforcement Agency Task Force Officer, Meth Lab Task Force and three Methamphetamine Technicians from the Erwin Police Department were subsequently called to secure the scene.  Amber Winterroth, 144 Rolling Acres Drive in Gray, Lance Nidifer, 131 Gateway Drive in Elizabethton and Jeremy Irvin and Latosha Ashby of Erwin were all arrested and charged with conspiracy to manufacture/deliver/resale methamphetamine, promotion of methamphetamine manufacture, initiation of process intended to result in manufacture of methamphetamine and felony drug paraphernalia.  Winterroth was additionally charged with identity theft and possession of unlawful drug paraphernalia.  Irvin was also charged for criminal impersonation, resisting arrest and possession of unlawful drug paraphernalia.  Nidifer was additionally charged with simple possession of schedule IV narcotic and Ashby was also charged for driving on a suspended license fifth offense and tint law violation, the reason that the Impala was stopped in the first place.  All four were taken to the Washington County Detention Center, where Winterroth was being held on a $36,000 bond, Irvin was being held on a $28,000 bond and both Nidifer and Ashby were being held on a $26,000 bond.

The final incident this week was reported in the December 27, 2012 issue of thestate.com.  In South Carolina, Lexington County Sheriff’s deputies smelled a strong chemical odor emanating from a garage when they were called to the 100 block of Lantern Hill Circle at 3:43 AM on Sunday, December 23.  The deputies eventually found William David Langley, 42, in the garage with an active meth lab containing a mixture of chemicals inside a vessel of some type.  It sounds like this was a one-pot lab.  The deputies immediately called the Lexington County Multi-Agency Narcotics Enforcement Team for backup.  Langley also allegedly had a Hi-Point .45-caliber pistol and marijuana in two plastic bags in his possession.  The meth lab was dismantled, and Langley was arrested without incident and charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, possessing a firearm during the commission of a violent crime and possessing 28 grams or less of marijuana.  He was being held Thursday at the Lexington County Detention Center on a $25,620 bond.

What I hope the readers take from this week’s Meth in the News is that a meth lab can be found almost anywhere; in your neighbor’s home, in the car next to you at the red light, in a parking lot or out in the forest near your favorite hunting or fishing spot.  So if you smell a strong chemical odor, stay away.  As I have told you repeatedly, these one-pot labs can explode and catch fire unpredictably, causing serious injury or even death.

December 26, 2012

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

Last week I told you about several large seizures of methamphetamine made by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) along the western coast of the United States, primarily in the San Diego, CA area.  However, the smuggling of methamphetamine and other drugs is not limited to the California area.  As I have told you several times, the distribution of this dangerous drug has literally spread throughout the country. This week I plan to share some interesting news documenting the spread of meth along the east coast and into the heartland of America.

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Group Two out of Atlanta, GA conducted three investigations into a Mexican drug cartel called the Los Moscas starting in March, 2010.  Members of this drug cartel, also known by the DEA as a Drug Trafficking Organization or DTO, used a college town apartment in Athens, GA as a “stash house” to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and marijuana throughout the Athens and Atlanta metropolitan areas.  “Since the initiation of this investigation, agents have seized more than 217 kilograms of cocaine, 74 kilograms of heroin, more than 52 kilograms (over 114 pounds) of methamphetamine, 5,000 pounds of marijuana and more than $7.9 million in U.S. currency,” according to the warrant.  “Each of these enforcement activities have resulted in the disruption of drug distribution cells operating in the United States.”  The search warrant was filed last week in Clarke County Superior Court by a Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office investigator and member of a DEA task force.

Last month investigators identified Arturo Rodriguez-Colin as head of one of the Mexican drug trafficking organization’s cells inside the United States.  On Dec. 17, agents learned that Rodriguez-Colin and another man, Humberto Mondragon-Ruiz, planned to transport a large amount of meth from Mexico to Athens.  That same day, agents took up surveillance on U.S. Interstate 20 at the Alabama state line and spotted a van occupied by the two men as it entered Georgia.  Within half an hour, officers with the Douglasville Police Department conducted a traffic stop on the van.  There they found 15 one-pound packages of meth that were concealed in the radiator of the van.  Authorities subsequently arrested Rodriguez-Colin and Mondragon-Ruiz, a.k.a. Beto, on drug trafficking charges. The two men are being held without bail at the Douglas County Jail.  Authorities believed that Arturo and Beto were transporting the meth from Mexico to the Kathwood Drive apartment to process the meth and distribute it to their customers.  Therefore, on Dec. 18, DEA agents went to Rodriguez-Colin’s apartment in Athens with a drug-sniffing dog from the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office. The dog also gave positive indications for drugs in both Rodriguez-Colin’s vehicles parked outside. The warrant, signed by a Clarke County Superior Court judge, sought permission to search the apartment for additional evidence, including drugs, documentation of drug transactions, cell phones, packaging material and firearms.

Drug trafficking organizations, or DTOs, are defined by the U.S. Department of Justice as, “complex organizations with highly defined command-and-control structures that produce, transport, and/or distribute large quantities of one or more illicit drugs.”  DTOs use a variety of methods to conceal and move drug proceeds. Among them is the wiring and constant movement of funds from different accounts to make it more difficult for authorities to follow the money trail.  Large portions of the illegal drugs entering the country each year belong to these DTOs.  “Law enforcement reporting indicates that Mexican DTOs maintain drug distribution networks, or supply drugs to distributors, in at least 230 U.S. cities,” according to the National Drug Intelligence Center.  Thus, one can plainly see how the distribution networks for meth (and other illegal drugs) is a nation-wide problem, with the profits from the sale of these drugs flowing to Mexico and other countries to support these illegal activities and enrich the lives and pocketbooks of the drug traffickers.

In a much smaller incident, Felix Ferrer Jr., 39, of 1039 Penn St., Apt. 3R, Reading, PA, was sleeping in his Ford Windstar van in the parking lot of a Walmart store in Saint Clair around 5 AM last Sunday morning.  Much to his dismay, his van was struck by a hit and run driver.  When Saint Clair Patrolman Chad Seitzinger arrived to investigate the crash, he discovered an active meth lab operating inside Ferrer’s van.  Talk about bad luck!  “We had the evidence, you could see the items and smell the product,” according to Saint Clair Police Chief Michael Carey.  After being read his Miranda Rights, the chief said Ferrer admitted to having the lab and making the illegal drugs.  “The items were in plain view and from our training we knew they can be hazardous,” Carey said.  Since the materials were already mixed and cooking – and posed a real danger – authorities decided to call the state police Clandestine Laboratory Response Team based in Bethlehem to properly clean up the lab.  Carey said Ferrer was committed to Schuylkill County Prison on a detainer for multiple bench warrants from Berks County on drug related charges.  Ferrer will now face felony drug charges by Saint Clair Police as well as the Schuylkill County Drug Task Force.  As it was only two days until Christmas, it was business as usual at the Walmart store with customers just being kept a safe distance from the van as they walked to and from their vehicles.

