FRESNO (AP) — When a 23-year-old Fresno woman fatally shot her two toddlers and a cousin, critically wounded her husband then turned the gun on herself last Sunday, investigators immediately suspected methamphetamine abuse in what otherwise was inexplicable carnage. It turned out the mother had videotaped herself smoking meth hours before the shooting.
In family photos, the children are adorable, the mother pretty. They lived in a large apartment complex near a freeway with neatly clipped lawns and mature trees. The father was recently laid off from a packing house job.
“When you get this type of tragedy, it’s not a surprise that drugs were involved,” said Lt. Mark Salazar, the Fresno Police Department’s homicide commander. “Meth has been a factor in other violent crimes.”
A Bakersfield mother was sentenced Tuesday for stabbing her newborn while in a meth rage. An Oklahoma woman drowned her baby in a washing machine in November. A New Mexico woman claiming to be God stabbed her son with a screwdriver last month, saying, “God wants him dead.”
“Once people who are on meth become psychotic, they are very dangerous,” said Dr. Alex Stalcup, who treated Haight Ashbury heroin users in the 1960s, but now researches meth and works with addicts in the San Francisco Bay Area suburbs. “They’re completely bonkers; they’re nuts. We’re talking about very extreme alterations of normal brain function. Once someone becomes triggered to violence, there aren’t any limits or boundaries.”
The Central Valley is a hub of the nation’s methamphetamine distribution network, making extremely pure forms of the drug easily available locally. And law enforcement officials say widespread meth abuse is believed to be driving much of the crime in the vast farming region.
Chronic use of the harsh chemical compound known as speed or crank can lead to psychosis, which includes hearing voices and experiencing hallucinations. The stimulant effect of meth is up to 50 times longer than cocaine, experts say, so users stay awake for days on end, impairing cognitive function and contributing to extreme paranoia.