DEATH * BY * METH

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 16, 2006

Parents on Meth!

I know I have had previous posts about Candice Alexander, but here is a more personal view of her death. Her killers? Her parents.

Please, lets open our eyes, ears, and noses to what is going on around us! I don't care if you want to help the addict, put them in jail or what... but let's do SOMETHING!!! Kim

Check out this story at: http://www.lufkindailynews.com/news/content/news/stories/2006/01/15/20060115LDNmeth.html

In the name of Candice

By ASHLEY COOK The Lufkin Daily News

Sunday, January 15, 2006

A breeze stirred the pasture just beyond the grave of 15-year-old Candice Alexander as a policeman stood looking down at her headstone. Investigating her brutal murder had become his life.

As the blue sky pressed down overhead, it was obvious something about her death had taken hold of Sgt. David Campbell, a seasoned investigator with the Lufkin Police Department.

He worked on the case for two years and two months, taking time away from his family to find answers to how she died when no once else could or would. He found them.

"The truth about what happened needed to be told. Her body told the story," Campbell said.

There was something jarring about her autopsy photos, the juxtaposition of a child's smooth face topping a battered body covered in filth and grease, leaves and twigs tangling her hair.

Hers was the death of a girl desperate to escape a family wracked by drugs, violence and sexual abuse.

Bringing law enforcement officers and prosecutors to tears, the murder case ended with her killers — her mother and step-father, Rebecca and Johnny Lee — sentenced in a state district court Nov. 1, 2005, to spend the rest of their lives in prison.

The Lees' efforts to appeal the sentence continue with a hearing on a motion for a new trial scheduled Tuesday.

The pair savagely beat Alexander during a fight the night of May 8, 2003, holding the 5-foot-3, 90-pound girl down after they dragged her into a bedroom, shooting her up with enough methamphetamine to kill four grown men, according to testimony from the Lees' trial. She didn't live long after that, her heart stopping in her chest moments after the needle drove home, according to one pathologist's testimony. Marks cutting deep bruises into her body were from a horse bridle her mother used to beat her, Campbell said. Defensive wounds, scrapes and bruises detailed her fight to live.

She'd made the mistake of wanting a new life, threatening to turn the Lees in for making and selling methamphetamine. It had been a nightmarish life for Candice and her sisters, then 13 and 18. They'd bounced from home to home for years, suffering sexual and physical abuse and drug addiction.

The grave, at Berry Cemetery east of Lufkin, is lovingly tended with carefully-placed stones and a trailing rose vine. The silk flowers and mementos from friends mock the savage life and death of a girl who never reaped the benefit of such concern.

There are those deep in the drug culture who knew what was happening, and failed to save her, Campbell said. Reporting it would have cut off their drug supply.

"It weighs heavily on them. It haunts them," Campbell said.

Bearing her nickname, "Candy," the headstone reads, "In loving memory of our beautiful sister and loving daughter." The stone was bought with donations, from police, probation officers, child advocates and business owners.

They wrestled with what to write, Campbell said.

"I like to think of her as a child of God's," Campbell said, struggling with the irony of the inscription to a girl murdered by her parents.

A call to action


Where do we go from here? How do we keep this from happening again? Those are questions Campbell says he has asked himself.

In Campbell's opinion, the call to action for law enforcement and the community can't get much clearer than the death of a child.

"It's pretty damn sad that the meth problem got to the proportion ... to where we have children dying — before the eyes of not just law enforcement but the community are actually opened. It's sad that it takes something as drastic as that to open our eyes to see that the problem is as horrific as it is," Campbell said.

A month after Alexander was murdered, a second child was killed in a drug-related case. Baby-sitter Felicia Pelzel had been coming down off a methamphetamine high when she suffocated 2½-year-old Bailey Heald.

Print and television media routinely cover stories of Angelina County children who are sexually and physically abused, many living in violent, drug-centered families.

Campbell said he and Texas Ranger Pete Maskunas started kicking around ideas during the Alexander case on improving major crime investigations and how to identify common denominators in an attempt to save children before abuse becomes murder.

In 2005, in the posh subdivision of Crown Colony — a high-income neighborhood in Lufkin rarely touched by serious crime — a neighbor noticed a girl who'd missed the bus for school, eventually revealing what police said was the worst case of abuse seen in Lufkin. It could easily have been another child murder case. One officer described the brutality as so bad, he couldn't believe anyone survived it.

Police collected evidence from the blood-spattered house, building their case against the girl's step-mother and father for long-term physical and sexual abuse. The case may go to trial later this year.

And then there is the anecdotal evidence, stories from behind the scenes that never reach the courts or media attention, for a variety of reasons. One related by a Children's Protective Services worker involved an infant with nearly every bone in his tiny body broken. Police and child advocacy workers routinely give broad descriptions of neglected Angelina County "meth house" children, left for days in soiled diapers, scratching to feed themselves, forgotten for the next drug fix. And the next.

Campbell called on agencies to put rivalries aside in order to save children in danger, solving or hopefully preventing violent crimes.

