This is dedicated to Travis Holappa who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered on July 25, 2004 in Northern Minnesota. This was all due to meth. I am Travis' mother and I wish to make this devastation turn into a better thing by educating and exposing the truth about meth, the dangers, and the deadly consequences it brings about to individuals and communities.

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Location: Colorado, United States

I want to do what I can to educate people about what is going on around the world with the meth problem. I want people to know about it BEFORE they even get the idea to want to try it. It is a dangerous drug and will ruin your life as well as all those who love you. I am on a mission on behalf of my only son, Travis.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Drug arrived in 1990s; its scourge continues

Local or imported, meth still top issue

Max McCoy
Globe Investigative Writer

Meth hit Joplin nearly a decade ago, according to a local detective, when Chris Haycraft — known in drug circles as The Wizard — started making the drug from commonly available ingredients and showed his friends how to do it, too.
Soon, cooking methamphetamine became a cottage industry — and law enforcement’s No. 1 challenge. Not only did meth create its own crime wave, with police linking it to nearly every category of offense, but the home labs posed significant fire risks and created a toxic mess that is expensive to clean up.

While new laws have curbed the spread of clandestine labs by limiting access to base ingredients, such as that pulled from cold pills, demand for the drug has never been higher.

“It’s getting a lot more violent,” said Detective Frank Lundien, coordinator of the Jasper County Drug Task Force. “I see more and more violent actions associated with drugs than I used to. And compared to every other drug I have seen, meth has got to be the worst.”

But Haycraft — now living in Arkansas after serving six years in federal prison — claims he wasn’t the big fish Lundien makes him out to be. Instead, Haycraft portrays himself as just an average guy trying to support his family.

“I didn’t go (to Joplin) looking to start a drug culture or anything,” he said in a recent interview. “I was hurt, I was on disability, and you know how much that pays. I was fighting for my Social Security. And that’s what got me into it.”
When he was asked why he was called The Wizard if he were not a significant player, Haycraft’s voice became playful and even a bit proud. “I did things that people thought were amazing,” he said.

Jasper County is federally designated a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. On average, one meth lab was busted for every 2,064 residents in Missouri during 2004, according to statistics gathered by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. In Jefferson County, a St. Louis suburb that reported the most lab seizures in the state in 2004, the ratio was one for every 812 residents.
In Jasper County, the ratio was even more alarming: one for every 706 people.
While lab busts are down, law-enforcement officials say another problem has been created: Organized crime has rushed to fill the meth demand in Southwest Missouri with “ice,” a particularly potent form of the drug manufactured in Mexico or Southern California and smuggled here.

The Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that 60 percent of the meth on the street in Southwest Missouri is imported, and the Jasper County Task Force has received a $100,000 federal grant to fight organized drug trafficking.

A federal investigation into the distribution of meth in Southwest Missouri, poetically called Operation Ice Storm, has resulted in the arrest of at least 19 people in Joplin and Carthage.
In August, U.S. Attorney Todd Graves described the probe as targeting “an organization based in Mexico” that distributes multi-kilogram amounts of meth throughout Southwest Missouri and Texas.

Meth appears endemic to poor, rural populations. Unlike crack cocaine, which remains the most commonly abused drug in urban areas, meth is cheap and easy to manufacture from drugstore cold remedies containing pseudoephedrine. While users initially report an increase in mental acuity and stamina, the drug is highly addictive and can lead to serious physical and mental problems.

The drug was first synthesized in 1919, and it was given to both Allied and Axis troops during World War II. Adolf Hitler received daily injections. After the war, it was commercially offered in pill form for obesity, narcolepsy and sinus problems. Meth use exploded in the 1990s with the spread of new ways to manufacture the drug.
Meth is a worldwide scourge, particularly in Asia. In the United States, the areas hit the hardest are the West, the Southwest and the Midwest.

The clandestine labs, which require little space and can be set up on a kitchen table or in the trunk of a car, pose serious fire and environmental hazards. For every pound of illegal drug produced, 5 to 6 pounds of toxic material are created. Despite the risks, many small operators are attracted by the notions of owning their source of supply and realizing a quick return on a relatively small investment.

The problem peaked in 2004, when Missouri logged a record 2,788 labs busted, the highest in the nation. Jasper County recorded 155 that year and was second in the state only to Jefferson County in the number of lab seizures, according to the state patrol.

