BOLEY — Denver and Martha Holloway never had to smoke methamphetamine to become casualties of the meth epidemic.
The Holloways were shot to death last month in their home near Boley. Their son, Ross Alan Holloway, confessed to shooting his parents in a disoriented state after smoking meth. He hung himself March 29 in his Okfuskee County jail cell shortly after being charged with their murders, a spokesman with the state medical examiner's office said.
The Holloways' deaths illustrate the insidious nature of meth and the collateral damage it has on Oklahoma communities, said Darrell Weaver, director of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control.
“Oftentimes we want to believe that the addict is just hurting themselves,” Weaver said. “But if meth use continues, it will eventually affect someone innocent.”
Hooked on meth
Friends of the Holloways described Ross Holloway, 32, as a good kid who got hooked on meth and let it ruin his life.
He had been living with his parents for two years. According to an affidavit filed by the Oklahoma State Bureau of investigation, Ross Holloway told an agent that on the night of March 8, he drank three beers and smoked meth.
He dozed off on his bed with a Ruger .22 caliber magnum revolver in his lap. He awoke as his bedroom door opened and he heard loud voices yelling at him. He saw people in the doorway and “unloaded” the revolver on them.
When Holloway discovered he had shot his parents, he got in his Jeep and left.
He was arrested about 4:15 a.m. March 9 in Panama, after a Le Flore County sheriff's deputy pulled over the Jeep. The deputy suspected Holloway was under the influence and found drug paraphernalia in the vehicle. Holloway told the deputy he had smoked meth in the Jeep a few hours earlier.
Officers also found meth in Holloway's bedroom at his parents' home.
‘Salt of the earth'
Denver and Martha Holloway were small-town people. Martha, 53, grew up in Areplar, near McAlester. Denver, 54, managed a ranch and worked as a mechanic and farm manager before that.
“He was a farmer,” friend Keith Grissom said. “He was a very quiet man. When he spoke, you listened.”
Martha was the outgoing one, always laughing and in good spirits.
“Denver and Martha were the salt of the earth people,” Grissom said. “They were very nice, down to earth. The world would be a better place if it were all Denvers and Marthas.”
Okfuskee County District Attorney Max Cook, who filed the charges against Holloway, said the circumstances of the elder Holloways' deaths unfortunately aren't unusual.
“Substance abuse probably touches about 90 percent of the cases in my office, even if those aren't the charges we file,” Cook said. “Somewhere in that person's life, substance abuse usually comes to play. Sometimes it is less tragic than the case of the Holloways, but it can be anything.”
Robbery, burglary, domestic abuse, assault, murder — whatever the crime — drugs are usually an element, and methamphetamine is the No. 1 drug involved, Cook said.
Authorities seized 15 pounds of meth Wednesday while breaking up a large drug ring in central Oklahoma connected to a Mexican drug cartel, Weaver said. Investigators think the group was moving as much as 25 pounds of meth into the state every week, enough to get thousands of people high.
Unlike cocaine or heroin, drugs of choice for troubled celebrities and rock stars, meth doesn't have a romantic image anywhere, Weaver said.
“Even in Hollywood, it's portrayed as something very ugly,” Weaver said. “But people don't realize how addictive it is.”
Cook said he has discussed the problem with many meth addicts who take part in substance abuse programs through his office.
“The people that have been on meth tell me the number of times it takes to use it before you get hooked is one,” Cook said. “If you are out and have a few beers and smoke some marijuana and someone says, ‘Here, try this,' that can be enough.”
Once someone is hooked, they often devote their lives to chasing that high.
The other reason meth has become such an epidemic is its availability, Weaver said. Someone might start by smoking meth made by a friend and then move on to more potent varieties brought in by Mexican drug cartels.
“It's everywhere,” Weaver said. “You can't produce cocaine or heroin in Oklahoma. You can produce methamphetamine in your bathtub.”
Home meth production leads to fires, explosions and chemical contamination.
The chase for a high by addicts causes property crimes by those desperate for the money to pay for their habit. And the strength of meth's effects can cause a situation like the one that claimed the lives of Denver and Martha Holloway.
“There are very few drugs that I've seen in my time in office that have as much destructive impact as methamphetamine, not just to the person that takes it but to the entire community,” Cook said. “It goes on and on. People get robbed. People get killed. We see the destruction that it creates every day.”