Man found dead in river was featured in meth documentary

2014-02-21T17:15:00Z 2014-02-24T12:40:19Z Man found dead in river was featured in meth documentaryBy SUSAN OLP solp@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

A poignant moment came near the end of the 2006 HBO documentary “Montana Meth.”

In the film, done in conjunction with the Montana Meth Project, Wendy Macker posed a question about her then-16-year-old son, Graham Macker, who had battled an addiction to meth.

“How does it end?” she asked, speaking about Graham, who had claimed to have given up the highly addictive drug, then said, “I don’t know.”

That question was answered Wednesday, when Graham Macker’s body was found in the Missouri River behind Black Eagle Dam, according to Sheriff Bob Edwards, in a news release from the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office. The cause of death was drowning.

Macker, 24, had walked away from the Great Falls Pre-Release Center on Nov. 14, Edwards said.

After his escape, he was spotted by Great Falls police officers and sheriff’s deputies, Edwards said.

He ran from officers, who suspected he was hiding along the south side of the Missouri River, along the River’s Edge Trail. At that time, there was no indication Macker had gone in the river, Edwards said.

An Associated Press report said the body was found by PPL Montana workers who were breaking up ice near the dam. Macker had been sent to the prerelease center for probation violations relating to 2009 forgery and bad check charges in Kalispell.

Amy Rue, executive director of the Montana Meth Project, said Friday she and her staff were saddened to hear of Macker’s death.

“Our condolences, thoughts and prayers go out to his family,” Rue said.

“Meth use continues to be a serious issue in our communities,” she said. “It is a highly addictive substance that destroys lives.”

Rue was quick to say that Macker was not just a boy who battled a meth addiction.

“He was a son, a brother and a wonderful friend to so many people,” she said. “There is so much more to Graham than just this one experience.”

Rue said she was grateful that Macker was willing to open up about his struggles in the documentary.

“Countless teens have learned as a result of learning his life story,” she said.

The Montana Meth Project will continue to bring the message of “Not Even Once” to teens and young adults in Montana, Rue said, and “Graham’s life story is one we will tell.”

In the HBO documentary, Macker, who grew up in Kalispell, told filmmaker Eames Yates that he once was a strong, athletic kid.

“I’d run the mile and now I run a block and I’m tired as hell,” he said. “I have stretch marks on my back. I lost, like, 30 pounds.”

That all happened in the first month he took the drug, he said. All his money went to buy the drug.

“I could have so much stuff right now,” he said. “Just the amounts of money I spend on drugs and people I owe.”

In the film, Wendy Macker said her son, who had been a straight-A student, now couldn’t stay in a classroom. He was more interested in numbing himself than living life and had “some kind of preconceived notion in his brain that it’s a lot easier to go that route versus reality.”

In March 2009, Macker was charged with forgery and issuing bad checks. He pleaded guilty to both counts that December. He received a deferred sentence of two consecutive three-year terms, during which he was under the supervision of the Department of Corrections.

In 2011, “CBS Evening News” did a follow-up in which Macker said he was clean after his four-year battle with the drug.

“We’re doing a day at a time right now,” he said. “At the rate I was going, I would not still be here.”

His mother, who also spoke to the reporter, was again asked by the reporter if she knew how it would all end. She shook her head and tears welled up in her eyes.

“Not yet,” she said.

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