December 19, 2012

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

This week I plan to share more interesting news stories involving methamphetamine.  The first incident is another of those that is difficult to believe, involving an announcement from the San Diego County District Attorney’s office of an emerging Mexican drug cartel’s efforts to smuggle massive amounts of methamphetamine into California.  More than two dozen people were indicted on December 14th as part of a 21-month long investigation targeting the Knights Templar cartel.  The Knights Templar organization is a Mexican drug cartel that is known to be a major trafficker of methamphetamine. Based in central Mexico’s Michoacan state, the Knights Templar was formed approximately two years ago as a splinter group of La Familia Michoacana when that cartel’s leadership was eliminated by the Mexican government.  Authorities seized more than 1,000 pounds of methamphetamine, 200 pounds of cocaine, 28 pounds of heroin, 320 pounds of marijuana and $200,000 cash.  It’s hard to imagine finding that much methamphetamine.  If an average dose of meth is, for example, 100 mg, then 1,000 pounds would supply 4,535,920 doses of meth.  That would definitely affect a significant number of people.  District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said that “Drugs and money were found hidden in cars, taped to people’s bodies, stashed in people’s homes and buried in people’s backyards.”  The the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) assistant special agent in charge in San Diego, Stephen Tomaski added that “These guys [the Knights Templar] are turning into the largest distributors of methamphetamine [in the US].”  The Knights Templar and Sinaloa are the two main Mexican drug cartels operating in the smuggling corridor of Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego, according to Tomaski.  U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reports that methamphetamine seizures have risen steadily over the past several years at California border crossings with Mexico.  In fiscal year 2011, 7,340 pounds of methamphetamine were seized, up from 2,286 pounds in 2007.  In the first nine months of the 2012 fiscal year, California border inspectors have seized more than 7,600 pounds of meth, up 51 percent from the same period a year ago.  Thus, one can plainly see that the methamphetamine problem is only growing larger along our southern border.

There were also several smaller methamphetamine seizures reported last week along our Mexican border.  On December 18, CBP reported that a woman from Mexico was arrested for attempting to smuggle nearly 32 pounds of methamphetamine into the US through the San Luis, AZ port of entry.  Amy Jean Diaz, 38, of San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora Mexico, was referred to a secondary inspection area for an additional inspection of her Ford van.  After a CBP narcotics detection canine alerted to the presence of drugs, a further search of her van led to the discovery of 30 packages of meth hidden throughout the vehicle.  The drugs and vehicle were processed for seizure, and Diaz was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.  Also on December 18, CBP agents intercepted a smuggling attempt on State Route 94, resulting in the seizure of nearly 26 pounds of methamphetamine.  At approximately 2:45 PM, CBP agents encountered a 49-year-old male United States citizen driving a 2000 BMW at the SR 94 checkpoint near Jamul, in San Diego County, CA.  Agents became suspicious of the man’s nervous demeanor and referred him for a secondary inspection.  A CBP narcotics detection canine team performed a cursory inspection of the vehicle, resulting in an alert.  CBP agents searched the vehicle and discovered 16 bundles of meth hidden behind the rocker panels of the vehicle.  The methamphetamine weighed 25.83 pounds and had an estimated street value of $516,600.  The suspected smuggler and narcotics were turned over to the DEA for further investigation. The vehicle was seized by CBP.  Finally, CBP agents arrested a man as he tried to smuggle almost 7 pounds of meth through the border checkpoint south of San Clemente, CA.  Once again, a CBP narcotics detection canine team indicated that drugs were in the car.  A search of the vehicle revealed 2.98 pounds of meth hidden inside of a fire extinguisher located on the rear seat.  An additional 3.97 pounds were located inside of a modified battery casing, which contained a motorcycle battery as well as space for the narcotics.  The 6.95 pounds of meth had an estimated street value of $139,000.  CBP seized the Jeep and turned the drugs over to the DEA.

December 12, 2012

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

This week I plan to share more interesting news stories involving methamphetamine.  The first incident is what is being called the largest methamphetamine seizure in United States history.  Federal prosecutors in San Francisco announced that 11 people were indicted on December 3rd on suspicion of possessing and distributing large quantities of narcotics.  Police seized more than 570 pounds, yes 570 pounds of methamphetamine with a street value of more than $6 million. In addition, authorities found more than $160,000 in U.S. currency, 10 firearms, and seven automobiles, all of which were seized on November 30.  The federal grand jury indicted the group on drug-related charges that include conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more (I would say that 570 pounds meets this criterion) of methamphetamine, distribution of meth, and conspiracy to commit international money laundering, according to Melinda Haag, U.S. Attorney for Northern California.  The indictment indicated that the suspects “engaged in a narcotics conspiracy to distribute large amounts of methamphetamine throughout California.” The suspects were allegedly planning to expand their illegal drug business internationally.  Six of the 11 suspects were charged by the state of California for possession of methamphetamine, possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine, and possession of a stolen firearm. The remaining five suspects face federal charges.

The next item comes to us from Austin, TX.  In this case, Scott MacFarland, 41, is facing felony charges for possession of methamphetamines, driving while intoxicated and evading arrest.  According to arrest records, police received a tip on December 5 about a nude man sitting in a Jeep outside of the Value Place Hotel near the intersection of U.S. 183 and Texas 45.  A second tip indicated that the man was either intoxicated or high on drugs and that he had a history of violence.  Sounds like a methamphetamine case to me.  When police arrived on the scene around 7 PM, they were told that MacFarland had taken the Jeep and was headed onto Hymeadow Drive.   Once MacFarland spotted the authorities, he attempted to evade arrest as he reached speeds as high as 80 mph and ran a red light during the lengthy chase.  He initially avoided the Stop Sticks deployed by the police, but Stop Sticks at Amherst Drive eventually punctured the tires on MacFarland’s Jeep, which subsequently rolled off the road into a ditch.  MacFarland opened his door but refused officers’ orders to get out of the Jeep.  Police pulled MacFarland out of the vehicle, but had a difficult time because he was naked and “covered in a greasy substance and it was very hard to get ahold of him,” according to the officers’ reports.  One can only imagine what the greasy substance might have been as the substance was not identified in the arrest report.  Once handcuffed, MacFarland appeared to be confused and could not answer simple questions, such as telling police his name, and police believed that MacFarland was under the influence since “he was acting in such an odd manner.”  MacFarland was initially taken to a hospital on the recommendation of emergency medical services personnel.  While searching the Jeep, police found a large bag of syringes in the cup holder and a small bag of meth.  MacFarland was later transferred to the Williamson County Jail.

The final case this week is difficult for me to comprehend.  In this case, a man from Bremerton, WA is accused of secretly slipping methamphetamine into his wife’s cigarette in a plan to make her join him in his meth addiction.  According to police reports, the woman called police to her East Bremerton home on Sunday, December 2nd. She said that Saturday, while they were at their home with their two children, her husband had offered her a cigarette. She said that when she started “freaking out,” her husband told her that he had put meth in the cigarette.  Can you imagine being given meth without your knowledge and against your will?  Apparently, the man wanted his wife to experience a meth high so she would understand why he likes it so much.  He had reportedly told his friends that he had a 15-point plan to get his wife addicted to meth.  That did not work out well for either the man or his wife.  The woman, who told police she had never knowingly used meth, was taken to an area hospital for treatment.  A family friend took their children.  The 20-year-old man was arrested and charged with second-degree assault.  He is being held without bail.  I don’t know what the punishment is for this crime, but in my opinion, it is not going to be enough!

