Thursday, August 11, 2005

Supervised Person

A year ago, he’d been a minor celebrity. He’d been interviewed by four different TV stations for the nightly news. Three newspapers had interviewed him. He gone to lunch with the State Director of Social Services. The Governor and the CEO of Wild Foods had shaken his hand at a press conference later that afternoon. The City of Lakewood issued a proclamation in his honor. He was a rare success story and everyone wanted a piece of him.

It had all started twelve years ago. When he’d turned sixteen, he’d started acting a little different. Sometimes his school essays would have a truly mean spirited sentence or two in them. He slapped a girlfriend for looking at another boy. He started going to church every morning before school and told the pastor he was developing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Sometimes he’d go out after dinner and not come back until morning, without an explanation.

A few days after his seventeenth birthday, the zoning inspector had contacted his parents and asked for permission to inspect his family’s garden shed. Neighbors had complained about the smell. He parents, suspecting nothing, consented. What the inspector found changed everything. Local naturalists had been concerned that a lynx might have moved into the area, even though there had been no sighting and no observed tracks, because a number of cats and dogs had disappeared in the past three weeks. One park ranger had even gone on the evening news with a set of tips on what to do if you encountered one. This theory proved not to be correct.

The walls of the shed were lined with seventeen mutilated pet bodies. Each pet’s name was written in its own blood the peg where its body hung from the wall. Female pets had objects inserted into their genitals. Male pets had weights hanging from theirs. Each pet had its vocal cords crushed. Most had holes drilled into their heads marked with acid that had eaten into their brains. They had burn marks on their limbs and razor blade cuts on their chests in lazy, intricate doodles. Some had eyes injected with motor oil. His initials were shaved into the fur on the back of each one.

He was arrested at school that day on seventeen felony counts of animal cruelty. His parents, themselves terrified, retained a high profile criminal defense attorney from Boulder, and sold his dad’s pickup to pay a retainer. His dad got on the phone that night to call a man he’d had beers with after hours when he’d been in the military as a prison guard at Levenworth. That man was now an endowed professor in the John Hopkins Psychiatry Department, and had been a young forensic psychiatrist at Levenworth.

As fate would have it, the Deputy District Attorney assigned to the case had been an undergraduate psychology and neuro-biology major who’d done a senior thesis on the criminally insane, but decided to go into law instead because his chemistry and math grades were lackluster. The family, the East Coast Psychiatrist, the seasoned defense attorney and the deputy district attorney held a case discussion conference in front of a seasoned mediator with a background as a social worker.

It was Garth’s first offense, and the Deputy District Attorney was eager to make a name for himself by being the first to invoke the new state “supervised person” law. The psychiatrist’s expert opinion made that easy. Garth’s maternal great-uncle had killed a family in Rifle after eighteen visits in twenty years to mental health institutions and that case had been a driving force behind a first, failed attempt to enact a supervised person law in Colorado. Garth‘s much older maternal cousin had finally been caught a few years before this incident, after a decade of unsolved pet mutilations in Denver. A blood test had shown that Garth had the suspect gene. The defense attorney’s private investigator had identified twenty-seven different witnesses to Garth’s increasingly unusual behavior in the past year. An innocent by reason of insanity plea involving a man with the same condition had been upheld in Arizona a few years earlier in a murder case. The psychiatrist’s opinion stated that taking a Proloffone pill twice a day for the rest of his life would cure Garth’s condition, but that failure to take the pill could result in repeated, more severe episodes.

His parents feared for his health if he went to prison. If he was convicted, he would turn eighteen just as he went to the penitentiary. He was a slight boy at the time, and preternaturally pretty for a boy. While he’d dated some girls, he’d also made overtures to one or two boys on an experimental basis. There was no doubt in the minds of either of his parents, or his defense counsel, that he would be a sex slave for a prison gang in a matter of months, if not days, if he went to the penitentiary. There was also little doubt that without proper treatment, he would get out, victimize someone or something, and come back over and over again.

