Mom’s meth story: Baby to ‘monster’
A mother’s love.
That’s what motivated Tonie Pettigrew to do what few moms could even imagine: call the police to make sure her drug-addicted son was arrested before he got into any more trouble.
“I know I saved his life,” Tonie Pettigrew said. “My son had to be stopped.”
Terry Pettigrew, 22, was on a downward spiral at the time of his recent arrest in Nevada City, his mother said. He had been using methamphetamine for years, and his problem was worsening. His girlfriend, Sarah, was also fed up and concerned for the couple’s twin girls, now 18 months old, his mother recalled.
When Tonie Pettigrew heard Terry was suspected of the home invasion-style burglary of his former boss, living near Alta Sierra, she said she also knew the one thing that would drive her son to commit such a crime: methamphetamine.
“Terry was a good child. That meth has turned him into a monster,” Tonie Pettigrew said.
Terry Pettigrew was arrested in connection with the Jan. 27 home invasion three days after the alleged crime occurred. After reportedly leading police on a short chase to a dead-end street, he then sparked a five-hour, citywide manhunt by escaping down Deer Creek.
It was his mother’s tip to police that initially led them to the suspect. Terry Pettigrew reportedly once worked for Richard R. Mayer, the Alta Sierra victim. Terry Pettigrew is currently in the Wayne Brown Correctional Facility and has an upcoming felony conference scheduled.
But when Tonie Pettigrew – herself a recovered meth user – talks about her son now, she wants to think of the good times, of the boy who used to be loving and responsible.
The attractive 39-year-old mother of four sons, the youngest a 5-month-old, has trouble discussing the turmoil surrounding Terry in the weeks after he was arrested. She’s had trouble sleeping, eating and coping in general since she made the fateful phone call that resulted in her son’s arrest.
Some have praised her actions, but others have dismissed her as a “snitch” for turning her teenage son in to police, she said. She expected that, however, since many parents of drug-addicted children cover up for their kids, Tonie Pettigrew said.
She knows this murky territory all too well because Tonie Pettigrew also has a past riddled with meth addiction.
“I had dealings of my own with that beast,” she said. “I didn’t have anybody to help me. I saw what it was doing to my life, and I tried to take my life several times. God got me through. He got me to where I am today,” she said.
Tonie Pettigrew says that her son “lost his faith” and then began falling deeper and deeper into Nevada County’s drug culture. “Lately he had that blank stare,” she said, “and I knew he had to be stopped.”
At first afraid that Terry would not understand her actions and hate her for trying to help him, his mother said they recently visited at the jail and that her son told her he understood. Terry Pettigrew also told his mother he loved her.
Part of his mother’s anguish is centered around the “what ifs” of her life. Was his own addiction brought on by hers? Should she have moved? Did she not take action soon enough? And, if God had saved her, why couldn’t he save Terry?
The future looms as a scary place right now. If Terry is sent to prison, she’s wondering if she even wants to stay in Nevada County.
During her sleepless nights, Tonie finds herself writing her thoughts down, hoping that the writing will help make sense of the situation and clarify it in her mind. There are pages of these soul-searching writings. Every few paragraphs it will say, “I saved my son’s life,” or “I’m a survivor of life’s beast.” As she writes, Tonie tries to look at the positive.
“I hope everybody in the county has seen what meth is doing to our children. It’s robbing them of their minds and souls. I have listened and seen mothers and fathers lose their kids to drugs. I never thought this would be my own nightmare.”
The youthful mother knows that leaving the drug culture will be hard for her son, assuming he gets out of prison at some point. She gets angry at people who say all methamphetamine users should be “locked up with the key thrown away.”
“How would they feel if that was their child?” Tonie Pettigrew said. “I love my son, and he used to be a good person. He used to be a good father, a good son and a good brother. I love that baby I carried in my arms 22 years ago, and I want him back.”
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