I am an avid reader of the Houston Chronicle sports writer John McClain – not because he is a Baylor grad, but because he is good. Under the title “Read this and weep” he shared the touching story of Bob West, long-time sports editor of the Port Arthur News.
Bob West lost two homes in the last two hurricanes and now he’s lost his son because of crystal meth. I wrote and asked Mr. West if I could relay some of his column of last May “Dealing with son’s prison sentence only way I know.” He replied to go ahead because if it helps even one person, it’s worth it. Here are some excerpts:
“Readers who turn to this space on Sundays looking to be entertained with a collection of odds and ends from the sports world will have to forgive a devastated dad for deviating from the norm. Sports moves to the back burner after you’ve spent a week in a courtroom and seen your son sentenced to 65 years in prison. …
“So where do you start to explain how the high school quarterback, the All-American boy, the kid most everybody from his hometown really liked could end up breaking our hearts? In this case, the answer is as simple as two words — methamphetamine addiction.
“That’s another reason I wanted to write this column. If I can reach one kid, one parent with the human tragedy crystal meth made of Damon West, it will be my greatest achievement as a writer. Hopefully I can connect with more than one because this insidious drug is all too available. … The first thing people on methamphetamines lose is their common sense.”
Bob West’s son Damon lost his grasp of reality, his common sense and eventually his freedom. Fifteen years ago with a football scholarship to North Texas University, he left home, literally on top of the world. He impressed many Democratic party people as a fund-raiser during the 2004 campaigns. His downfall began after he moved to Dallas in 2005, working for a limousine service and on the side buying things to resell from storage facilities. “Our alarm bells started going off a year or so later. … At times he would get belligerent with us on the phone.”
“We began to suspect drug use. On the rare occasions he came home, we pleaded with him to get out of Dallas and move back in with us. … Our words fell on deaf ears. … You can’t grab a 30-year-old and forcibly move him? Not when he’s sold his soul to meth.”
Now, the son so promising, sits in a jail cell awaiting assignment to the prison system. Bob’s column continues: “There is no question he was guilty of being involved in a massive string of burglaries. The evidence was overwhelming. I can’t even begin to describe how much it hurt to listen to the testimony of victim after victim put on the stand by the prosecution. …
“Nothing we saw or heard, however, prepared us to hear a sentence of 65 years. Murderers, rapists and child molesters don’t get that kind of time. Actually, since he was a first offender and there was compelling testimony from a state-paid psychologist and psychiatrist who did extensive testing on him, we hoped for probation.
“Our desire was to get him in a drug treatment facility, … under a strong probation and community service requirement, and have him speak about what meth had done to him at any school that was receptive. Included in the testimony by the doctors who interviewed him, … he was not a sociopath and that what he needed most was drug rehab. …
“The investigator working with Damon’s legal team said we assembled the strongest lineup of character witnesses he’d ever seen. Included was former Texas land commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Garry Mauro and Arthur Schecter, a Houston attorney and a former ambassador to Bermuda under Bill Clinton.
“Also testifying on his behalf was his priest where he attended church in Port Arthur, Father Don Donahugh, his high school football coach at TJ, Mike Owens, and his godfather and former editor of the Port Arthur News, Bill Maddox. His mother and I were also put on the stand.”
No guns were used and no victims physically confronted in the burglaries, no mercy was shown. “The court used a fairly new law that holds when three or more persons are involved in burglaries it can be treated as organized crime…” That is a bad law, three people do not organized crime make!
Damon is not eligible for parole for 15 years. It is doubtful he’ll ever get the drug treatment he needs.”
Bob and Genie West are struggling and shedding a lot of tears and with unconditional love, are alternately furious with Damon for destroying what could have been such a productive life, and consumed with grief for such a loss.
Bob West closed his column with this plea: “Above all, we hope and pray meth doesn’t bring down someone else’s child or loved one… In closing, we want to thank everyone who has reached out to us, and those who have wanted to but just didn’t know what to say. Your thoughts and prayers have been a blessing.”
For more facts on methamphetamine addiction go to http://www.usdoj.gov/
Britt Towery is a former missionary, freelance writer and published author. He welcomes reader feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. Other columns are available on his Web site, www.britt-towery.blogspot.com.