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SENSITIVITY STRAINING

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By contrast, she says, her mother was a "sharecrop farmer's daughter" who lost many relatives in Auschwitz.

Her parents taught her to tell the truth, but, she asks, where has it gotten her? She tells the truth, only to be "chastised" and "scrutinized" and "covertly investigated."

Debbie refers to an eight-year-old investigation by the Arizona Attorney General's Office, in which she says she was singled out as a possible suspect. The investigation touched on reports that shots had been fired at a crop-dusting helicopter owned by the company that allegedly poisoned her and her boys in 1987.

Debbie says a lawyer charged her $5,000 to successfully have her name expunged from records as a suspect.

Debbie hadn't expected this when she came to Arizona 17 years ago with her dog. All she wanted to do then was escape a failed relationship and find a new life.

She met Doug McQueen in Flagstaff. She recalls him as an "earthy-type person," and he remembers her as "a lot of fun." The two married in 1979.

Back then, Debbie had dreams of going back to college. She didn't return. Now, she considers that decision one of the biggest mistakes she's made in her life.

Debbie worked as a court clerk and Doug sold electrical supplies in Flagstaff. Their stories differ on their decision to move to Phoenix. In an interview away from Debbie, Doug says he asked her to "send out my rsums" to prospective Valley employers hand-picked by Doug.

Debbie takes credit for Doug's employment. She says she secretly sent out Doug's rsums to Phoenix businesses, and "he didn't even know it."

In the winter of 1985, the McQueens moved to a home on west Tuckey Lane in Glendale. The tile and stucco house was adjacent to farmland. Helicopters periodically crop-dusted the nearby fields, says Debbie, but she didn't pay much attention. Her son Michael was born several weeks after the move, and she was "on the skirt tails of the American dream."

Then Debbie and her neighbors started noticing that there was a lot of illness in the area. It seemed as though "some plague" had descended on them. Children cried all the time, "and we couldn't console them."

A health history that Debbie wrote in 1987 for a reporter lists the family's maladies. Both boys had ear infections and diarrhea. They were irritable. Jason had "stuttering, personality change, hyperactive, body tics. Lasted two weeks." In one instance, she noted, Jason had "behavior change. Body tic. Lower torso bucking nonstop. Disappeared after a while."

"By December, Michael had lost two pounds," Debbie wrote. "Dr. McBride put him in Good Sam. His diarrhea improved with no treatment. He ate like a dog. Michael had chest congestion (never in life had a runny nose) apparent red ring around lips. Very lethargic. Michael had no diagnosis. Came home from hospital and began vomiting too. Vomiting, diarrhea continued. At this point a test sent to Tucson showed a virus. No fever. No one caught Michael's virus. No fevers either."
One specialist, Debbie says, ordered a psychological evaluation before he would give the baby, Michael, a barium enema to determine why he apparently suffered from relentless diarrhea. The psychologist determined that Debbie had a normal mother-son relationship with Michael. Michael's barium enema turned up no abnormalities.

"I never got to play with my babies," she says. "They were always sick."
Then Debbie wrote about the horrible incident of August 27, 1987: "Saw white helicopter off fence at 8:15-8:30 a.m. Had cooler on. Jason and I outside smelled strong odor (horse sweat, ammonia) Smell in house."

That day, she wrote, after the spraying, she experienced "mini-series cartoon dreams in intricate detail and vibrant red, orange and yellow colors. Sore throat, pressure in chest for five days. No fever. Felt like water trickling in brain."

Doug, she wrote, had "same as above, exclude dream, commencing 8/28/87." She now recalls that Doug also had "heart palpitations, constant nosebleeds and explosive diarrhea."

Doug, who did not witness the August 27 spraying because he was at work, remembers only "having a few episodes of breathing problems." He did jumping jacks in the living room to free up his lungs, let the air in.

Both boys started having seizures after the spraying, Debbie says. But Jason's were more severe. He smelled funny after the seizures, like "rotten nuts."

In September, Jason's doctor wrote: "Mother VERY upset! . . . Had another seizure last pm?!"

A neurologist tested Jason to try to determine the cause of the seizures. The test results were normal.

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Terry Greene