December 5, 2012

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

This week I will continue my series of interesting news stories involving methamphetamine.  The first incident comes to us from down under in Australia.  Two weeks ago, Australian police seized 237 million Australian dollars ($246 million in United States currency) worth of cocaine and methamphetamine found inside a steamroller shipped from China.  I have mentioned previously that huge shipments of the precursors necessary to manufacture methamphetamine have been seized off the coast of Mexico, likely headed to the Mexican superlabs.  In this case, the drugs were shipped to Australia readymade.  Australian Federal Police said that they arrested a Canadian man and a man from the United States after finding 350 kilograms (770 pounds) of cocaine and meth hidden in a steamroller in Sydney. The men were charged with importing drugs and face a maximum of life in prison if convicted.  It was the police agency’s second major drug bust in a week. On Friday, police said officials had tracked down a boat carrying 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of cocaine to Australia after it ran aground in the small island nation of Tonga.  It looks like methamphetamine and cocaine are as big a problem for the Aussies as they are for Americans.

In another event from back in the states, a man from Quincy, OH faces multiple charges after being arrested while driving a backhoe while intoxicated on meth.  William Patrick Minor, 49, of 1300 State, was arrested on multiple charges at 2:10 AM last Sunday when he was spotted driving on North Fourth Street.  He was arrested on suspicion of possession of methamphetamine, resisting and obstructing a peace officer, possession of drug paraphernalia, driving (a backhoe!) under the influence, no valid driver’s license, failure to signal (a dead giveaway), and failure to have a slow moving vehicle emblem. He was taken to the Adams County Jail.  Police first discovered the northbound 2000 Case backhoe and made a traffic stop at Ninth and College where it was determined that Mr. Minor did not have a valid driver’s license.  He resisted when officers attempted to arrest him.  Once in custody, police said that Mr. Minor was found to be in possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. A search was made of the backhoe, and police said officers found items used to manufacture meth in the vehicle.  The citizens of Quincy were lucky that Mr. Minor was out so early in the morning when there was not much traffic.  Imagine a backhoe driven by a meth head during rush hour!

In another “mother-of-the-year” story, a woman in Phoenix, AZ forced her 16-year-old daughter to hold an ounce of methamphetamine during a police traffic stop in the Valley last Wednesday, officers said.  Nereyda Campana, 33, was pulled over for a traffic violation in the 13,000 block of Interstate 17.  Ms. Campana stated that she told her teenage daughter to hold the meth for her during the stop. She admitted to buying the methamphetamine on Tuesday “for personal use”, law enforcement officials said.  Officers said that they also found $1,114 in cash in the vehicle. The daughter told the officers that she had often been in the vehicle in the past when her mom delivered drugs.  Campana was found to be driving on a suspended license.  She was subsequently booked into jail on one count of a dangerous drug for sale, one count of transporting drugs and one count of child abuse. What a mother she is!

The final story this week comes to us from Guam.  In this case, Monica Leasiolagi was one of three defendants charged with attempting to smuggle methamphetamine through the mail, hidden in a box of teddy bears.  Just last week, Leasiolagi offered to plead guilty to conspiracy to distribute more than 500 grams of methamphetamine, according to District Court of Guam documents.  Her co-defendants, Martha Burgos and John Michael Pangelinan, have refused to sign any plea agreements and are still facing trial.  In the plea agreement, Leasiolagi admitted that she was one of the conspirators who hatched a plan to smuggle meth to Guam. The conspiracy began in August, and lasted less than two months before a mail parcel was intercepted by federal authorities.  Authorities found the drugs concealed in a parcel with three stuffed bears, and the plea agreement notes that Burgos had previously alerted Leasiolagi that she was having some “teddy bears” sent to Guam.  After the package was intercepted, federal authorities replaced the meth with fake drugs and tracked the parcel to Leasiolagi, which led to the arrest of the alleged conspirators.  I am amazed at how many people actually try to ship illegal drugs via the mail!  I see at least one case like this every week

November 28, 2012

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In this weeks’ column, I am going to share with you several interesting reports regarding methamphetamine in the news.  Earlier last week in Everett, WA, a man was arrested for possessing nearly an ounce of methamphetamine, among other things, after he drove his car into an Everett Police patrol car.  The unidentified 21-year-old man, who has an extensive criminal history, had been under surveillance early Saturday morning according to a probable cause affidavit. The man had five active warrants and had previously been convicted of driving without a license at least 11 times, in addition to having three felony convictions as a juvenile.  About 4:30 AM, the man reportedly got into the driver’s seat of a green Mercury Marquis and began to leave an apartment complex on West Casino Road in Everett. When police on scene tried to pull him over, he stopped the car and put the car into reverse. He then drove in reverse around the apartment complex parking lot, striking two empty parked cars before hitting the patrol car.  The officer in the car was not injured.  After the patrol car was hit, the man jumped out of the Mercury Marquis and tried to run away. However, officers caught the man and took him into custody, finding “a very large chunk” of meth in his left jacket pocket.  He was subsequently taken to a local hospital before being booked into the Snohomish County Jail at about 8:30 AM for investigation of hit-and-run, possessing methamphetamine and driving without a license, in addition to his warrants.  It’s never a good idea to crash into a police car while holding meth!

This next story highlights the dangers that law enforcement personnel face when dealing with active methamphetamine labs and the people “cooking” the drug.  Early Sunday morning, two Greenup County Sheriff’s deputies were overcome by fumes from a clandestine meth lab at a home at 2943 Culp Creek Road, in rural Greenup County, KY.  Deputies Rick Craft and Cody Fuller attempted to serve a warrant on Hubert A. Dehart, age 42, at 12:02 AM.  When the officers entered the residence, Dehart barricaded himself in a bathroom where an active clandestine meth lab was cooking. Deputies said Dehart attempted to dispose of the toxic product as deputies gained entry into the bathroom.  Dehart was taken into custody by the deputies.  Shortly thereafter, the deputies became overwhelmed by the fumes released by the hazardous materials and were transported to the Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital emergency room.  Deputy Fuller was admitted into the intensive care unit, and Deputy Craft was treated and released.  The Russell Volunteer Fire Department set up a decontamination station at the entrance of the hospital emergency room where all affected persons involved were decontaminated.  Hubert A. Dehart of 2943 Culp Creek Road, Greenup, and Pamela S. Dehart, 42, of 3131 Winchester Ave., Apartment 703, Ashland, KY, were charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, first degree wanton endangerment of a police officer, and unlawful possession of meth precursor. Hubert Dehart also faces two counts of failure to appear for a misdemeanor citation. The investigation into the incident is ongoing.

