By Ray Stern
By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By mid-1999, Wickander says, he was smoking meth three or four times a week -- "I never was a junkie hanging out in the projects, but I had my crutch with me all the time, because I could never seem to get ahead."
The latter is corroborated by an April 1999 court document that details the foreclosure of the Wickanders' northwest Phoenix home. Months before that, Wickander says, his wife had kicked him out of the house, and later filed for divorce. (Kim Wickander -- who has remarried and changed her surname -- didn't respond to a request for an interview.)
Kevin Wickander slipped ever deeper into the meth subculture. Before the end of 1999, he'd discovered a niche that suited his tweaker lifestyle perfectly: remodeling west Phoenix houses at all hours of the day and night.
"I had learned from my dad how to build a house from the ground up," he says. "I knew someone who would buy homes from a leasing company, have them redone inside, then rent or sell. I could make a little cash for my drugs and food, and have a place to live for a few months at a time."
Wickander says he rented a storage shed, which became a surrogate home for the next few years: "I ran a light cord outside of it and tapped it into the main wire. I had a TV in there, a little air-conditioning unit, most of my clothes, and my baseball memorabilia. It was a place I could chill out."
Wickander toiled alone in the remodels -- nine in all, he says -- until his arrest last February. "I was low overhead and a hard worker. I could work at 4 in the morning and no one cared. Guys would steal tile from somewhere, then sell them to me half-price -- I'd get a kickback from my boss. I'd fence a bunch of other stuff. To tell the truth, the cops missed a lot of other stuff they could have got me for."
Phoenix police first arrested Wickander in August 2000 after watching him break into a vacant home on West Greenway Road. Police reports say undercover officers saw him scale a wall, pry open a back door, then leave without taking anything. Detectives found disconnected water lines in the bathroom and kitchen inside the home, which led them to believe Wickander had been planning to steal the dishwasher and other items.
The police reports say Wickander confessed to breaking into homes looking for items to use in his remodels. He spent two days in jail before making bail, then checked into a Phoenix drug treatment center, where he stayed for about a month.
In February 2001, a judge put Wickander on two years' probation after he pleaded guilty to a reduced felony charge. But the following month, Glendale police arrested Wickander for possession of an ounce of meth. Again, he confessed, but a judge then reinstated him on probation despite the new felony conviction.
Though Wickander had promised to participate in substance-abuse counseling, he says he soon returned to his itinerant, meth-fueled ways.
John Sloss, a Scottsdale criminal-justice consultant who prepared a report on Wickander's behalf before the recent sentencing, says, "When the glory days and the money was gone, so was his support group. Kevin never did learn how to deal with defeat, or with day-to-day life outside of pro sports. I'm talking about the ability to face reality."
Continues Sloss, a onetime chair of the Arizona Board of Pardons and Paroles: "I think that his charm, good looks and ability to articulate became a disservice to him, during and after baseball."
Wickander says his girlfriend, Melissa Hernandez, left him before his February arrest. (The pair later resumed their relationship.) He says Hernandez had become pregnant with his child in late 2001, but couldn't tolerate his incessant drug use. Hernandez, who didn't respond to requests for an interview, gave birth to a daughter earlier this year.
"I was smoking meth every day by then," Wickander says. "Didn't have no family, my girl had left me, didn't feel like cutting tile anymore. I was just living to meet my connection, the never-ending cycle."
Sensing that something momentous was about to happen, Wickander says he asked his father to take possession of the items that still meant so much to him -- his college title ring, his wedding ring, and Steve Olin's watch.
On February 12, Phoenix police arrested Wickander for theft, a few days after the burglary of a computer, a photocopying machine and other property from a north Phoenix rental firm. He denied committing the theft, but admitted he'd let an associate stash the stolen items in a home he was remodeling. If he hadn't gotten caught, Wickander told authorities, he would have fenced the stolen goods, and split the proceeds with the actual thief.
This time, finally, Wickander faced a guarantee of serious prison time, up to 13 years on the single theft count. His Phoenix-based attorney, Warren Levenbaum, knew prosecutors would be demanding a mandatory prison sentence, because Wickander had continued to commit crimes while on probation.
In July, Wickander pleaded guilty to the theft charge. Under the conditions of his plea bargain, probation would not be a possibility, and he faced up to six and a half years in prison. That's what deputy county attorney Katherine Macrae and probation officer Roger Humphries wanted Judge Peter Reinstein to impose.
Hi, I'm looking to get a hold of Kevin for the Cortez High School class of 1983 Reunion this summer (2012). I am helping Sandra Cook with finding former students who have gone MIA, and am working from the bottom of the list up. If anyone can send me a current phone number or address (I've narrowed him down to Glendale, AZ), please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
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I am the young woman who was "awarded" thousands of dollars. Gosh my daughter wishes he would come back in her life. As the article state's , after livin a boy's dream, it's hard to live a life of no fans cheering you on. Story say's it all. It's never to late
This kid is my younger cousin who I looked up to. I felt disappointed in him when this happened. But I like God will always love him no matter what his faults are. He is a great guy / and a great man that has suffered with our family losses. His grt grandparents Floyd & Mary Garrett, His grand father, Jack L Garrett Sr, Grt Aunt Carole June Garrett Osborne, grt Uncle Robert Garrett, and his best friends on the Cleveland Orginization . We will miss them all and love them all .
I knew Kevin, personally, several years ago. I am just now reading this article, and feel great sadness for him. I hope Kevin is alright. This is one of those times when you hear about someone you know, or knew at one time, and something goes wrong in their life - that you wish you could have been there - and possibly made a difference. I'm so sorry Kevin!
I knew Kevin through a friend of mine named Joe Skalski. They both pitched for the Indians. I always liked "Flash", he is a great guy.
@deltazeta contact his parents Ardith wickander on baniff lane glendale az.