By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
It's one thing for two impressionable teens to fall prey to methamphetamines. It's another for a star undercover narcotics cop to become a meth addict and murder unarmed colleagues.
It happened in Yuma, on July 4, 1995.
Yuma County sheriff's deputy Jack Hudson shot and killed deputy lieutenant Dan Elkins and DPS sergeant Mike Crowe at the offices of the Southwest Border Alliance--an antidrug task force where all three worked. Hudson pulled the trigger to shoot a third officer, but his gun misfired.
That deputy, Jim Ehrhart, asked Hudson what he was doing.
"You know what I'm doing," he recalled Hudson's reply. "Fuck the cops. Fuck the dopers."
Hudson, then 36, was arrested without further incident and tested positive for methamphetamines. He swore he didn't remember shooting anyone.
Six weeks before the murders, a superior evaluated Hudson's performance favorably: "Officer Hudson is a self-starter and creates his own activities and gets the job done."
Hudson was a married father with two small children, his agency's 1994 rookie of the year.
But by then, according to mental-health evaluations of Hudson obtained by New Times, he already was on the road to methamphetamine addiction.
During a search of Hudson's home, detectives found drugs--methamphetamines, heroin and marijuana--that he'd stolen from an evidence locker and from arrestees. They also seized 23 guns, many of them also stolen from the police station, and more meth in a small safe.
What led this decorated ex-Marine to proudly watch his young daughter in a Fourth of July parade, then, just hours later, to assassinate two fellow cops?
Historical indicators were scant: Hudson's past was noteworthy only for a troubled early family life--his father was an abusive alcoholic. Hudson's own battles with the bottle also suggested an addictive personality.
Several mental-health experts say Hudson's fatal explosion was fueled by his abuse of methamphetamines.
His superiors bear some culpability for not keeping a better eye on him after he went undercover in 1994. Most police agencies make undercover drug officers submit often to drug testing. But records indicate Hudson had no such monitoring.
Ironically, his first apparent exposure to amphetamine came via a police doctor, who prescribed the stimulant Phentermine in 1994 for weight loss. Hudson stopped taking the drug, court papers show, after suffering from insomnia and other problems often related to speed consumption.
In his undercover role as a "biker/druggie," Hudson in 1995 grew a full beard and shoulder-length hair. He soon erred by bonding with those he'd been assigned to infiltrate.
"These people become your acquaintances," Hudson later told a psychologist. "You look alike, smell alike and, at times, you get to the point that you're not being honest betraying them, betraying yourself."
It took Hudson little time to embrace methamphetamine, which flourishes in Yuma County. (In fiscal 1997, the Southwest Border Alliance seized 161 pounds of meth, more than any Arizona task force.)
Hudson admitted he'd first stolen meth after an arrest, probably in May 1995. His wife recalled seeing him at home with a vial and small spoon around that time. He'd told her he was "practicing" how to handle drugs as part of his assignment.
By June, Hudson was tweaking for four and five days at a stretch--much of the time away from home. Hudson lost 55 pounds in the two months before the murders. When he was home, he'd often peek through the shutters in the wee hours, sure he was seeing and hearing things. He, too, saw the shadow people.
By the time he committed murder, Hudson said, he was snorting about one gram of meth per day--a hard-core habit. "I had a hard time figuring out what day it was," he said.
On that fateful July 4, Hudson had been awake, by his own account, for a week straight.
In January, a Yuma County jury convicted Jack Hudson on nine felonies, including two counts of premeditated murder. He was sentenced in April to life in prison.
In Mohave County, state Department of Public Safety Sergeant Emmett Sturgill doesn't have time to dwell on "drug trends."
"Meth is definitely the drug of choice in this county," says Sturgill. "Everybody knows how to make meth here. Everyone thinks the problem is in Maricopa, but listen up, folks, little old Mohave does 50 labs a year."
He's the supervisor of MAGNET, a multiagency narcotics task force based in the northwest Arizona county. MAGNET's mission is blunt: Seek and destroy meth labs, and put the cooks in prison.
Mohave County authorities busted just six meth labs in 1995. The number rocketed to 47 in 1996, and 52 so far this year. People have been busted cooking the stuff in motels along Interstate 40, which bisects the county. Others make the drug in their homes, both in outlying areas and in the county's largest towns, Bullhead City, Lake Havasu City and Kingman.
The county's meth dealers have a built-in clientele at the eight truck stops off I-40. (Truckers have been doing speed since there were truckers.) The frenetic 24-hour lifestyle common to the area--Las Vegas is but 100 miles northwest of Kingman, and Laughlin is across the Colorado River from Bullhead City--also helps business.