Finally, a major drug bust on Monday uncovered hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of methamphetamine being smuggled down Interstate 5 in Fresno, CA, disguised as bottles of tequila.  The bust happened during a routine traffic stop after a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer noticed that the two men in the car appeared quite nervous. A drug sniffing dog subsequently picked up on the scent of methamphetamine.  Investigators say that 20-year-old Rene Diaz and 38-year-old Veronica Carrasco were working together to transport 56 pounds of liquid methamphetamine hidden in tequila bottles. The value of the seized methamphetamine is estimated at more than half a million dollars. Investigators believe the two had plans to travel from Southern California to Oregon.  Highway patrol says the transport of meth in liquid form is a new trend. “At this level of amount, it is going to be distributed all over the place. Once it gets to the final form, the powdered form, it’s going to be disseminated throughout the country, “said CHP’s Matt Radke.  Members of the Fresno Meth Task force say the drugs are often made by Mexican cartels, which I have told you about several times in this column.  Both suspects will now face federal drug charges for trafficking across state lines.

November 21, 2012

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In my column a few weeks ago, I told you about the Mexican drug cartel superlabs, thought to be responsible for as much as 80 percent of the methamphetamine sold in the United States.  These superlabs produce an alarmingly pure but inexpensive form of meth that is moving through the same pipelines that the cartels developed for other illegal drugs.  Three weeks ago, I wrote a column about the growing presence of Hezbollah in Mexico, with this Lebanese terror group becoming increasingly involved and even joining forces with the Mexican drug cartels.

Last week, a majority report was released by the United States House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management.  Their report is titled, “A Line in the Sand: Countering Crime, Violence and Terror at the Southwest Border.”  The first “edition” of this report was released in 2006.  The updated 2012 report can be found online in its entirety here: http://homeland.house.gov/sites/homeland.house.gov/files/11-15-12-Line-in-the-Sand.pdf.

In the 2012 edition of this report, this House Subcommittee concluded that “the horrific violence perpetrated by Mexican drug cartels continues to grow and, in many cases documented in this report, spills into the United States. The cartels now have a presence in more than 1,000 U.S. cities and dominate the wholesale illicit drug trade by controlling the movement of most of the foreign-produced drug supply across the Southwest border.”  The report goes on to document “the increased operational control of the cartels inside the United States, their strategy to move illegal drugs, and the bloody turf wars that have taken place between rival cartels, as they struggle to control valuable trafficking corridors.”  These Mexican drug cartels have a firm grip over drug and human smuggling routes across the U.S. – Mexican border, “creating safe entry for anyone willing to pay the price. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in its most recent assessment, asserts it can control only 44 percent of our border with Mexico.”  That is a best case scenario, and even so, more than half of our southern border remains unprotected and uncontrolled.

While it is alarming that the Mexican drug cartels continue to smuggle 100’s of pounds of methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and marijuana, as well as 100’s of young girls and women forced into sexual slavery via human trafficking, across our southern border with Mexico each year, this House Subcommittee also raises the issue of the potential for violent jihadist terrorism.  While homegrown terrorism remains a clear and present danger, this Subcommittee is increasingly concerned about a potentially “more violent threat to American citizens” through “the enhanced ability of Middle East terrorist organizations, aided by their relationships and growing presence in the Western Hemisphere” with the Mexican drug cartels, “to exploit the Southwest border to enter the United States undetected.”

In May of this year following the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, intelligence indicated that “the world’s most wanted terrorist sought to use operatives with valid Mexican passports who could illegally cross into the United States to conduct terror operations.”  Of equal concern to this Subcommittee was the possibility that these operatives could also “smuggle materials across the border, including uranium,” which could be more “safely assembled on U.S. soil into a weapon of mass destruction.”

This House Subcommittee is also concerned about the standoff with Iran over its nuclear program, and the uncertainty of whether Israel might attack Iran, thereby drawing the United States into a confrontation.  These concerns were brought to the forefront this week with the battles between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.  This Subcommittee is worried that Iran or its agents (e.g., Hamas, Hezbollah) might attempt to exploit our porous Southwest border for retaliation.

In the Executive Summary of this report, this House Subcommittee concluded that “the U.S.-Mexico border is an obvious weak link in the chain. Criminal elements could migrate down this path of least resistance, and with them the terrorists who continue to seek our destruction. The federal government must meet the challenge to secure America’s unlocked back door from the dual threat of drug cartels and terrorist organizations who are lined up, and working together, to enter.”

This is not about undocumented workers; this is about the national security of the United States and the safety of all Americans. I use all of you to remain vigilant.  I also urge you to contact your elected representatives and demand that everything humanly possible is done to finally secure our southern border.

November 14, 2012

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

This week I want to tell you about a couple of tragic, heinous crimes that appear to involve methamphetamine use.  You may remember this summer when 10-year old Lyric Cook-Morrissey and 8-year old Elizabeth Collins went missing on Friday, July 13, 2012.  The cousins were last seen riding their bikes near Meyers Lake in Evansdale, Iowa. Their bikes, a bag and a cell phone were found on a path near the lake.  Law enforcement officials soon reclassified the disappearance of the two girls as an abduction.  Neither girl has been heard from or seen since.  For some reason, I feared a connection to meth as soon as I heard about this case.  Typically children are abducted one at a time, not in pairs or groups.  Then less than 2 weeks after their daughter disappeared into thin air, the parents of Lyric Cook-Morrissey consulted with an attorney who advised them to stop talking to investigators.   Family members told the Des Moines Register that police suspected that Lyric’s father, Daniel Morrissey may have been behind the disappearance of both girls, a claim that he denied.  The family was upset that they were being treated as suspects.

The two little girls have not been found to date, and no one has been charged in their disappearance.  While I cannot prove that this has anything to do with the abduction of these girls, The Online.com reported on November13, 2012 that the Lyric’s mother, Misty Morrissey was ordered to appear in a Cedar Rapids courtroom on charges that she violated the terms of her supervised release regarding a methamphetamine case from 10 years ago.  The details of this violation were not released, but Morrissey pled guilty in 2003 to conspiracy to manufacture and distribute meth.  Morrissey’s now estranged husband, Daniel, is awaiting trial on charges of domestic abuse (assault of Misty Morrissey), possession of methamphetamine, manufacturing methamphetamine and other drug charges. He has pled not guilty.  While the Morrisseys have not been charged in the disappearance of the two little girls, their involvement with meth and the charges of domestic violence make me wonder if meth might be involved in the disappearance of these innocent children.

An even more heinous crime occurred in back 2007.  On July 23, a mother and her two daughters were murdered during a home invasion in Cheshire, Connecticut.  In 2010, Steven Hayes was convicted of the murders and sentenced to death, while his accomplice, Joshua Komisarjevsky, was found guilty and sentenced to death in 2012.  According to court records, when Komisarjevsky and Hayes entered the Petit home that fateful day, they found William Petit sleeping on a couch.  Komisarjevsky bludgeoned William Petit with a bat and then restrained him in the basement at gun point. The children and their mother, Jennifer Petit were each bound and locked in their respective rooms.  Hayes convinced Jennifer Petit to withdraw $15,000 from her line of credit and purchased $10 worth of gasoline in two cans he had taken from the Petit home.  After returning to the house, Hayes and Komisarjevsky escalated the aggravated nature of their crimes. Komisarjevsky sexually assaulted the 11-year-old daughter, Michaela.  Komisarjevsky, who had photographed the sexual assault of the youth on his cell phone, then provoked Hayes to rape Jennifer Petit on the floor of her living room ‘to square things up’ between them.  While Hayes was raping Petit, Komisarjevsky entered the room announcing that William Petit had escaped. Hayes then strangled Jennifer Petit and doused her lifeless body and parts of the house including the daughters’ rooms with gasoline. The daughters, while tied to their beds, had both been doused with gasoline and each had her head covered with a pillowcase.  A fire was then ignited, and Hayes and Komisarjevsky fled the scene. 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela both died from smoke inhalation.  Hayes and Komisarjevsky fled the scene using the Petit family car. They were immediately spotted by police surveillance, pursued by police, apprehended, and arrested only one block away from the Petit home.  The whole invasion lasted seven hours.

