Texas Tweakers

James "Bull" Durham burned down his mother's house while cooking meth. In Angelina County, the jail is full of guys like him..

"Naw, you're James Durham," the sheriff says.

And then Durham's off again with another grievance. Vast forces are in league against him, he says. He spins an elaborate tale about how his spurned ex is kin to a woman with clout in law-enforcement circles — in a small community like Lufkin, everybody's tied in to everyone else by bloodlines or schools or marriage. He whines about his solitary confinement. Henson says it's for medical reasons — specifically, his colostomy bag, which now covers the "Reserved Seating" tattoo Durham has scrawled across his belly. Durham says he's being singled out because he's so infamous, King Shit to Lufkin's evil underbelly, that he would be mobbed by lesser criminals who admire him too much.

Henson finally gets an earful and counterattacks by reminding Durham of the time he caught him stealing his lawn mower. Durham says he had no idea how the lawman's lawn mower wound up in his truck and didn't know that the house he had cased belonged to the sheriff.

Angelina County Sheriff Kent Henson believes that heavily publicizing his department's meth busts will lead to more tips from the public. If somebody is buying lots and lots of camp fuel, Red Devil lye and Sudafed, he wants to know about it.
Courtesy of Angelina County Sheriff's Office
Angelina County Sheriff Kent Henson believes that heavily publicizing his department's meth busts will lead to more tips from the public. If somebody is buying lots and lots of camp fuel, Red Devil lye and Sudafed, he wants to know about it.
Sergeant Allen Hill heads the two-man Angelina County narcotics squad. He says busting up meth labs is his top priority, and believes that federal stats showing meth use to be down are misleading at best and downright wrong at worst.
John Nova Lomax
Sergeant Allen Hill heads the two-man Angelina County narcotics squad. He says busting up meth labs is his top priority, and believes that federal stats showing meth use to be down are misleading at best and downright wrong at worst.

It ain't easy being Lufkin's Most Hated, and Lufkin's Most Wanted, and for now, at least, that's who Durham is, at least in his own mind. He's tattooed those descriptions across his elbows, where they compete for space amid the blue-black welter of jailhouse tats that cover his whole bullet-ridden, shotgun-blasted, hernia-addled, meth-burned, knife-poked, razor-slashed, colostomy-bagged body.

Truth be told, Durham's not as rare an Angelina County bird as he likes to think. Henson's jail is full of guys like him.
_____________________

In the past year or two, Henson and his deputies have also played host to Donald Brooks, who was the cook at what is believed to be the largest lab in county history. There's also David Dunman, the man at the heart of a 66-count federal meth indictment, and 13 members, most in their early 20s, of an even bigger meth conspiracy also being prosecuted by the feds.

One of those, Robert Wayne Dillahunty, the 41-year-old son of a respectable Lufkin family, is still in Henson's jail awaiting his federal sentencing. He's been arrested at least ten times since 2004 for meth-related mayhem. In the kind of story every family with an addict knows all too well, Dillahunty also spent time behind bars last year after he swiped and hocked his dad's generator, jewelry and prized guitar and ran amok with his dad's credit cards, all for the love of meth. One of the purchases made with the stolen card: Sudafed, so the feds have got Dillahunty on a charge of "Smurfing," as the practice of illicitly buying Sudafed is known.

"I've seen things really change," Henson says, while we were waiting for Durham to wrap things up with his girlfriend. "Used to be everyone was growing marijuana. Then the meth came in. I've never seen nothin' like it. Our judicial system is just getting overwhelmed with these people." He says that on any given day, 50 to 60 percent of his inmates are where they are directly or indirectly because of meth, and chasing meth leaves his two-man narcotics squad headed by Sergeant Allen Hill time for little else. Meth looms large in the headlines at both The Lufkin Daily News, whose crime reporter Jessica Cooley sometimes accompanies Hill on raids, and at TV station KTRE.

But if you believe the most recent United States government statistics, meth use is down from the bad old days of ten years ago. Supposedly, when the federal government forced people to register their IDs when purchasing Sudafed and other cold medicines containing meth's key ingredient, pseudoephedrine, domestically produced meth would fade into oblivion. (Of all the ingredients in a batch of meth, the one component cooks must have and cannot manufacture themselves is ephedrine or pseudoephedrine.)