"What is the ultimate goal as a law enforcement official? If you are out there working a murder, it's solving crime, finding the person responsible and putting them in jail and getting an effective prosecution.

“The ultimate goal should not be ‘How am I going to look?' and ‘Am I going to get elected next time?'” Campbell said.

Organizing an

investigative team


Using a variety of skills, the group would apply a team approach to processing, investigating and solving major crimes. The area has already seen success with a team formed in Lufkin to handle child sex crimes.

Angelina County District Attorney Clyde Herrington agreed that such a task force, if organized the right way, would help his office with big cases.

Having someone on the front lines able to recognize a major crime on discovery of the scene makes a difference. The next steps that person takes can sometimes make or break the case, Herrington said.

"It's what happens in the first few hours — the interviews with suspects, the photographing," he said.

Investigations take time, and there's nobody that doesn't want to do a good job, Herrington said.

Texas Ranger Pete Maskunas recommended that the team set criteria for cases it would be called out to investigate. He suggested Herrington oversee the task force operation.

The Alexander case was a prime example of where such a group would have saved investigative time and preserved evidence, Maskunas said. Sometimes the easiest answer to a case isn't the right answer, he added.

"The end result was that you had a case that almost slipped through the cracks as an accidental death or homicide," Maskunas said.

Herrington was able to present little physical evidence in court for the case — next to nothing from the actual murder scene. He used photos from the pathologist and pictures of the body on the living room floor, and of tire and body drag marks from the family's yard.

It was letters the Lees wrote each other from prison, the testimony of Alexander's brother — abused in childhood and adopted out years before his sister's death — and the autopsy photos that seemed to make the case for jurors.

But many factors clouded the crime scene investigation, including the unusual time frame between the murder and discovery of the body and what the Lees did to clean up, Herrington said.

Setting the Alexander case aside, finding a consistent method for all county agencies to use in crime scene processing would make it easier on him to prosecute cases, Herrington admitted.

All departments should be using basic crime scene protocol, especially in major crimes, Lufkin Police Chief Larry Brazil said. But it's hard at times to keep those scenes intact, he said. Often police are left the difficult task of keeping loved ones away from the scene where a family member has suffered a traumatic death.

Brazil said he would support talks on putting together an inter-agency major crime investigation team. He commended Campbell's work on the Alexander case, citing it as an example of the caliber of investigating officers on the Lufkin force.

Maskunas also congratulated Campbell on his work in pushing to finish the Alexander case.

"I hope that we saw what one dedicated individual could get gone with something that was really nothing," Maskunas said.

The Lufkin city council has been good to his department, Brazil said, approving funds necessary to keep its training up with the growing technology of forensic investigation.

The different skills and funding between agencies and the constant changes in forensics should push members of local law enforcement to share resources, Maskunas said.

"Ten years ago, nobody heard of DNA. Trace evidence, AFIS (automated fingerprint identification) ... those things have all improved. There's so much technology out there," he said.

The danger to the public is in having cases that aren't picked up by someone who cares enough to see them through, he said.

But major crimes aren't easy for smaller agencies, which can't spare the officers or the money for training, Brazil said. And agencies with larger budgets, such as the sheriff's office, are always facing funding issues, he said.

Angelina County Sheriff Kent Henson gave his support to discussion on forming a task force. Agencies in the county talked about it years ago, but nothing came of it, he said. It was too early to say "yes" or "no" to the idea, but it was definitely worth talking over, he said.

Henson oversees a huge budget for his agency, with deputies, dispatchers, jailers and more, including law enforcement equipment plus the sizeable jail budget. It's hard finding enough room for salaries and supplies, let alone the training deputies already do, he said.

But Angelina County agencies have a history of working together on major crimes, Henson said, recalling a Huntington murder case from years earlier. And area law enforcement representatives already gather regularly to go over cases, he said.

For the team to succeed, it would need the uniform support of every agency in the county, Henson said.

With the spirit of cooperation between agencies lingering after the Hurricane Rita crisis, Diboll Police Chief Kent Havard said the time was right for forming a task force.

The teamwork seen between agencies after the storm was a blessing, Havard said, especially to small departments without the resources of Henson's or Brazil's departments.

"Now is as good a time as there ever was to form this," Havard said.

When convicted serial rapist Tyrone Taylor, of Houston, began attacking elderly women in a Diboll housing project in 2004, the Diboll Police worked with officers from Lufkin and Harris County to solve the crimes and investigate a string of other rapes.

"It just all came together," Havard said.

Still, with close to 20 officers on the force, Diboll is a good-sized department compared to agencies with a handful of officers, such as Hudson or Zavalla.

Violent crime is on the increase, and all agencies could benefit from sharing resources to fight it, Havard said.

"It's happening more and more. When it does, you need a lot of help," he said.

Havard recalled problems from an earlier attempt in Angelina County to start a gang task force, which fizzled from lack of support.

For the violent crime response unit to be successful, it would need continuing support and communication, not leaving the majority of the work to one person, he said.

"That's how it usually phases out," he added.