California was second, with 764 busts. But West Coast labs tend to be larger than the mom and pop operations here, according to statistics released by the Drug Enforcement Administration. More than 1,700 pounds of meth was seized in California in 2004. In contrast, about 27 pounds of the drug was seized by federal agents in Missouri that year.
Following Oklahoma’s lead, a Missouri state law went into effect July 15, limiting the sale of cold pills containing pseudoephedrine, the precursor material for home-cooked meth.

‘Addicted to cooking’
“Meth is the No. 1 problem,” said Jasper County Sheriff Archie Dunn. “It’s serious money. There’s a lot of street value to it. Your chances of getting caught are pretty slim, but the financial benefits are great. So is it worth it? Probably. But not with my luck.”

Marijuana was the drug of choice, Dunn said, when he was a trooper several years ago for the Missouri State Highway Patrol. “In fact, I’d never seen marijuana until I joined the patrol,” he said. “I thought it was something they did in New York City.”
Now 60, Dunn retired in 2000 as the patrol’s information officer. He has been the county sheriff since 2003, when he was appointed to fill a vacancy. He later was elected to the post. In his office is a nearly full-size cardboard cutout of Roy Rogers, smiling and guns drawn. On the wall is a photo of John Wayne. “Them old boys never did let you down,” Dunn said when asked about the cowboy heroes.

Dunn deferred most questions about meth to Lundien, 42, a Joplin officer who serves as coordinator of the county drug task force. Lundien was on the street when Haycraft was showing his friends how to cook meth, and he recalls that it was hubris — along with sampling their own products — that resulted in the downfall of many meth cooks in the late 1990s.
“They would become addicted to cooking,” Lundien said.
Many of them were old-school bikers, he said, and had run a lot of low-purity crank and other amphetamines in Joplin. One of them became so proud of his batches of meth that he allowed a couple of new friends to make a video of him cooking the drug as he explained the procedure. What he didn’t know was that the new friends were undercover detectives, and the cook soon found himself in prison.

In 1990, the task force made 45 arrests on various drug charges and served one search warrant, Lundien said. No meth labs were busted, and no meth was seized from any source. In 1995, the task force served 17 search warrants, busted one meth lab and confiscated 1,783 grams (about 4 pounds) of meth.

Haycraft, the cook known as The Wizard, was released from prison in 2001. In 2004, according to court documents that assign jurisdiction for his probation, he moved to Arkansas. In a recent telephone interview, the 47-year-old described himself as a “Southern California boy” who landed in Joplin in the 1990s after he was injured on a construction job. He said he turned to cooking meth as a way of supporting his family.
But, he said, it wasn’t necessary to show anyone else how to cook it.

“It’s so damned easy that everybody and anybody can do it,” he said. “That’s what makes it so lucrative.”
Haycraft claims that he learned to cook meth from a chemist who worked at a Los Angeles crime lab — “nobody’s an angel” — and he is ready with a long list of prosecutors and police officers across the country who have made the news for being involved with drugs. The names he drops do not include any local police.

Haycraft said he became fascinated by the cooking procedure, and that he often sampled his own product. “You couldn’t get any better,” he said.
He also said he was fascinated by the people he met while dealing meth, even the police. But, he said, he took the fall for cutting into the territory of other dealers. Now, he said, he is finished with meth.

“I’ve got it made now,” he said. “I do all kinds of things. I work with my hands. I do woodworking. I built this house. I have no regrets about what happened, and I blame nobody for anything. If anyone is to blame, it’s me. But no, I wouldn’t do it again.”

Mass arrests
With the original Wizard in prison, Lundien said, there was no shortage of others who claimed the title. More and more met labs sprang up. In 2001, the task force seized 73 meth labs, and in 2002 the number was 96. There was a dip in 2003, with 77 labs busted, but in 2004 the numbers reflected the statewide trend, with a record 194 labs busted. The task force’s numbers are higher than the count released by the Highway Patrol because of the way busts are tallied.

Also, Lundien said, the 2004 statistics are “somewhat misleading,” as the increased numbers partially reflect increased enforcement from the addition of two officers to the task force. The 10-member force has four Joplin officers, three sheriff’s deputies, one highway patrolman, a Carthage officer and — as of late last year — a federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

For 2005, Lundien said, the numbers were down again. Part of the reason may have been the new state law that restricts the sale of cold remedies. By September, the task force had busted 97 labs and confiscated 2,459 grams (about 5.4 pounds) of meth.