The Sudafed law did put a kink in the domestic meth trade for a couple of years. According to the Department of Health and Human Services' annual National Survey on Drug and Health, the number of past-month meth users has declined from 731,000 people in 2006 to 353,000 in 2010. Only 105,000 people became first-time users of meth last year, down from the peak of 299,000 in 2002.

According to Drug Enforcement Agency seizure and arrest records, meth is climbing again after a dip that bottomed out in 2007. In 2005, the DEA seized 2,161 kilograms of meth. That number fell to 1,113 kilos in 2007 but was back up to 2,067 kilos in 2010.

Texas meth lab seizures peaked in 2004 (the first year for which stats are available) with 497, fell all the way down to 93 in 2007 and have averaged around 125 every year since. Last year's total of 111 was the second lowest of the years tracked.

What's more, the study goes on to say that those numbers erroneously posit that the capture, or even the discovery, of a discarded shake-and-bake, one-bottle micro-lab is just as valuable (in terms of pure numbers) as Walter White's Breaking Bad super-lab.

Overall, the stats would seem to show that there are fewer new users of meth and that an increasing percentage of it is coming into America from south of the border.

But that is not what happened, at least not in Angelina County, according to experts on either side of the law.

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28 comments
Filldaddy
Filldaddy

Good to know they got rid of those dangerous pot heads who drove under the speed limit and patronized the food businesses in the county.  Hopped up meth heads are so much better!)

doctropic
doctropic

Congratulations on your Best of the West award for this piece, John. I hope you're working on turning this story into a novel - the quotes are priceless, but it's your writing style that makes the piece.

Lan
Lan

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Lan
Lan

I am a 27 years old doctor,mature and beautiful. and now i am seeking a good man who can give me real love, so i got a sername Andromeda2002 on  Agedate.СòM, a nice and free place for younger women and older men,or older women and younger men, to interact with each other.Maybe you wanna check out or tell your friends.

Lan
Lan

I am a 27 years old doctor,mature and beautiful. and now i am seeking a good man who can give me real love, so i got a sername Andromeda2002 on  Agedate.СòM, a nice and free place for younger women and older men,or older women and younger men, to interact with each other.Maybe you wanna check out or tell your friends.

Lan
Lan

I am a 27 years old doctor,mature and beautiful. and now i am seeking a good man who can give me real love, so i got a sername Andromeda2002 on  Agedate.СòM, a nice and free place for younger women and older men,or older women and younger men, to interact with each other.Maybe you wanna check out or tell your friends.

Dedicated_Dad
Dedicated_Dad

There, but for the grace of G*d, Go I.And YOU, too...

ChauncydeF
ChauncydeF

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

Great, great piece, John, the most painfully graphic I've read in a long time. And I'd say that there are plenty of stories like this built around the money and desperation that is inherent in the drug trade, be it meth today or alcohol back in the 20's.

My knee-jerk reaction to all drug stories is to legalize drugs period. That's what Buckley said back in the 80's and I haven't found an example yet to dissuade me. Until this. Sorta.

But...these stories are all based on a couple things: profit motive and individual addiction. As you point out, even if we eradicate the labs here, demand for the drug is enough that someone will fill the vacuum. (Mexicans in your piece.)

If on the other hand, we legalize drugs, there will still be a small percentage of addicts, say a fixed rate of 5% (other recreational drug users will not suddenly explode into dysfunctional folks who lose their jobs and families and all that matter...in other words they won't become addicts). But, meanwhile, the gov't can take over the trade, bond purity, eliminate the profits, and still do a campaign against usage, like the PR campaign against tobacco, alcohol etc., and treat the problem of addiction for what it is: a public health problem.

They can do that with the vast savings from the very expensive 'war on drugs', which has proven as useless as prohibition, and continues to create colorful criminals like Bull Durham.

If we simply continue to combat the law of supply and demand, we waste money, lives and the rest of our resources that could actually give hope to the most hardscrabble backwoods and inner city people whose smarts could benefit us all.

