Former Alabama football player Johnny Dyess will be the featured speaker at the July 11 ABCE – A Better City for Eufaula – dinner at The Shorter Mansion Pavilion. Dyess went through what he calls a “life restoration” after being hooked on meth for about a dozen years. He now speaks to schools, churches, clubs and other organizations all over Alabama.

Unfortunately, Dyess is a rarity to have survived to powerful grasp the drug has had on people. Whether it’s been a city or a rural community, I’ve seen its destruction far too often during my travels.

It’s known by some as the Meth Belt. While Missouri is considered its buckle, Alabama is somewhere on the leather.

Alabama ranks just outside of the top 10 in meth labs discovered on an annual basis, but for anyone who has seen the destructive force of the drug, one lab is too many.

Like most of us, I’ve seen the before and after warnings showing a young woman’s fall from grace, her looks deteriorating rapidly through a timeline of arrest mug shots. My first real-life experience with such a person came following a murder. I remember the date of the murder still today. It was Jan. 4, 2006. I had settled in at my house for the evening, ready to watch the BCS game between Texas and Southern Cal. About the time I had sprayed lighter fluid over the charcoal, I got a call from the sheriff’s office informing me of a homicide about eight miles from my house.

A woman had shot a live-in caretaker she had hired to take care of her grandfather. The dispute was over her claim that he had taken a $20 bill off her dresser. Needless to say, drugs were involved.

I made it home in time to watch Vince Young lead Texas to the thrilling victory over the Trojans.

I had covered meth busts before and have seen disgusting house after disgusting house where meth had obviously destroyed any sense of cleanliness the occupants may have once exhibited. After snapping a few photos, I’ve wanted to take one of those showers you see in the movies after someone gets active nuclear material on them in a plant and is subsequently scrubbed. That’s how yucky the places had become. Years ago, I’m assuming law enforcement began demanding masks for people entering a lab house, and journalists probably no longer have the access we once had.

I knew the woman, only because she had come into my office one day during lunch while I was the only one in the front part of the building. She wanted to place a classified ad looking for help for her ailing grandfather. She lived there too, but with her other interests, she said needed help. She wanted to know if the paper would take the resumes because she did not want everyone knowing where she lived. Now, I know why.

The girl seemed nice, although somewhat distant, and since it was a slow-paced office and she was paying for a month’s worth of advertising, I told her I’d do so.

After about three weeks, I received exactly one resume, so I called the woman. I gave her the name and address, which apparently was good enough for her. She never came to pick up the resume.

The next time I would see the woman was during her trial. She admitted to pointing a .30-.30 rifle at the man, but said it was just to scare him. She also admitted that both had been extremely high on drugs, meth.

When I got back to my office the next morning, I scrambled to find the resume I had held onto, just in case the woman ever wanted it. Several months had passed since I had given the name and number on the resume to the woman, but there it was. On the top of the resume was the name of the man that had been killed.

Neither before nor since have I accepted resumes for someone else.

The woman was freed on bail briefly when her father put his house up as collateral. He soon realized he had already lost his daughter when she tried to leave the state the night before she was to appear in court, therefore not worrying about her father’s home. She was captured while sleeping, with a pistol at her side. The next day, as the sheriff began going through the getaway vehicle, drugs and more guns were discovered. None of those items surprised anyone. The thing that did catch my eye, however, was the woman’s driver’s license. The woman I had begun to recognize through mug shots with was rough looking with a grayish complexion and thin, scraggly hair. However, she was borderline stunning in her DL photo from just two years earlier.

According to documents found, the plans of her and her boyfriend were to escape to the Texas border and eventually into Mexico.

The woman was sentenced to 41 years to the state women’s prison, and has no chance of parole until at best her very aging years.

A few years later, there was another well-known female meth addict that had become quite a regular in the jail book-ins in one town. On one checkup with her parole officer, she was searched by a female deputy who found the girl had stored packets of meth in her bra.

That’s how destructive the drug is, making sure any last drop of common sense is tossed aside while it takes over.

Call Shorter Mansion for ABCE tickets at (334) 687-7793. The meal will be catered by Joe’s Food Factory.

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