Arrests, however, skyrocketed.
In 2003, the task force made 249 arrests. In 2004, there were 64. But as of September 2005, the task force had made 378 arrests, nearly six times more than the total for the previous year.
The numbers indicate that even though the number of meth labs is down, there is no shortage of the drug on the street. Much of it is smuggled into the area from large labs in Southern California and Mexico. Many of the smugglers are illegal immigrants.

Lundien said he is not sure whether the small-time operators the task force has caught in the Joplin and Carthage area are involved with drug cartels, but he suspects that some are. The problem, he said, is that the traffickers tend to move exclusively within the burgeoning and decidedly insular Hispanic community.
Even though the task force has officers who speak fluent Spanish, he said, it is difficult to break down the cultural barriers that discourage talking with police.
What strikes Lundien most about the meth subculture, he said, is how pervasive it is. Most serious crimes, he said, have a drug component. He ticked off a list of crimes during the past 12 months in which he believes meth was a factor, including a double murder.

The bodies of Peggy and Marvin Steverson were found in June 2005 in their Carthage home. Micah Joel Holman, a 32-year-old family acquaintance, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, and authorities said the crime appeared to have involved the theft of a coin collection. Dunn said investigators can track the murders “back to drugs or to drug activity.”
Not only does meth seriously impair judgment, Lundien said, but it also creates pressure to come up with money — through any means available — to buy more of the drug.
“People seem to lose any concern for personal hygiene,” he said. “And there are two almost for sure things in any meth house: one is a gun and the other is porno.”

Dunn said it is a “no-brainer” to conclude that, just as Prohibition of the 1920s, cracking down on the manufacture of an illegal substance did nothing to diminish the demand — and, ironically, created a climate conducive to smuggling by organized crime.
Despite the newer problem, Lundien believes the area is better off simply because there are fewer meth labs to deal with, and that means fewer safety and environmental hazards.
“At least we’ve reduced the one danger, of the ones that blow up,” he said. “We’ve taken the meth labs out of our neighborhoods, and that’s good.”
Dunn doesn’t think the current trend of Mexican ice will last, however.
“Someday,” he said, “they’ll find an alternative (home cooking) method to allow the mom and pops to get back into it.”

By the numbers
Jasper County had more meth-lab busts in 2004 than any other Missouri county except one. Jefferson County, in suburban St. Louis, logged 259 lab seizures, while Jasper County logged 155. Newton County reported 32.
Among area Missouri counties, Dade had the highest ratio of clandestine meth-lab busts to population. The county reported 20 busts in 2004, for a ratio of one lab seizure for every 391 residents. The statewide average was one bust for every 2,064 people.
Source: Missouri State Highway Patrol


Blogger PETDA said...

"Hate the drug, Not the Addict!" If someone you love has been sentenced to prison for a drug-related crime please check out the PETDA blog! We don't feel it's o.k. to do drugs like meth, but locking our sons and daughters up for long periods of time for meth related offenses is not the answer. Groups with agendas like M.A.Ma will only do more damage to the family unit as parents and children are torn apart, and parents all over the country have to sit back helplessly as juries hand out 99-year sentences for manufacturing without the possiblity of parole! This is not the answer and neither are groups like MAMa. Please go to PETDA and tell us what you think.!

Monday, January 30, 2006 2:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am the niece of Micah J. Holman, and am very close to him. Yes, he had a drug issue. However, meth was never his drug of choice. So get your facts straight. And the saddest part of this whole thing, is drugs, had NOTHING to do with WHY he did what he did. But I tend to forget, checking the FACTS, and getting the real story is never really part of story telling anymore. Now is it?

The bodies of Peggy and Marvin Steverson were found in June 2005 in their Carthage home. Micah Joel Holman, a 32-year-old family acquaintance, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, and authorities said the crime appeared to have involved the theft of a coin collection. Dunn said investigators can track the murders “back to drugs or to drug activity.”
Not only does meth seriously impair judgment, Lundien said, but it also creates pressure to come up with money — through any means available — to buy more of the drug.
“People seem to lose any concern for personal hygiene,” he said. “And there are two almost for sure things in any meth house: one is a gun and the other is porno.”

Saturday, June 06, 2015 9:28:00 PM  

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