Meth’s abusive trail
Strung out on methamphetamine, Jenny Arnold went to a Grass Valley bar to score once again.
When she arrived back at her home – a metal shack with no toilet where she lived on the floor with her lover, Jesse Candelaria – he was waiting.
As she opened the door, Candelaria yanked her inside the shanty, and that’s when the beating began. It was a scene of methamphetamine-fueled domestic violence, which experts say is occurring more often but is not yet backed with hard statistics.
At the outset, Candelaria punched Arnold so hard in the head it caused her brain to bleed. And then he picked up the metal baseball bat.
On the floor by now, Arnold put her legs up to ward off the blows. Candelaria hit her “three times in the shins for sure, it could have been more,” she said, and left her with a broken leg and two black eyes accentuated with yellow and red.
“I don’t know why he stopped, but thank God he did,” said Arnold, 23. “He just stopped, and we went to sleep.”
Arnold said she and Candelaria, 25, often injected methamphetamine and stayed up for days at a time. She still is not sure if he was jealous from meth-induced paranoia or just plain angry, but she knows their methamphetamine use fueled the situation.
The next day, “I told him my leg was broken and he didn’t want to believe it.”
Even when some friends came by and talked Arnold into going to the hospital, “he said he didn’t want me to go, but I said I wanted to make sure I could walk again.”
Nevada County Deputy District Attorney Kathryn Kull eventually prosecuted Candelaria for the June 2003 beating, and in August he got 15 years in prison. Kull has prosecuted domestic violence for the past five years and called it “one of the most brutal beatings I’ve ever seen in which someone didn’t die.”
Court records indicate Candelaria had eight prior incidents of domestic violence against four women, including Arnold, from 1997 to January 2003. One of the women said he assaulted her so many times she lost count, including several incidents when she was pregnant.
Another of Candelaria’s victims said he sent her to the hospital with a broken collarbone. The fourth victim said Candelaria threatened to throw her off the Foresthill bridge in Placer County after he falsely accused her of sleeping with another man. Two of the victims said they were afraid to speak much more about Candelaria for fear of retaliation.
Dearth of data
There are few statistics on domestic violence fueled by methamphetamine, but local and national experts see it increasing.
Dr. David Ohlms is a St. Louis psychiatrist who has studied addiction for 30 years and is a former chairman of the Missouri Mental Health Commission. Of all the drugs and abusers he’s dealt with, “I see far more cases of domestic violence, child abuse, assaults, and bizarre attacks for no reason” when meth is involved.
According to the Web site of Narconon International, a worldwide drug treatment group, “cities across the United States report increased percentages of domestic violence incidents associated with methamphetamine use. Domestic disputes, ordinarily regarded as dangerous situations for law enforcement, become intensified when a tweaker is involved because of that individual’s unpredictability.”
Kim Cuisinot runs the Moms in Recovery drug rehabilitation program for the Nevada County Behavioral Health Department. Many of her clients have been strung out on meth.
“Eighty percent of women involved with meth have been involved in some kind of violent relationship,” Cuisinot said. Often, the women are violent with their men, as well.
“They’re battering each other,” Cuisinot said. “You take somebody who’s been up five days and hallucinating, they assume the other one’s cheating on them. … They burn each other with cigarettes or tie each other down,” among other things.
Kull estimates one-third of the domestic violence cases she prosecutes involve meth.
“There seems to be a higher degree of viciousness and brutality in meth cases,” Kull said. “When a person is coming down, it puts them in a bad mental state.
“Paranoia can really raise its ugly head in the form of irrational jealousy which can lead to absolute rage and it’s almost kind of delusional,” Kull said.
Grass Valley Police Capt. Greg Hart said Kull’s estimate of 33 percent of local domestic violence cases involving meth “would be more than likely, and I would be inclined to shoot a little higher than that. I would venture to say that well over half of the cases we respond to have some element of substance abuse, and that includes alcohol.”
Hart said it is well known that meth can cause “hallucinations, paranoia and out-of-control rages. Combine that in a home environment and you have a situation that can lead to violence. From an enforcement standpoint, it creates an additional challenge because the individuals are oftentimes beyond reason, beyond understanding.”
Arnold spent a year spinning out of control after Candelaria beat her. She eventually went to a drug recovery house in San Francisco but opted to leave in late September.
Arnold was quickly found and booked into the Wayne Brown Correctional Facility, where she is still being held on charges of burglary, conspiracy to commit a crime and receiving stolen property. According to Kull, Arnold was allegedly with a group of people who stole a gun from a home while she was strung out on drugs.
“She’s not enjoying jail, but it’s not a bad place for her to be right now,” Kull said. “She looks good, she looks clean, and she didn’t fall back in (to the drug scene), but it was dangerously close.”
Kull said officials in the criminal justice system may let Arnold serve some time before deciding whether she can be admitted to another drug treatment center.
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