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.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

S.J. sees alarming jump in slayings (California)

Surge in homicides mirrors larger trend

Ellen Thompson
Record Staff Writer

STOCKTON - About two-thirds of the way into the year, the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office has investigated 17 homicides. That is four more than in all of 2005, seven more than in 2004 and matches the total for 2003.

University of the Pacific Sociology professor John Phillips, who specializes in criminology, said a drop in homicide rates nationally may be ending.

"Murders have been dropping for 10 years, but they may have made a recovery," he said. "There is some talk about crime increasing in California and homicides increasing this year."

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Oakland, Sacramento, Santa Cruz County and Fresno are all experiencing higher than normal homicide rates. More homicides have been investigated this year in Sacramento than in any year in more than a decade, and Oakland logged its 100th homicide earlier this month, nearing the total for 2003.

"Nobody wants to say why," Phillips said of the jump statewide, adding that locally, fluctuations are mostly a matter of speculation.

San Joaquin County Sheriff Robert Heidelbach and Homicide Division supervisor Sgt. Joseph Herrera pointed to some general trends. Heidelbach said the population is growing, rural areas are sometimes dumping grounds for murder victims, and the economy is slack.

But methamphetamine's role dwarfs those factors, he said.

"It's had a major impact on our crime rate," Heidelbach said of the drug also known as meth, crystal and speed, among other names.

Drug use, particularly methamphetamine, was a player in most of this year's homicides, Herrera said.

Most recently, methamphetamine appeared to be a factor - though less directly than originally thought - in the double homicide in Thornton that left Janet Jensen, 55, and her grandson Keoni Willis, 21/2, dead at the hands of Jensen's son Michael Carriker, who later committed suicide. Methamphetamine was found in the car driven by Carriker that day, though not in Carriker's system, Herrera said.

The investigation last month in the murder of Jennifer Holland, 19, of Tracy turned up a meth lab at a residence where Holland was living on and off, Herrera said.

Glass pipes used for smoking methamphetamine were found in the Acampo home of homicide victim Lillian Best, 20, he said.

Remnants of a methamphetamine lab were found at the Lockeford home where Juan Carlos Arelleno, 19, was stabbed in July, and Angelique Hewitt, 43, was shot on her front porch in Lathrop in April during a family member's drug deal gone wrong, officials said.

In that case, the drug was marijuana.

"It's not to say these people are bad people," Herrera said. "It's that they've put themselves in a dangerous situation."

Sheriff's Office investigators have had better than average success at solving the cases. Of the 17 homicides the Sheriff's Office is investigating, all but four have been solved, most resulting in arrests.

That's about 76 percent of the cases leading to arrests, compared with a 2004 national average of about 63 percent, the most recent figure available from the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The number of people killed countywide is on pace to be up slightly from the previous few years' averages, with 49 homicides as of Saturday evening, including two this weekend in Stockton.

So far this year, Stockton police have investigated 31 homicides, the same number as this time last year.

Of the 29 homicides in Stockton before the weekend, arrests have been made in 52 percent of them, Stockton police Officer Pete Smith said. No arrests were made as of Saturday afternoon in this weekend's two homicides.

The Lodi Police Department, the only other law enforcement agency in the county currently conducting a homicide investigation, is looking into one homicide. In that case, a "person of interest" is in custody in the County Jail on unrelated charges.

The increase in homicides in the unincorporated area of the county does not mean the average citizen is in danger, Herrera said.

"The vast majority, 99.99 percent of the 600,000 citizens in San Joaquin County that are home with their family at 2 a.m., not ingesting narcotics and not involved in these activities, have an extremely low incidence of being a victim or being involved in a homicide," he said. "You don't need to double-check your doors."

Contact reporter Ellen Thompson at (209) 546-8279 or


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