During Komisarjevsky’s trial, Dr. Leo Shea testified that Komisarjevsky told him that he was sexually abused from ages 4 to 6 and was burned and tortured.  Dr. Shea testified that medical records showed that Komisarjevsky suffered five concussions as a child.  Komisarjevsky also said he extensively abused drugs, especially crystal methamphetamine.  A psychological evaluation suggested that Komisarjevsky suffers from problems with the prefrontal cortex of his brain.  Damage to the prefrontal cortex can lead to diminished judgment, cognitive deficits, diminished social insight and emotional liability.  Chronic users of meth are also more likely to commit acts of violence and to engage in bizarre and aberrant sexual activity.  The Petit tragedy is a textbook case illustrating the extremes that meth-induced damage to the prefrontal cortex can produce.  Who knows how many other crimes, especially those of a heinous violent or sexual nature, can be traced back to chronic meth use?

If you have stories about how meth has changed someone, that they do things while on meth that they would never have done otherwise, I would be very happy to hear from you.

November 7, 2012

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In this week’s column, I will share some recent cases where authorities found methamphetamine in some unusual places.  The first case involves the seizure of 14 pounds of liquid crystal meth in Laredo, TX on October 31.  This seizure occurred at the Lincoln-Juarez Bridge (also known as Bridge Two) after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers thought that something seemed suspicious about a commercial taxi transporting a 34-year old U.S. citizen from Arcadia, FL.  When the CBP officers referred the taxi for a secondary inspection, they conducted a thorough examination of the luggage compartment and the luggage contained within.  There they found 14 pounds of liquid crystal meth hidden in bottles of personal hygiene products such as body lotion and shampoo.  The female passenger was arrested and turned over to Homeland Security Investigations special agents for further investigation.  There was no mention of whether or not the taxi driver was also arrested.  This discovery illustrates the lengths that methamphetamine smugglers will take to try and move large quantities of Mexican meth into the United States.  Interestingly, this was the second time that CBP officers found liquid meth hidden in bottles of personal hygiene products.  The next case illustrates another interesting attempt.

Again on Halloween (I wonder if there is a trend here), a Ford pickup truck was stopped for speeding and other traffic violations on eastbound Interstate 10 in Fayette County, TX.  When K-9 unit Deputy Randy Thumann approached the vehicle, the driver and passenger gave conflicting statements about why they were en route to Houston from Mexico and what their business in Houston was.  The driver gave the deputy consent to search the vehicle, and the pickup was subsequently moved to the Weimar Police Department so it could be put up on a lift and examined in more detail.  This investigation determined that the fluid in one of the diesel fuel tanks appeared suspicious, but it could not be identified at the time, so officials released the vehicle and driver, who got back on the road.  Later, Deputy Thumann realized that some of the suspicious fluid spilled on his pants leg and that it had begun to crystallize.  This substance field tested positive for methamphetamine, suggesting that the suspicious substance in the fuel tank was meth oil.  Meth oil is the second-to-last process in the making of crystal methamphetamine; after it evaporates, crystal meth is the drug product that remains.  The Texas Department of Public Safety located and stopped the pickup with the two men inside.  Law enforcement officers arrested and charged Madrigal of McAllen, 33, and Jazmin Trujillo, 23, of Hidalgo, with possession of a controlled substance.

Finally, on Tuesday (Halloween eve), a postal inspector in Sycamore, IL found a suspicious package addressed to Joseph P. Hosey Jr., 35, of the 400 block of South Fifth Street in DeKalb, IL that had been shipped from Arizona.  According to DeKalb police Lt. Jason Leverton, postal inspectors look at the way a package is sealed and use drug-sniffing dogs to determine whether a parcel might contain drugs, and something about this package drew their attention.  The following Wednesday, DeKalb police searched Hosey’s home, where they found the package, containing more than 400 grams (0.9 pound) of meth with an estimated street value of $16,000 to $20,000.  Hosey told investigators that Daniel N. Stroz, 36, of the 2100 block of North Point Street in Chicago would ship packages to him from Arizona and then return to Illinois where Hosey would give the package back to Stroz exchange for a portion of the meth and some money.

At the direction of police, Hosey told Stroz that he had received the package and that he could come to DeKalb to pick it up. When Stroz arrived at the meeting spot late Wednesday, police arrested him.  Stroz admitted that he shipped the methamphetamine to Hosey, and that he intended to deliver the meth to others.  Police also found a glass pipe with a residual amount of meth on Donielle C. Parquette, 29, of the 2900 block of Lawndale Avenue in Chicago, who was a passenger in Stroz’s car.  All three were charged with possession of meth, and Hosey and Stroz were also charged with intent to deliver.  Lt. Leverton said that federal investigators will likely look into the source of the methamphetamine.

From large operations to small ones, I am amazed at the lengths that people will go to for methamphetamine. More to come in upcoming columns.

October 31, 2012

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

In my column last week, I told you about the Mexican drug cartel superlabs, thought to be responsible for as much as 80 percent of the methamphetamine sold in the United States.  These Mexican superlabs are sophisticated, high-tech operations that are developing an alarmingly pure but inexpensive form of meth that is moving through the same pipelines that the cartels have already developed for other illegal drugs.

At the time when these Mexican methamphetamine superlabs have appeared, there has been increasing alarm that there is also a growing presence of Hezbollah in Mexico, with this Lebanese terror group becoming increasingly involved and even joining forces with the Mexican drug cartels (Fox News online, October 29, 2012).  According to DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart, “The dangerous connection between drug trafficking and terrorism cannot be overstated,” and the DEA has assisted in “identifying potentially deadly networks that wish to harm innocent Americans and our allies worldwide.”

Unfortunately, Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) fears that the growing evidence of a Hezbollah presence in Mexico is being ignored by the Department of Homeland Security.  “I don’t have a lot of faith in the Department of Homeland Security,” said Rep. Myrick. “They should be looking at these groups in Mexico much more closely.”  She joins a growing number of concerned Americans who are worried about the nation’s southern border.  She and others caution that the issues with our southern border aren’t just about immigrants seeking a better life, but about the relative easy access that terrorists have to America.

In June, 2010, Rep. Myrick sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano requesting the establishment of a task force to “engage US and Mexican law enforcement and border patrol officials about Hezbollah’s presence, activities and connection to gangs and drug cartels.”  In response, Secretary Napolitano said that there was no need for a task force, as current intelligence resources were adequate. Secretary Napolitano also claimed in 2011 that, “The border is better than now than it has ever been.”  But my column last week and a host of other sources suggest that this is not the case.

