By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
"At first, Paul was like, 'This is some brother bullshit you need to put in a drawer until we finish this record.' Then after a few days, he came up to me like, 'You know, I think Cris might have a drug problem.' Meanwhile, Cris is nodding out with his bass in his hands, and I'm like, 'You think so?'"
By mid-1995, Michelle and Cris rarely came out of the house. They had their drugs delivered, and when no dealer would return their pages, one of them, usually Michelle, ventured forth to score on the street.
On September 11, 1995, Michelle was stopped by police in a crack-ridden neighborhood near downtown Phoenix. She was driving her husband's Infiniti G20; car-wash employee, crackhead and part-time heroin dealer Johnny Louis Johnson was in the passenger seat. According to a police report, Michelle told the officer that she was in the neighborhood to buy drugs, and produced five pieces of heroin wrapped in foil. She told him she was a journalist writing a book about homeless drug dealers. The cop searched Johnson, turned up a bag of crack, and arrested them both for possession of narcotics.
Johnson later told a probation officer Michelle was "a rich white woman who came to the area often to buy drugs. She usually got other people to get them for her. On this day, he was the only one out on the streets, so she approached him and gave him $60 to buy drugs. He returned to her car with five hits of heroin he bought for $50. She then gave him five one-dollar bills as a tip."
Michelle gave her probation officer this account of recent history: "In the fall of 1994, [Tardif] says she began visiting the homeless people in downtown Phoenix to observe them and gather facts for a story. She befriended several of them, and found out they used and sold drugs. She had always heard about heroin and how swell some people thought it was. She was curious and finally tried heroin. The first times were free, provided by her new friends. She came to like it, and began using daily in December 1994. She is willing to remain clean, and she would eventually like to write about her ordeal to help others. She had gained the knowledge necessary to sway anyone from the dead end of drugs."
It took months for the criminal case to wind through the system.
On January 31, 1996, Michelle's mother penned a letter to the judge who would sentence her daughter:
Dear Judge Rogers:
Michelle Tardif Kirkwood is a very gifted, intelligent and sensitive person. She speaks three languages fluently, has lived in France and Spain and is a seasoned traveler.
At the age of 18, she went to Paris and managed, all by herself, to find a job as film critic at Le Nouvel Observateur, a prestigious Paris magazine, which is no mean feat for a person of her age and background.
Her inquisitive mind has led her to explore certain forbidden fields which cannot, by any means, be approved of, but one thing is sure is that, given her zest for life, the wide range of her interests, she does not qualify as a habitual substance user. Her curiosity as a writer with a university training in literature may have led her to a "trip" she is not about to relive soon.
Being a well-adjusted person with a good and stable relationship with her husband, this regrettable incident in her life should serve as a reminder that nobody is immune to errors of judgment and this should serve as a strong deterrent in the future.
Simone T. Tardif
On February 21, 1996, Michelle pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of possessing drug paraphernalia, and was sentenced to probation. The Immigration and Naturalization Service was notified that she was a "criminal alien."
Court records indicate that less than a month later, on March 18, Michelle tested positive for opiates on her first court-ordered urinalysis. Her participation in required drug counseling was characterized as "sporadic at best."
On April 30, Michelle was busted again after police saw her leaving a crack house on East Garfield Street in Phoenix. According to a police report, she failed to come to a complete stop at a stop sign and, when she was pulled over, consented to a search. The officer found six used syringes in the car, and noticed Michelle had fresh blood spots on her right forearm, on top of a vein. Michelle told him she injected heroin earlier in the day. She was arrested, and a later, more thorough search turned up a rock of cocaine hidden in her right shoe.
Michelle was released from jail the next morning.
On May 14, facing a new set of felony drug charges, Michelle entered the Chandler Valley Hope Residential Treatment Program. She was expelled two days later for using drugs in the program, and for possession of heroin and a syringe. Valley Hope transported her to Tempe St. Luke's Hospital for detoxification and treatment. Michelle was caught shooting up twice in the first 24 hours; she was kicked out of St. Luke's on May 17.