Longform

Methology - Part II

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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.

The Boonies
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.

Published accounts say that convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh sold meth in Kingman while he resided there in the early 1990s.

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.

"Ninety percent of what we've been doing involves meth," Sturgill concludes. "We can't even target the users."

Tom Collins was Maricopa County attorney from 1980-88. He moved to Cochise County shortly after ceding the helm to Rick Romley. The southeast Arizona jurisdiction abuts the Mexico border for 83 miles.

Collins is a drug prosecutor, and is knowledgeable and thoughtful about what he's been seeing.

"Everybody down here seems to be in the meth business," he says. "Anybody can cook meth, and it's become a dangerous little industry. A lot of the time, you'll find small children floating around the stuff. The guy who's making it is a meth freak himself, so how smart was he before he started to put stuff made with brake fluid, muriatic acid, Red Devil lye into his body and brain? Most of the people who are using this stuff aren't evil by any means, just schmucks."

As in Arizona's urban areas, those who use methamphetamines in Cochise County transcend the stereotype of speed being strictly a low-class, biker-based drug. For example, the son of Sierra Vista's police chief is serving prison time on a meth-related conviction.

From a mere 16 methamphetamine-related felony cases filed in 1996, Cochise County prosecutors this year have filed 51 cases (many have multiple defendants) against meth users and sellers.

Christy Dye of the state Department of Behavioral Health Services says the current meth craze differs from past infatuations with speed.

"It's not just a, quote, city problem anymore," says Dye, chief of the department's substance-abuse unit. "The data we're seeing indicate little difference in meth use between urban and rural areas. That's new."

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