Matthew Benson, Director of Communications for Arizona Governor Jan Brewer also expressed concern, “The Arizona Department of Homeland Security has indicated there are elements of Middle Eastern Islamic extremist groups operating in Mexico.  From the governor’s standpoint, it is critical to have a secure border for criminal elements who would take advantage of a porous border, especially like the one we have in Arizona.”  Texas Governor Rick Perry, whose state has the largest segment of the nation’s southern border, mentioned in last year’s presidential debate that, “We’re seeing countries start to come in and infiltrate. We know that Hamas and Hezbollah are working in Mexico as well as Iran with their ploy to come into the United States,”

The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research released a report in October, 2011 concluding that Hezbollah “is using the Western Hemisphere as a staging ground, fundraising center, and operation base to wage asymmetric warfare against the United States.”  The report went on to state that “evidence indicates Hezbollah is sharing its terrorist experiences and techniques with Mexican drug cartels along the US border.”  The full text of the report can be found here: http://www.aei.org/files/2011/10/06/Updated-No3LatinAmerican%202011g.pdf

Evidence of a terrorist presence in Mexico can also be found in the growing intensity and brutality of the violence occurring in Mexico, especially that associated with the drug cartels.  There have been written eyewitness reports, pictures and even videos depicting violence that was almost unheard of in North America only a few years ago, including beheadings, dismemberments, torture and mass graves.  Examples of this violence are reported in my daily blog (which can be found here: http://arklatex912project.wordpress.com/), but they are much too graphic to describe here.  Such violence is reminiscent of that committed by Islamic extremist terrorist organizations in the Middle East.  But this violence is now in Mexico, and there have been reports that it has started to infiltrate into the United States.

Thus, while methamphetamine continues to destroy families and lives in the United States, we must also be cognizant of the association of the Mexican drug cartels with Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations.  In my own opinion, enemies of the United States are using methamphetamine and other illegal drugs (cocaine, marijuana, and heroin) to attack our country from within, causing death from 1000 cuts.  So if you use meth, the next time that you buy crystal meth, remember that chances are that you are not only supporting the Mexican drug cartels, but you are also likely funding Hezbollah and other such terrorist organizations.

October 24, 2012

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

Over the past few weeks, I have told you about clandestine methamphetamine labs operating in the United States.  These labs range from the one-pot labs making meth for personal use to the larger labs that subsequently contaminate homes, apartments and motel rooms.  However, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently reported that the Mexican drug cartels now account for as much as 80 percent of the meth sold in the US (AP, Oct. 12, 2012).   These cartels are expanding into the US meth market just as they have with cocaine, heroin and marijuana.  These are sophisticated, high-tech operations that are developing an alarmingly pure but inexpensive form of meth that is moving through the same pipelines that the cartels already developed for other illegal drugs.

Although Mexico has tightened laws and regulations on pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient used in the manufacture of meth, many Mexican superlabs are still obtaining large amount of this and other precursors from China and India.  This is evidenced by the enormous seizures that have occurred in Mexico over the past year.  Mexican drug enforcement made two major busts in the central state of Queretaro, seizing nearly 500 tons of precursor chemicals and more than 3 tons of pure meth with a street value of more than $100 million. In Sinaloa, investigators found a sophisticated underground superlab equipped with an elevator and ventilation systems as well as cooking and sleeping facilities.  In February, soldiers in western Mexico made a historic seizure: 15 tons of pure methamphetamine, which would have supplied 13 million doses of meth worth more than $4 billion.  Imagine, 13,000,000 doses of meth; how many people would have been harmed if that much meth reached the streets?  And remember, this is the amount of meth that was found; one can only imagine how much gets across the Mexican border.  Compare to the number of undocumented immigrants who have made their way into the US and you can begin to imagine the amount of meth, cocaine, marijuana and other illegal drugs that also cross our southern border every day.

Also remember, the Mexican drug cartels are known for horrific violence, often associated with turf battles.  The meth seizure reported above was worth $4 billion!  Obviously, the drug trade is highly profitable, and these high profits lead to violence as cartels jockey for more “business” and to increase their influence in the US.  I may go into more detail in a future column, but the illegal drug-associated violence includes kidnappings, mass graves, beheadings and other violence that is often associated with the Middle East.  In fact, there have recently been reports of an affiliation between Hezbollah, the Mexican drug cartels and illegal drugs crossing our southern border.

Accordingly, seizures of meth along our southern border have more than quadrupled during the past several years.   The amount of seized meth increased from slightly more than 4,000 pounds in 2007 to more than 16,000 pounds in 2011.  That’s 8 tons!  At the same time, the purity of Mexican meth shot up too, from 39 percent in 2007 to 88 percent by 2011, while the price fell 69 percent, from $290 per gram to less than $90.  This is marketing at its best; by simultaneously increasing the purity and cutting the price, the cartels get people hooked and create a new customer base.

Meth made in the Mexican superlabs has a clearer, glassier appearance than more crudely produced one-pot batches and often resembles ice fragments (thus the street name “ice”), usually with a clear or bluish-white color. It often has a smell people compare to ammonia, cat urine or even burning plastic.  Delicious!

But at the same time, the American labs have not disappeared.  Although increased regulations have made it more difficult to prepare large batches of meth, many meth users have turned to the simpler one-pot method that I described in a previous column.  The one-pot method uses a 2-liter soda bottle filled with just enough ingredients to produce a small amount of the drug for personal use.  And while these clandestine labs generally supply rural areas, Mexican meth is mostly targeted to urban and suburban users. Increasingly large quantities are turning up in dozens of American cities, including Dallas, Phoenix, Denver, Chicago, St. Louis and Salt Lake City.  Therefore, increasing the security of our southern border is necessary not only due to illegal immigration, but also due to the almost unbelievable influx of illegal drugs.  It is as though the United States is under attack, with death due to 1000 cuts as more and more Americans become addicted to this insidious drug – meth!

October 17, 2012

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

For the past few weeks, I have been discussing the harmful effects of cooking or manufacturing methamphetamine.  The hazardous materials used to make the drug are often discarded along highways, in rivers and lakes, and in our forests.  Children and others living in homes where meth is cooked or smoked are exposed to methamphetamine as the aerosol vapors stick to floors, walls, and furniture, penetrate walls and accumulate in insulation and other building materials.  But long-term use of methamphetamine can also lead to bizarre psychotic behaviors that put their families at risk for serious harm, or even death.

A woman in Fresno, California fatally shot her 3-year-old son, her 17-month old daughter and her boyfriend’s cousin late last year before turning the gun on herself.  Authorities initially suspected that methamphetamine might be involved in this tragic crime, and it turned out that 23-year-old Aide Mendez actually videotaped herself smoking meth just hours before the shootings.  Subsequent toxicology analyses indicated that she had 10 times more meth in her system than is necessary to produce bizarre behaviors.  But this is not an isolated case.

