Longform

Shooting Star

Page 8 of 11

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.

Sincerely,
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.

A police dispatcher immediately called Michelle and Cris' house. Cris answered.

"Yeah," he said.
"Hi, is this Cris?"
"Yeah."
"This is Tricia with Tempe police. Is something going on there?"
"Oh, hang on just a second. I'll be right back with you."

Cris never came back on the line. The dispatcher sent two patrol officers to the scene. They arrived, and, when no one responded to repeated knocks, they entered the home through the back door, which was open.

The big-screen television in the living room was on, but the volume was muted. Not five minutes had passed since the dispatcher had talked to Cris, but he was gone. A burst from the officers' police radios alerted them that Cris had two warrants out for his arrest. Otherwise, the house was quiet.

The officers began a room-by-room search.
"The entire house was quite dirty/cluttered and there were large piles of clothing, miscellaneous personal belongings, and housewares stacked in each room," one of them wrote in his report. "When we came to the first of two bathrooms, the light was on and I noticed what appeared to be dark colored excrement smeared on the side of both the bathtub and toilet, and on the bathroom floor.

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David Holthouse
Contact: David Holthouse