Feature: Wednesday,May 29, 2003
Meth Madness Part 2

missed his daughter, and in the summer of 2002 he ping-ponged back to Texas. Keri was set to begin college in August, but she chose to go with him. They had no plan, beyond the Cadillac that Terry drove and the fresh batch of meth in the trunk.

They sold meth to friends in Montague County. With money in his pockets, Terry and Keri stayed in a Bowie motel for a couple of weeks and partied. Once the money was gone, they moved into the Hodges’ home. Terry’s parents welcomed the couple, and, for a while, believed his stories that all was well. But telltale signs appeared. “They’d been here about two weeks, and two or three days at a time would go by and Keri wouldn’t eat,” Tammy said. “Keri never said hardly a word to me. Wouldn’t even talk. She would just follow Terry around.”

Sitting in an interview room at Carswell Medical Center in Fort Worth, Keri looks like what she was set to become last year — a freshman co-ed. She is pretty, with blond hair and engaging eyes. She recalled that, in addition to being naturally shy, she was so high on meth at the Hodges’ home that she couldn’t think straight. “I’d get ahead of myself, so when I was trying to talk I’d forget either what I was talking about, or the words wouldn’t come out right and I’d make a fool of myself,” Keri said. She stopped talking and hid out in Terry’s bedroom.

Terry’s mental state appeared better than when he had left for Kansas the year before, but his parents knew he wasn’t right. “I went into the bathroom one day, and I came out and said, ‘Terry, what are you doing?’” Tammy Hodges recalled. “He said, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘Nobody’s urine should be orange. I don’t know what you’re drinking or doing, but urine should not be orange.’”

Terry wasn’t working, had no money, and his car was broken down, yet he would leave the house with Keri at night and not return until the wee hours. A fed-up Bobby Hodges told his son to get a job or move out. Terry took a construction job but continued staying out late. He had filed for divorce from Cindy, who was living in Fort Worth, and he was seeking visitations with his daughter. Bobby and Tammy Hodges also missed Cally and urged Terry to bring her for a visit.

On Aug. 9, Terry got off work and drove by the home of Cindy’s sister in Bowie. Cindy was there, and Cally was playing in the front yard. Seeing his daughter made Terry’s spirits soar. He played with her for a while, and then asked Cindy to take the child to visit his parents. Terry had occasionally been generous with child support payments when he was flush with drug money, but he hadn’t paid in a while. “She said, ‘If you give me some money I’ll bring her out there,’” Terry recalled. “I said, ‘How much money do you need?’ She said, ‘A couple hundred dollars.’”

He didn’t have it, but he would get it. The meth made it seem so easy, so smart.

Terry’s paycheck, received that day, was only $100. He cashed his check at First American Bank in downtown Bowie, bought some meth, mainlined a bump, went to the Hodges’ ranch, took another bump, gave Keri a capsule, and revealed a sketchy plan to get some money — he would return to First American Bank and rob it. “I wasn’t really thinking,” he said. “I had money in my head. I was always used to having money and, for the last few weeks, I didn’t have any money. It was really getting to me, and that was the quickest, easiest money I could think of.”

Keri, loyal to her boyfriend and sole drug source, went along. She didn’t know until later that Terry had given her a double dose of meth to loosen her up. “He was, like, ‘I’m tired of having no money and I really want to see my daughter, so let’s just go rob a bank,’” she said. “That’s when I laughed at him, and he said, ‘No, I’m serious.’”

Terry’s parents were both at work. He went into their closet and took a long-sleeve shirt to cover a scar on his arm, grabbed his father’s 12-gauge pump shotgun, loaded it, donned a ball cap and sunglasses, and borrowed Keri’s bandana to cover his face. He emptied out his mother’s bowling bag to carry the money.

“I was, like, you’re not really going to do this are you?” Keri said. “Seeing him dressed up like that, I was scared just to look at him.” But the capsule was kicking into high gear. They took Tammy’s Jeep Cherokee, with Keri at the wheel, and drove the few miles to town. Keri, who was having difficulty driving because her mind was racing so fast, asked about a plan. “I’ll tell you when we get to town,” Terry replied.

In truth, he had no plan. Only later would they talk about the robbery and discover that each was silently hoping the other would back out or put up resistance. The plan might have died.