A mother in Bakersfield, California, went to prison for stabbing her newborn while in a meth-fueled rage.  Danielle Mailloux received a nine- month sentence for stabbing her 6-week-old infant in the back and cutting her along her abdomen, jaw and neck during a binge. The baby survived.  In Oklahoma, authorities charged Lyndsey Fiddler with second-degree manslaughter last year after an aunt found her infant daughter in a washing machine thudding off balance in the spin cycle. The aunt told authorities that Fiddler had been up for three days straight using meth.  A woman who beat her two-year-old daughter to death was sentenced to eight years and six months in jail.  Norefjell Davis, 36, was found guilty of manslaughter and willful ill-treatment of a child.  She reportedly treated two-year-old Jacqui Davis “like a soccer ball” as her mother kicked her repeatedly, sometimes so hard the little girl was lifted into the air.  And finally, a three-year-old boy in Oklahoma City was left fighting for his life after being “sold” by his babysitter to two men who raped and tortured the toddler.  To say the men savagely raped him is an understatement since the little boy ended up with a torn rectum.  And in a move that one can only assume was to get rid of any DNA evidence, the men forced the boy to drink bleach, and then splashed it about his face.  Police said the boy had part of his skull torn off during the horrific assault, and he had been hung from a ceiling with a dog collar.  Investigators said Jennifer Chapman, who was looking after the boy, allegedly offered him to two men for sex in exchange for meth.  The two men allegedly raped and tortured the boy for several hours before returning him to 43-year-old Chapman at the Oklahoma motel where she was staying with the boy’s mother Leana Lauck.  According to police, when Lauck, 31, saw the injuries to her son she decided against taking him to hospital for urgent treatment and instead began using meth with her friend.

Obviously, methamphetamine can produce very extreme changes in normal brain function.  Once someone becomes triggered to meth-fueled violence, there aren’t any limits or boundaries anymore.  Someone who may have been a loving, caring mother can become little more than a monster since the long-term, chronic use of meth can lead to psychosis, which includes hearing voices and experiencing hallucinations.  And the stimulant effect of meth is up to 50 times longer than cocaine, so users often stay awake for days on end, further impairing cognitive function and contributing to extreme paranoia.  Experts agree that women often believe that their children and their spouses are their worst enemies, and they truly believe their own families are out to get them.

The examples of methamphetamine-fueled mother-on-child violence provided above are only a few that have been reported on online news sources.  My guess is that there may be many more incidents like this that either do not make it online or are just not reported.  At the same time, not all mothers who use meth kill their children, but their children are often neglected and left to take care of themselves, which is bad enough.  And I am not trying to point a finger or accuse anyone, but if someone reads this and decides not to use methamphetamine, then this has been a success.

October 10, 2012

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

On October 2nd of this year, KOBI-TV in Portland, Oregon reported that the Hankins family in Klamath Falls became sick soon after buying a home that had previously housed a meth lab.   Breathing problems began for Beth within days of moving in.  Jonathan Hankins began suffering from nosebleeds and migraine headaches, and the couple’s 2-year-old son, Ezra, developed mouth sores. The Hankins said a test showed methamphetamine contamination was at 80 times the state’s designated safe limit.  The Hankins warn other potential home buyers to have their homes thoroughly inspected and tested before purchasing them.  No one warned the Hankins that their home had been used as a meth lab, and they claim that the realtor denied any knowledge of illegal activity at the home.  Jonathan Hankins subsequently started a petition at Change.org demanding that lender Freddie Mac test houses for methamphetamine contamination.  To date, more than 200,000 people have signed the petition.

Over the past two weeks, I have discussed how one-pot meth labs can poison the environment and pose a severe danger to anyone who unwittingly stumbles upon such a lab.  I also reported how cooking and smoking meth can be dangerous to anyone living where meth is being used, and this is especially true for children.  But what happens when the meth cooks move away (or are arrested)?  And consider this, people also cook and smoke meth in motel rooms, apartments and just about anywhere else you can imagine.  What are the chances that the motel room or apartment had been properly and thoroughly cleaned once the meth cooks left?

In fact, it is not known precisely how methamphetamine can accumulate in building materials.  What happens when a meth lab is busted?  If the hazmat crew takes out everything from the building and washes it and airs it out for a week or so, that’s probably sufficient to remove solvents and other things that end up in the dust.   But this does not get at those potentially dangerous chemicals — methamphetamines and similar compounds — that have penetrated through the drywall and into the building structure.  Some experts estimate that a meth lab operating in a house for a few weeks could introduce enough methamphetamine vapors into the insulation to sustain unsafe levels in the home for months, or even years, after.  But at this time is it not known what levels might be toxic, or if people become sick due to metal exposure, solvent exposure, methamphetamine exposure, by-product exposure or some combination of all of these.  Frightening indeed!

Some states, such as Colorado, have very strict laws requiring that a property where meth was cooked (or even smoked) must remain quarantined until it is properly decontaminated and tested by certified professionals.  In Louisiana, a 2008 law was passed by the legislature requiring sellers to disclose whether their house had been exposed to meth.  In addition, the Department of Environmental Quality was tasked with maintaining a listing of residential real estate property that has been reported as contaminated.

But what is frightening is that many states, including neighboring Texas, have no laws regulating the cleaning of meth labs.  Some experts estimate that there are thousands of motel rooms in Texas and many more in other states that have been contaminated with methamphetamine and the chemicals used to make the drug.  And what happens when a meth user or cook moves to a new residence or motel room here in Louisiana?  This “honor system” – while a very positive first step – relies in part on the honesty of the meth user.  If the meth user does not report that the house is contaminated with meth, and once the house has been aired of the chemical smell, who will know whether or not the house was ever contaminated?

At this point in time, I do not know what can be done about this growing problem.  It is likely cost prohibitive to test every house, every apartment, and every hotel and motel room before a new tenant arrives.  But on the other hand, people and their pets can be poisoned if a former meth house was not properly cleaned.  In extreme cases, meth vapors that have penetrated into the walls can lead to explosions.  Just ask Hank and Katherine Doughty who bought a wood-framed house several years ago in Holden, LA.  One night after lighting a fire in the fireplace, the “doors blew out at 2 AM.”  After a little research, the Doughty’s discovered that the previous homeowner had operated a meth lab in the house.

October 2, 2012

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

Angelina County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a disturbance call on Johnny Grimes Road in Lufkin, TX on September 1 of this year where they found Amber Cherie Whitworth (23) with her infant child in her arms.  She stated that she and her boyfriend, Rickey Shane Boykin (41), also of Lufkin, got into an argument that became physical.  According to the arrest affidavit, Whitworth “appeared to be intoxicated and upset.”  Deputies could smell a strong “chemical odor” in the residence and on Whitworth and her child.  According to Whitworth, Boykin allegedly threw a chemical substance on her during the argument.

A Child Protective Services (CPS) case worker ordered a hair drug test for Whitworth and her two 9-month old infants.  All three tested positive for the presence of methamphetamine.  CPS took the infants from their mother, provided medical treatment, and placed them in the care of a grandparent.

Both Whitworth and Boykin were charged with felony child endangerment; the affidavit read that they “intentionally, knowingly, and recklessly placed two 9-month old children in imminent danger of death, bodily injury, or physical or mental impairment.”  Boykin was also charged with felony possession/transport of a chemical with the intent to manufacture.  This incident was reported online by KTRE TV Channel 9 on September 25, 2012.

