Meth Fatalities

Methamphetamine is number-one with a bullet when it comes to violent death in Phoenix

Lee then shot himself to death. He was armed with a .12-gauge shotgun and a .45-caliber handgun.

Toxicological tests revealed that he'd ingested a huge amount of meth (more than any other individual in the New Times mortality database) shortly before the shootout.

Another high-profile case with methamphetamine written all over it was the shooting last August 3 of two law enforcement officers about to take Joseph Spano into custody at a west Phoenix probation office.

Spano shot and seriously wounded a county probation officer and a deputy U.S. marshal during the clash. The 25-year-old later killed himself with his weapon as Phoenix police closed in on him near downtown.

At the time, Spano was on probation after serving more than seven years for armed robbery, and was about to be re-arrested after testing positive for methamphetamine.


Detective Femenia still hasn't gotten the break he needs to arrest anyone in last May's head-bashing murder of Joey Borunda. But he's not done trying.

The detective remains convinced that one or both Ortega brothers, Bear or Psycho, is good for the killing. Femenia quips that the brothers are the deans of the "Ortega Crime Academy," also known as the "Ortega Institute of Meth-Related Criminal Acts."

The detective spoke in August to a few dozen of the Ortegas' worried neighbors at a Block Watch meeting.

"My goal today is to stir things up here," he told the gathering at the nearby Our Lady of Guadalupe monastery. "I know that our victim in this crime isn't a saint. But our philosophy is that every victim deserves our best effort, and that's why I'm here. This was a senseless killing. Someone went into a sudden rage. Meth was involved in this killing."

A woman asked if methamphetamine is worse than the other illegal drugs out there.

"It's worse than anything we've seen," Femenia immediately replied. "Some years ago, it was PCP, Sherm, crack cocaine. Let me tell you, people on meth act extremely unpredictably. It's just as if they're possessed. I mean it -- possessed."

The detective turned to the nun hosting the event, and said somewhat sheepishly, "Excuse me, Sister."

She smiled and told him it was okay.

"I believe in evil," he continued. "I believe that evil exists. And I think that meth can inject a big surge of evil in certain people."

After Femenia concluded, a woman warned him that "the Ortegas have a pretty rough reputation around here with the meth and everything. You have your work cut out for you."

"I know," the detective said.

Baylee Powell contributed to this report.

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