Keri pulled into an alley behind the bank, and Terry revealed the simple plan. He would run inside the bank, rob it, and run back out. Keri would drive around the block and pick him up for a getaway. Problem was, Keri was so high she didn’t think she could find her way around the block. She suggested Terry get one of his friends. Terry was agitated and jumpy, and yelled at her. She yelled back. That started a loud, long, and profane argument inside the Jeep. The argument ended when Terry abruptly opened the car door.

“I put the bandana around my face,” he said. “I told her to drive around the block and just meet me right there in the alley. She backed up and I jumped out and ran in the bank.”

The woman behind the bank counter was someone Terry recognized — Judy Fowler, the mother of a high school friend. “She didn’t know who I was because I had the bandana on,” he said. “I had the bag and threw it up on the counter and told her to fill it full of money.” She did.

Suddenly, the gun went off. Nobody was more surprised than Terry to hear the sudden bang. “I had my hand on the trigger and I was scared and I was shaking, and I kind of flinched a little bit and pulled the trigger on the gun and fired a round off through the ceiling,” he said.

That mistake was compounded moments later after he fled. Keri hadn’t yet found her way around the block. Terry ran to the end of the alley and squatted down beside some bushes, clutching the bowling bag. Keri arrived, Terry jumped inside the Jeep, and, tires squealing, she sped away. Terry yelled at her to slow down, and they began arguing again.

The shotgun, registered to Bobby Hodges, remained behind in the bushes.

The robbery netted $13,500. Bowie hadn’t seen a bank robbery in so long, most people can’t recall the last one. “In my 15 years, this is the only one,” said Police Lt. Wes Wallace.

The investigation was unintentionally comical from the beginning.

Once home, Terry realized he’d left the shotgun behind. He sent the drug-addled Keri back to the scene, by herself, in the same Jeep that had been seen by at least three witnesses. Police officers were milling around the bank, and a couple of officers were standing within 100 feet of the shotgun as Keri drove past. She stopped and watched and thought about jumping out and grabbing the gun after the officers turned their backs, but she changed her mind.

An hour after the robbery, Terry was driving the Jeep with Keri in the passenger seat and a shoebox filled with bank money, when they were pulled over by sheriff’s deputies, who searched the vehicle but failed to look inside the shoebox. The deputies let them go.

Terry went to a friend’s house and bought a 1999 Kawasaki motorcycle for $6,000. Later that day, on the motorcycle, he and Keri drove by the bank. The shotgun was still there, but the couple thought it would look suspicious to be driving through town on a motorcycle with a shotgun, so they left it there and planned to come back in the Jeep. They never did. Police found the gun.

The couple planned to lie low the rest of the day, spend the night at the ranch, visit with Cally the following day, and then leave town. That evening, Terry’s mother asked him to take his great aunt on an errand. Once again, police noticed the Jeep that matched the robbery description, and pulled them over. “Do we look like bank robbers to you?” his relative asked. Police let them go.

The next day was a Saturday, and Cindy brought Cally by for a visit. Terry gave her a couple of hundred dollars.

After Cally left, Terry put a portion of the bank loot in his closet, gave Keri $5,000 to hide in her purse, and told his mother they were going out. “Of course, he never came back,” Tammy Hodges said. “He just left out the door and said, ‘Bye Mom, I’ll see y’all tomorrow, I love you.’”

They drove to a friend’s house to score some meth and announced they were headed to Fort Worth for fun and adventure. Three friends — John, Amy, and Sky — decided to go along. Terry and Keri rode the motorcycle, and the others followed in a car. For the next week, the five friends were on a laugh-filled vacation — paid for by bank loot and fueled by a constant stream of meth.

First stop was Fort Worth, where they rented a limousine and went joyriding. The limo cost $500, and Terry tipped the driver $500. “Just blowing money, being stupid,” he said.

They stayed in a hotel, partied all night, and then headed north. “We went out to Lewisville Lake and rented jet skis out there,” Terry said. “That cost another $600 or $700 bucks.”

They stayed in a nearby hotel and smoked and injected meth. When their drug supply dwindled, John or Sky would head back to Montague County for more. “It’s fun because you’re laughing at the stupidest things and just being really retarded and outgoing and doing stupid stuff and making people laugh,” Keri said. “It lasts for days, nonstop laughing for days and days until you finally decide to sleep.”

On Aug. 13, police officers visited the Hodges’ ranch. The shotgun had been traced to Bobby. Tammy allowed them to search Terry’s room, where they found clothes and a bandana that matched those worn by the robber. Even more damning, they found $1,150 — still bound by First American Bank wrappers.