I see heartbreaking stories such as this almost on a daily basis.  Methamphetamine is used by men and by women of childbearing age, and women are typically the primary caregivers for their children.  Studies show that women are as likely as men to use meth, a fact that is not shared with most addictive drugs.  It is always so tragic for the children; after all, they are the innocent ones.  Law enforcement personnel often have to step over toys on their way to serving a warrant, and diapers and crayons can be found in trash dump sites mixed with shake & bake bottles and Sudafed blister packs.  In some areas, CPS estimates that up to 75% of the children taken into state custody are due to meth in the home.  It is far too dangerous to allow the children to remain.

Children living in homes with meth have to learn how to take care of themselves.  While they are using meth, their parents forget to buy groceries, cook supper, do the laundry or make sure that the children have taken their baths.  In fact, their parents even forget to take care of themselves.  When on a meth binge, meth is their only concern.  Furthermore, since methamphetamine can produce paranoia, hallucinations, aggressive behavior, a heightened sex drive and days without sleep, these children are at risk for abuse that is not always seen with other addictions.  I plan to highlight this abuse in future columns.

Children from meth homes can show up to school in winter wearing only a tank top and shorts.  They may also show signs of agitation, lack of sleep and unexplained sores and burns.  Particles in the air can irritate delicate skin, and these sores look a lot like bug bites.  Studies have demonstrated that every time someone “cooks” meth in the house, or even just smokes meth, this reaction creates an aerosol cloud that coats every surface, including furniture, floors, toys, curtains, counter tops, dishes, etc.  And young children put everything in their mouths, especially their fingers that have undoubtedly touched meth-covered surfaces.  Any toddlers walking or crawling in a home where meth is used will pick up meth from the floors and walls and will get meth in their systems.  So at the very least, these children are receiving low doses of meth that may produce as yet unknown effects.

No one, especially a mother, begins using methamphetamine thinking that their drug addiction could poison their children.  No mother plans on exposing her children to abuse and neglect.  But in the case of methamphetamine, that can happen even if meth is only used when the children are not at home.  The aerosolized meth vapors stick to everything and remain there so that when the children return home, they can still become exposed to this toxic substance.  That is why CPS removes the children from homes where meth is used.  It simply is not safe to allow the children to remain there.

September 26, 2012

Meth in the News

Professor Nicholas E Goeders

A One-Pot (Shake & Bake) methamphetamine-making session “went bad” earlier this year at a home on Paddle Wheel Drive in Harris County, Texas.  Three people were in the home on May 24, 2012 when Jason White (32) attempted to “cook’ meth in an upstairs bathroom using a Gatorade bottle containing a mixture of volatile chemicals.  The bottle exploded during the process, and White was burned on his face, arm and hands.  White’s shirt caught on fire in the explosion, and this in turn caused a bathroom counter top and a wall to also ignite.   White was treated and released from a Houston-area hospital, and the Harris County Hazmat Response Team was called in to secure the scene.  Deputy Thomas Gilliland from the Sheriff’s office reported that the smell inside the home “was unbelievable.”  Evidence of a working meth lab was found when investigators from the Harris County Fire Marshall’s office examined the scene, finding Sudafed blister packs, red phosphorus, broken C and D batteries, drain cleaner, coffee filters, broken cold packs, and hydrochloric acid.  Following a thorough investigation, White, of Plantersville along with Lindsey Grice, 25, and Thurman Hall, 37, of the Spring area, were charged in federal court this week with arson-manufacture of a controlled substance and manufacture and delivery of a controlled substance.  This incident was reported in the September 25 online edition of the Houston Chronicle.

This provides me the opportunity to warn the readers about the dangers associated with this one-pot or shake & bake procedure that appears to be spreading across the country.  Law enforcement officials claim that this method is even more dangerous than the “old” makeshift meth labs that require hundreds of pseudoephedrine pills, containers heated over open flames and cans of flammable liquids. The “old” cooking process itself creates foul odors, making the labs difficult to conceal.  And of course, these makeshift labs can also spark explosions.  Generally, the one-pot process uses a two-liter soda bottle. Only a few cold pills are mixed with common, but noxious, household chemicals to produce enough meth for the user to get a few hits.  Since only a few pseudoephedrine pills are required, the one-pot method circumvents laws passed restricting the sale of large quantities of over-the-counter decongestants, cold and allergy remedies.  In addition, the new method requires little room. All of the necessary items can be carried in a backpack, making the process mobile. This has simplified the process so that it seems like everybody is making their own meth.  It can be your next-door neighbor or even one of your family members.

The one-pot method combines the first three steps of a conventional meth lab, so that the “cook” is making anhydrous ammonia at the same time that pseudoephedrine (from cold tablets) is converted to methamphetamine base in the bottle.  The bottle is shaken, which creates a chemical reaction through the production of heat and pressure inside the bottle.  The bottle must be “burped” from time to time to release the pressure or it will explode, spewing caustic chemicals in all directions, which can cause serious chemical burns.  At the same time, the “cook” is producing a chemical ignition, also called fire in the bottle, every time that the one-pot method is used.  If the bottle bursts or is opened at the wrong time, it essentially becomes a flamethrower.  Remember that these labs are portable, putting the public at great risk.  The bottle can explode while the “cook” is driving around, putting other drivers in danger.  Such an incident occurred in Bossier City a couple of years ago, but luckily no one was harmed.  Meth “cooks” often throw the used plastic bottles, containing a poisonous brown and white sludge, along the highway.  Law enforcement is finding discarded one-pot bottles in ditches, in people’s yards and in dumpsters.  The mixture inside the bottle can burst into flames when exposed to oxygen, making it extremely dangerous for anyone who unscrews the lid of what may look like an ordinary soda bottle.  Therefore, with hunting season rapidly approaching, if you find discarded bottles containing an unknown mixture, especially with a “chemical” odor, do not open them or pick them up. Call the Sherriff’s office and let them investigate to see if there is any danger.

Comments
  1. KC says:

    Thank you for bringing attention to the impact that these home-based meth labs bring to innocent neighbors. I have been displaced several times from apartments because of meth-producing neighbors. The first time it happened, I lost all of my belongings and my car because of chemical transfer, and my lung capacity has never been quite the same. There was no legal recourse outside of simply getting out of my leases in all three cases, and I have gone through most of my savings trying to dodge this stuff in a city exploding with meth use. You go to the grocery store, it’s there; you go to a restaurant, it’s there; you go home, it’s there. You go to work, it’s there. You drive on the road with your windows rolled down, it’s there. If you get displaced from it, you end up in hotels and if you lose your car from it, you end up in car rentals–both of which are affected by meth so heavily that you can smell it when you first walk in to a hotel room or get into a rental car. It’s gross and toxic, and I never asked for it. I’m so tired of it. I pray to God every day that meth becomes a legal, regulated pill with 100% purity that is priced lower than the cartels and even Asia can compete with and that labs become a thing of the past (because it will cost way more to make it yourself than to go get some, and at a better quality, from a store). While I wish they wouldn’t,if addicts want to ruin their lives with meth, fine, but don’t take my life from me, too. It’s not cool.

  2. Jake Kelton says:

    Nick, This is the first time I saw your postings and let me tell you I am very impressed. You are doing a great job and I think you will be a great addition to the conference in October!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s