CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — Authorities are trying to determine if a contaminated batch of PCP is going around Camden after a child was decapitated and two other children's throats were slashed by people believed to be on the illegal drug.
They've begun analyzing batches of so-called "wet" circulating in the southern New Jersey city, a locale that continually ranks as one of the nation's most dangerous.
"Is there some type of alteration that's being done that has triggered this?" Police Chief J. Scott Thomson asked in light of the gruesome attacks on children. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration is working with the police department, Thomson said.
A 6-year-old boy was killed Sunday trying to save his 12-year-old sister when they were assaulted in their home. Both were asleep when someone cut his throat then attacked his sister, police said.
A man known in the neighborhood, Oswaldo Rivera, has been charged, and police say he admitted he smoked "wet," a combination of PCP and marijuana, in the hours before the attack.
Almost two weeks earlier, a woman decapitated her child then killed herself, police say. Preliminary tests show she had PCP in her system and police believe she also smoked "wet."
The police chief said PCP has played a role in 10 homicides in Camden in the last four or five years. The drug sells for about $10 a vial.
While it is not new to the area, emergency room doctors say they have seen an increasing number of patients on the drug in the past few years. Users can fall anywhere on a spectrum from agitated and aggressive to sleepy and incoherent, but are rarely aggressively violent.
Dr. Al Sacchetti, chief of emergency services at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, said doctors treat at least one or two people each day on PCP.
Sacchetti said PCP users tend to engage in "non-specific aggressive behavior" and are often more of a danger to themselves than to others. PCP users are mostly vocally aggressive, Sacchetti said.
"These tragedies, the last couple of cases, are very unusual for what we're used to seeing," Sacchetti said. "Usually people hallucinate, but they're not that focused. You have to be very focused to cut someone's head off or find someone and slit their throat."