But with the right combination of people, Havard said, the idea could have a chance.

"Any time you have a child missing, a murder or unsolved murder, it would be great to have a committee to go to to help work these cases," he said.

Looking at

what works


Many East Texas counties have violent crime task forces in operation.

The number of major crimes in Beaumont has dropped since its area agencies formed one, according to Lt. James Clay, with the Beaumont Police narcotics division.

A joint operation between the the city, sheriff's office, federal law enforcement and state and federal prosecutors, the task force has mapped and targeted high-crime areas in addition to documenting violent offenders in a database through field contact cards, Clay said.

The operation's success follows that of a gang task force which saw a major reduction in criminal activity in the Beaumont area in the 1990s. A triple-task force combined in 1997 to fight narcotics and vice, gang and street violence has also dropped crime in the area.

From August through December 2005, the city had a 10-percent reduction in violent crime compared to the same period in 2004, according to Clay. The arrival of hurricanes Katrina and Rita may have skewed the numbers, but not by much compared to the previous year, he said. Crime went up 5 percent overall in 2005.

"At one point we were up 29 percent, so we really made a turnaround," Clay said.

Recognizing numbers were jumping, representatives from area law enforcement agencies met and formed a plan for sharing information, resources and funding — the task force.

Obstacles to the project include ongoing communication issues, with some agencies on different radio frequencies, he said. Territorialism was not much of an issue, Clay said. Members work closely to contribute from their own areas of expertise, he said.

"If you have agencies that are willing to share the information they have, then you're going to have a successful unit," Clay said.

Accountability


Questions remain on why cases like those of the Alexander and Heald children were allowed to happen. Who is ultimately accountable?

According to investigators like Campbell and Maskunas, it is the people who see at-risk children, and do nothing. That includes anyone connected with or having the power to change a child's life, including policy-makers, teachers, parents, child-advocacy workers, those in the health care field, police, friends and neighbors.

"We are all stake-holders — everybody in the community," Campbell said.

In one recent child abuse case, there were things that should have been noticed, and weren't, Maskunas said, including the victims' 10- to 20-pound malnutrition, torn clothes and frequent truancy to heal from beatings.

“Someone should have asked, ‘Is everything OK at home?'” Maskunas said.

Legislators, with the power to change laws, should fight for children, making drug-crime penalties harsher and federal sentencing guidelines tougher, Campbell said.

His advice to anyone ignoring a child in danger could easily apply to those bogged down in the red tape and power play of inter-agency politics.

“Drive out to Berry Cemetery ... and go to that grave and ask, ‘Do we want that to happen again?' I would hate to have to live with myself knowing I could have done something.”

Ashley Cook's e-mail address is acook@coxnews.com.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post is full of bullshit! All meth addicts are not like this. In fact, most meth addicts are just like you and me except they have to hide their addictions while you and I sit back and partake in ours on a daily basis....Coffee, Cigarettes,Beer......Well, none for me. I am a counselor to meth addicts everyday and so far in the 2 years since I got my LCDC I haven't meet even one like the people in your stories. I agree with that Danika girl and I think she is brave to write about her feelings. Kim I am sorry about your son but maybe you should seek to let go and let god like we say at the treatment center I work at. I am not an addict but I am thankful for the ones I work with everyday who show me what love, and forgiveness are really about in this short life we have to live! Thanks, Shirley W.

Monday, January 16, 2006 10:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Kim said...

Dear Shirley:

There are several statements to you in my January 17th blog. Thank you for opinion and I like to see the diversity of opinions that come to this site.

Thanks, Kim

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 6:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kim you have obviously never lived with a neede shooting meth addict that is at the end stage of psychosis and absoutey violent behavior towards his wife and children..Only 2 meth addicts you counsel in the 2 yrs youve been licensed...Please, you need more traing my dear...because in the late stages of addiction where 3 children that knew an amazing man and have watched him turn into an absolute psychotic beast right before there eyes...and Im supposed to let my kids go near him in his mothers drug den garage with all his violent felon friends and his theft ring operates...Put me in jail my kids arent going..get some more education...or better yet some real life street experience..

Thursday, April 05, 2012 11:00:00 PM  
Blogger dar333 said...

After reading this I feel I need to tell you what is really going on. I am the mother of Bailey. The girl that killed my baby had no drugs in her system that was verified when they took a blood test at the hospital for analysis. This paper has nothing good to. say about the citizens. What all of you need to know is the police are bit investigating these deaths. The sheriff Henson and the DA Herrington are crooked. Lufkin daily news needs to report the truth.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014 9:39:00 AM  
Blogger dar333 said...

Oh yea and btw the DA and sheriff ruled Candice death a suicide. It was only when the city and county lines were changed that anyone did anything with the Alexander case. These law men can say what ever they want but what I say is the truth. These men are lying. Just got my brother's death changed from suicide to undetermined after 14 years. Hey it's a start. I guess what I am trying to say is that its not just the meth its the law enforcers also. Oh and the Texas ranger in this story if Maskunez in 2014.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014 2:10:00 PM  

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