Local media were soon announcing that Terry was suspected in the robbery. Sky’s mother called on his cell phone and broke the news. The friends took more meth and headed for a cabin near Lake Texoma, where they rented a ski boat. They became worried and agitated when the drugs wore off, so they took more.

“I don’t even know what I was thinking. I was just doing drugs and trying not to think about fixing to go to prison forever,” Terry said. “The more drugs I kept doing, the less I’d think about it.”

After a week, he gave his friends money and told them it was time to separate. “That left us with about $400,” he said. “When we started coming down off the drugs, that’s when it really hit both of us.”

The friends returned home. None was charged with crimes related to the robbery or weeklong party.

On Aug. 19, Terry called home and talked to his parents, who offered little advice. It was time for Terry to take control. He thought about fleeing to Mexico or taking Keri back to Kansas and then turning himself in to police. Keri was sticking with Terry, so it was his decision. “I thought about it for another day and thought I couldn’t stand being away from my daughter forever if we tried to run, and eventually we were going to get caught, so I called my dad back and told him I wanted to turn myself in,” he said. “My dad came and picked me up that night and [Keri and I] turned ourselves in the next afternoon in Bowie.”

Terry was held without bond at a federal detention center in Seagoville. Keri stayed in a Dallas jail for a few days and was released on a personal recognizance bond. She returned to Kansas and stayed away from meth but soaked herself in alcohol and wrote letters to Terry for the next six months.

On March 7, 2003, U.S. District Judge Jerry Buchmeyer sentenced Terry to 13 years in prison. He was moved to a medium security prison in Beaumont. He doesn’t expect to get out early. Carrying the shotgun guaranteed him 10 years flat time, and he received a few more years for the robbery itself. He’ll probably be in his mid-30s when he is freed. His daughter Cally is allowed to visit him once every four months.

Ten months in prison, without meth, have given him plenty of time to chew on the past. “I try not to look back on it, seeing the way I mistreated myself and my family and my daughter,” Terry said. “If I could go back and change it, I would. I wouldn’t touch the stuff. I don’t plan on ever touching it again when I get out.”

More often, he looks ahead. “I did the crime — I’m going to have to do the time and learn from it, learn from my mistakes,” he said. “I plan on taking any course they’ll let me take, just to keep myself busy. In here, mainly you just sit around and you have all day to think about stuff. I’m going to make myself better.”

Back in Bowie, and all across the country, other families face similar repercussions. Tammy can tick off stories about meth’s assault on her little town. A girl who attended high school with Terry would later lose her two children to state authorities after she and her husband burned their house down while cooking meth. A rancher keeps finding meth labs on his wooded property. Junior high kids hooked on speed. More burglaries supporting more meth habits. “I don’t see it getting any better,” she said.

Keri received a four-year sentence and expects to be freed in 2006, when she’ll be 23. She is staying busy, working, and planning to take counseling and college courses. Her hands still shake at times, though she’s not sure it’s from meth or alcohol withdrawal.

“I have my bad days,” she said. “I went through my little depressed stage where I wouldn’t talk to anybody and just thought about the outside world. As long as I just concentrate on everything I’m doing in here, I’m OK.”

Her family and friends have told her to forget about Terry, but she can’t. “I still think about him all the time,” she said. “How could I love a guy who put me through all this? I’m still a teen-ager; I’m going to spend my 21st birthday in here. But, I mean, he was a great guy to me before. He made me happy. I still love him.”

She’s sworn off drugs but doubts she’ll be able to resist alcohol. She couldn’t resist it when she was underage, and she’ll be legal when she gets out of prison. Her face shows the same uncertainty when asked if she will wait for Terry.

“I kind of want to, but 14 years, or however long he got, that’s a long time,” she said. “I figured I’d see how it goes when I got out.”

It’s vague, but it’s more of a plan than she’s had in the past year since losing herself to meth.

On Memorial Day, the Hodges family were together, minus Terry, of course. Tammy was on the phone, talking to a reporter about meth’s powerful clench and devastating impact. “I don’t think you can go to a drug rehab and get off this stuff,” she said. “I don’t think two or three months is long enough.”

Chase was sitting nearby, and she asked him how long it takes to kick meth. His answer could be heard over the phone: “About a year. You always want it, but you stay away from it. You’ve got to make yourself hate it to stay away from it. I still have flashes sometime.”

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