Shooting Star

Three years ago, at the pinnacle of their 15-year career, local rock heroes the Meat Puppets vanished from view, after bass player Cris Kirkwood became addicted to cocaine and heroin. The story only gets worse from there.

I would like to convey to you, Judge Rogers, how determined I am to keep my newly-restored healthy habits and positive attitude. It hasn't been easy. The specter of prison--more time--looms constantly. There comes a time where despair is right around the corner. After the hoping and the contemplating, time became counter-productive and may lead to despondency, self-loathing or worse. This build-up would seemingly create a dangerous, vulnerable state for someone w/a history of using mind-soothing drugs. But I keep praying that, just as the physical scars are slowly and surely fading, the emotional ones won't become permanent.

Your honor, the good people at Chandler Valley Hope--aptly named--have been in contact and have promised my husband they would, with your blessing of course, allow me to re-enter and receive treatment. My husband is home now, and is willing to attend any/all treatment open to the family. We are anxious to start a family (we've been together almost 9 years, a sure sign of constancy, at the very least).

Since I have finally overcome the physical part of the addiction, I have no reason, no excuse to violate terms of probation ([urinalysis tests] were the only, albeit formidable, obstacle). I dare envision returning to a life NOT plunged into the abyss (as with a long prison term), ruining everything I've ever wanted: family, job, happiness, freedom, self-respect.

I want my old life back and a chance to prove to myself, to you and to the system as well, that I have not simply become a hopeless, unqualified lost cause! I have used my speaking and writing skills (I am fluent in Spanish and in my native French) to help others writing letters, counseling, etc. But I humbly believe my good qualities could and should be used in a more productive manner than within these walls.

In conclusion, allow me to theorize that repeat offenders, in the case of heroin users, should be pitied and judged apart from those criminals calculatingly re-committing an offense. Addicts act out of survival. As a sober, productive member of society, I will NOT be guilty of recidivism. Thank you for your consideration.

Michelle Tardif

The next day, Judge Rogers reinstated Michelle's probation. She was released, after serving 41 days in jail, and entered the residential treatment program at Chandler Valley Hope--again. This time, she lasted almost two months. Her September 15 urinalysis tested positive for codeine, and she was expelled from Chandler Valley Hope--again--for using heroin. She was transported to Tempe St. Luke's a second time, and a second time she was kicked out, on October 15, for shooting up in the hospital. A week later, police busted her buying heroin and cocaine in downtown Phoenix.

"Talk about a failure of the system," says Curt. "It's a mystery to me what the fuck they were doing, because she was rubbing their faces in it."

Another warrant was issued for Michelle's arrest for multiple probation violations, but it was never executed, and her case just seemed to blip off the radar, with one exception: In late 1997, the INS began efforts to deport her to Canada.

Curt says the last time he saw Michelle and Cris together was at his mother's funeral in December 1996. "My bro was already going down, but obviously our mom dying didn't help," Curt says.

By the beginning of this year, Michelle and Cris took few visitors who weren't drug dealers. Friends who managed to get Cris to answer a knock--one gave up pounding and stuck his head through the doggie door and yelled until Cris opened up--say Michelle never came out of the back bedroom.

This April, Cris was stopped for a traffic violation and arrested for driving without corrective lenses. A subsequent search of his car found cocaine on the driver's floorboard. Cris also had a glass pipe in his jacket pocket. Cris told police he was Curt. He gave his name as Curtis Matthew Kirkwood, and provided Curt's birth date and social security number. He'd pulled the same stunt on five recent traffic tickets. His case is still pending.

On July 31, a third warrant was issued for Michelle's arrest. It was noted she had failed to meet with her probation officer or take a urinalysis for almost a full year. That warrant was also never executed.

Where do bad folks go when they die?
They don't go to heaven where the angels fly
They go to the lake of fire and fry
Don't see 'em again, 'til the Fourth of July.
--from "Lake of Fire," Meat Puppets II

Early in the afternoon of Wednesday, August 12, Curt Kirkwood's phone rang in Austin. It was his manager, Tammy Blevins, of Austin-based Blevins Entertainment. She told him Cris had just called, hysterical, saying he thought Michelle was dead. Blevins had told Cris to check for a pulse. Cris put down the phone, and Blevins could hear him yelling Michelle's name. He came back on, crying, and said his wife was clearly dead. "I can't handle this," he told her. "I can't take this." Blevins told Cris to hang up and call the police, but he refused. He told her he couldn't live without Michelle. Afraid he was about to kill himself, Blevins broke the connection and dialed the Tempe Police Department, then called Curt.

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