Poshpoet
Poshpoet

I have a dear friend addicted to meth, it seems nothing else matters. Addiction rules or governs theirs lives as a symptom of the real problem society faces. Some of those caught up with meth have no where else to turn and those with loved ones, turn there backs because they know there loved. Go figure. Images of any abuser should be labeled counter productive unless drugs are concerned. Idealistic behavior is ramp-id because we through curiosity write stories giving them a certain importance, while corrupting a young mind, who may innocently read these articles. www.poshpoetry.com

alehound
alehound

"He shot me not in the ass but in my asshole," too funny...

guest
guest

bull durham is a liar..he was no 11 yr old he was 15 and an abusive drunk crackhead...he didint work to support his family it was to buy crack and whiskey.He did have his own place and a common law wife for many years but she lived in a nightmarish hell as he rose to his psuedo power...i feel extremely sorry for this woman and "Krystal" and whoever his new girlfriend is he is never gona change...but at least he is behind bars and cant hurt her like he did the ones before her

Voice of Con-$cience
Voice of Con-$cience

Kent Henson is a genius. Not only has he figured out a way to increase awareness of the lurking danger that "shake and bake" labs pose in his community by explaining how to spot possible "meth labs" (acetone cans, red-lye, coleman fuel), "tweakers" (bad teeth, smelly blisters, head-lights, likely living in a trailer or burnt out house somewhere on a backroad) where these criminals shop(Walmart:) and what they shop for(E and anything with a skull and crossbones), he has also figured out a way to increase the number of "labs" in his and many other areas( which cant hurt his income and/or budget), by making it sound like a cake walk to breeze to the corner store, grab some ingredients, throw them together and have some dope by the time you get home, ensuring that every curious teen, money hungry waitress and any motivated drug addict will run right out and give it a shot. Bravo Sheriff! Make sure to set some of your money aside for counsel, it looks like you'll need it.

H_e_x
H_e_x

Man, Dave Grohl has really let himself go.

T.E. Bell
T.E. Bell

Another buzzing, sparking example of Mr. Lomax' especial genius. He has a command of image, phrase and timing, be it in scathing little widgets, or in long thumbsuckers like this one, that could serve as a masterclass for writers in the Post New Journalism style.Write on, writer, write on 'til the dawn.T.E. Bell

Gary Packwood
Gary Packwood

This was a great read.

I wonder if there is any difference between these dope cooks and the booze cooks of years ago during prohibition who died an early death because they used their own poison?

Apparently quality control procedures have never found favor with these guys.

And it sure sounds like the same breed of police officers are chasing after them!

nonsequiteuse
nonsequiteuse

It's tough to pick out the greatest tragedy in a story full of them, but how awful to consider how Oregon has enacted legislation that has reduced the scope of their problem, and to realize that Big Pharma will go to the mats to prevent us from seeing this kind of benefit nationally. I saw a Frontline episode, years ago, that said that we had a chance to completely head off this problem in the same way the Quaalude problem was stopped - we, the US, had the chance to control the production of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine completely. We would not have a meth epidemic had we been able to intervene at that point. Tragic. Great story, John. Keep shining the light.

Championshipvinyl73
Championshipvinyl73

a damn good article. I couldn't help but think of Rory Cochrane as Billy Mack in "Love and a .45" as I read it. It took loneger to read the article as it did to actually watch 'Spun" but it was well worth it. Bull in an exonerating biopic? Not likely. As an inspiration for a central character in a cult classic "dope" type of film? Possibly.

Shellymillwee
Shellymillwee

Incredible story. I was born in Lufkin and still have family there so I truly believe that it's important to put a spotlight on the drug issues there. Kudos to Lufkin law enforcement and John Lomax. Excellent article.

Darth
Darth

Yes, let's glamorize and bring notoriety to these idiots.

Robin
Robin

I like to joke about East Texas as much as the next non-East-Texan, but it's nice to read about the decent people in this article trying to fight the good fight. Ultimately, however, this is a heartbreaking story with Greek-level tragic underpinnings. I know and love a couple of meth addicts. (One just got out of prison for the (I lost count) time, and the other repeatedly and earnestly measures his sobriety in days.) I don't have the words to describe how much I hate that shit.

brent82
brent82

I totally thought of Ronnie Dobbs when the Sheriff said, "well what about that time I caught you stealin my lawnmover?"...hilarious!

T.E. Bell
T.E. Bell

So I WASN'T the only one who thought it!

Shkskn

John Nova Lomax
John Nova Lomax

That's exactly what I want people to take from this story. Thanks.

MadMac
MadMac

Yeah, because nothing says glamor like a colostomy bag.

Darth
Darth

Absolutely! Colostomy bags rule.

 
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