Meth plays big role in murders, mayhem

By Scott North

Herald Writer

In the hours before he abducted, raped and murdered 7-year-old Roxanne Doll in 1995, Richard Clark of Everett was assaulting his brain with large amounts of whiskey and methamphetamine.

When Robert Anderson left a pair of young men dying from gunshot wounds in a Marysville street two years later, he’d been up for days ingesting meth and was trying to get more at gunpoint.

The same was true of an Everett man who shot a couple in their south Everett apartment and left behind a 20-month-old girl, who died of starvation and dehydration in the mid 1990s.

The link between methamphetamine and violent crime in Snohomish County has played out over and over in recent years, surfacing in murders, robberies and bizarre behavior, such as the man who awoke after a drug binge a couple years ago and started shooting a .357-caliber handgun in the Alderwood Mall parking lot.

Meth “is the worst street drug I have ever seen,” said John Adcock, a Snohomish County deputy prosecutor who has spent much of the past half-dozen years specializing in cases involving drugs and violence.

What troubles him most are the innocent victims, the children police routinely encounter when they raid the often filthy homes where meth is manufactured and sold.

“You come into one of these places and see the syringes littering the floor, the drug paraphernalia, and then you see a toddler, a little child, being exposed to all this,” Adcock said.

The worst example Adcock knows of was a young boy from Lakewood in north Snohomish County who a few years ago downed the contents of a pop bottle, not realizing it was filled with lye and other caustic chemicals allegedly being used to cook meth. He suffered permanent damage from chemical burns to his esophagus and stomach.

Meth investigations are a growing part of the workload for the Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force. In 1998, the task force was involved in 36 meth-related investigations. In 2001, that number more than tripled to 116 cases, plus another 77 incidents involving suspected meth labs or chemical dumps, said Ron Perniciaro, a sheriff’s lieutenant who helps supervise the task force.

Susan Neely has been studying Snohomish County’s crime problem for more than eight years, first as an analyst for the Snohomish County Council and now as an executive director for Executive Bob Drewel. She said the real impact of the meth problem is in property offenses, burglaries, car prowls, mail theft and forgery.

Meth addicts steal to raise money to buy more drugs, and because they can remain awake for days at a time, a user can easily become a one-man crime wave, police say.

Explosions, fires and toxic chemical cleanups are other public safety impacts of the meth problem, Adcock said.

Some meth recipes involve little more than a crockpot, plastic sport-drink bottles and commonly available materials such as over-the-counter cold medicine and lithium batteries. All also involve volatile ingredients, such as solvents, which are used to purify the raw methamphetamine.

Evaporating the solvents is one of the most dangerous parts of cooking meth. Adcock said that numerous fires have occurred around the county because people botched the process and ignited the volatile fumes. In one case, a man was actually using the open flame of a blow torch when his cooking meth exploded, Adcock said.

You can call Herald Writer Scott North at 425-339-3431

or send e-mail to north@heraldnet.com.

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