At the disposition hearing, full of cameras after the pictures of the mutilated animals had reached national audiences through a leak in the police department, the Deputy Prosecutor announced that he was dropping all charges but a lesser included charge of disorderly conduct, in exchange for restitution, community service at an animal shelter, and an adjudication of Garth as a “supervised person” under the new supervised person’s statute. The prosecutor gave a little speech about how modern medical science and new Colorado law made it possible to prevent this case from being yet another litany of failures and repeat offenses. The defense counsel, the East Coast psychiatrist, the state’s expert psychiatrist, his family, and one or two of the victim pet owner’s families all came forward to support the decision. One or two pet owner families protested. The judge accepted the plea bargain.

Later that day, Garth was set up as supervised person number 0001. His finger prints, retina scan, DNA sample, blood type, and other identifying information was put in a registry. He was issued an new ID with an orange background that informed gun sellers, bars and liquor stores that they could not sell to him. He was assigned a case worker from the State Department of Social Services. Within a week he had reported to a halfway house in Denver. Every morning and every afternoon, he physically appeared in front of a male nurse and took a Proloffone pill. They found him a job sweeping floors at a local Wild Foods store under a work reentry program they’d signed up for as part of their social awarness regime, which also provided handsome tax credits. At the end of the first year, he’d gotten his own apartment in the same neighborhood, and only had to stop by in the morning and evening taking his pill. In the third year, he simply had to report for random weekly drug tests, at his place of work and interviews with his employer, to confirm that his behavior was normal and that he had Proloffone in his system. In the fourth year, the tests were made monthly, and in the fifth year quarterly. He boss always had an emergency number to call his caseworker to report any unusual behavior, but almost never used it. For the second five years before he was put on “inactive supervision” status, follow up had declined to annual visits with his employer, annual random drug tests, a computerized record review, quarterly phone calls, and an annual home and family interview.

The compliance after the first year actually wasn’t much of a surprise. Proloffone had an “inert” component, that was specifically designed to be addictive, even though it had no other beneficial effect. If Garth missed a day or two of the pill, painful withdrawal symptoms kicked in. Intense headaches, cravings, flu-like lethargy, a low grade fever, nausea, and more set in. The designer knew that this was a drug designed to be used for life, and that the consequences of missing a dose or two could be severe, and so planned accordingly. Only a few pharmacies in the state were authorized to dispense it, so overuse was also not considered a serious concern.

Proloffone, muted moods without making the patient sleepy, suppressed testosterone levels to female levels (leaving Garth with the same nearly hairless baby face he’d had at seventeen), and suppressed all intense mammalian brain activity. Situation induced fear, anger, panic, and lust were all suppressed. When he was on Proloffone, horror films, porn and action movies lost all their primal appeal. He’d kept in touch with family, and was technically fertile, but the drug had stripped him of any desire to enter into romantic relationships of his own. Some of his co-workers assumed that he was gay, and he might have been had he been allowed to develop regularly, but as it was, he simply wasn’t interested.

Garth got his GED, and then went to night school and successfully earned an associate’s degree in retail management, impressive for a young man who had never been a strong student even before his condition had hit. He was promoted from sweep up duties, to produce stocking, and then to produce manager. Three years ago, he’d been given a spot on the company’s organic standards review committee.

While in college he had gravitated towards environmental groups. He’d known better than to openly join a militant organization like Earth First or Greenpeace or PETA, given his supervised status, but had joined the organic foods co-operative and the Sierra Club. He liked taking hike, and he made connections with like minded people. One of the people he met in the organic foods cooperative, impressed by his devotion to animal and plant rights, apparently as atonement for the animals he’d mutilated and growing out of his service at the animal shelter, invited him to meet some ELF members. The Earth Liberation Front was one of the oldest and most secretive of the environmental terror groups. He had no desire to personally participate in the arsons and other actions the group was known for, but the cloak and dagger element and feeling of intense community in pursuit of an ideal that the group provided, filled a missing need in him. While the drug suppressed his personal desire to destroy, it didn’t affect higher level brain function and the seeds of destructiveness at that level were as much a part of his particular psychological flaw, as the more obvious violent outbursts. He started handling menial organizational tasks, and within two years, he had a cell of his own, one of the most violent in the entire network. His total lack of hands on involvement, and the care with which he hid his identity from his cell members, however, left him totally hidden from law enforcement, even when one of his cell members was caught in the act and interrogated.

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