Police arrest three in synthetic-marijuana investigation

2012-03-02T23:45:00Z Police arrest three in synthetic-marijuana investigationBy TOM MORTON Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
March 02, 2012 11:45 pm  • 

CASPER, Wyo. -- Casper police have taken three people into custody as a result of the investigation into the hospitalization of several people who are believed to have been sicked by of a batch of the drug "spice," or a substance mingled with it, Police Chief Chris Walsh said Friday.

The three were arrested on charges unrelated to the possession of spice, a general term for chemicals that imitate the effects of marijuana, Walsh said.

However, police found about seven pounds of plant material suspected of being prepared with spice chemicals and child-oriented blueberry and bubblegum flavoring at the apartment where two of the arrests occurred, he said. "We believe this is the main source of what is causing the medical problems," he said.

But it may not be all of it, and Walsh urged anyone with any spice to not use it and to dispose of it.

The three suspects related to the confiscation have yet to make their initial appearances in Natrona County Circuit Court.

Sgt. Deahn Amend confirmed the suspects are Kari Lee Hayes, who is on a hold for probation and parole; Lee Gilmer Cox, who is being held on two counts of failure to comply; and David Harold Henrikson, who is being held on one count of failure to comply.

The Casper police media arrest summary states that Cox and Hayes were arrested at the same address in the 2200 block of South McKinley Street. Henrikson was arrested at the Hall of Justice at 201 N. David St.

On Thursday, police and local and state health departments issued warnings about a series of hospital visits after determining a correlation between people reporting problems associated with potentially fatal kidney failure and use of the drug. Symptoms included nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and back pain.

The closeness of that correlation and the number of people affected still has not been fully determined.

Bob Harrington, director of the Casper/Natrona County Health Department, said two individuals with kidney problems were hospitalized overnight at the Wyoming Medical Center, and a third was transported to Denver. Two other individuals walked into the emergency room with symptoms, were treated and sent home for monitoring, he said.

Early reports placed the number of people affected as high as 14.

The Health Department is reviewing the emergency room records of the Wyoming Medical Center for the past two weeks to determine whether other people reported similar symptoms and if any correlations exist among the patients.

What's in the bags labeled blueberry and bubblegum spice has yet to be confirmed, Walsh said.

The state crime lab is examining the material to determine whether it contains any of five chemicals used to make substances that mimic THC -- the active ingredient in marijuana -- and are banned by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

While an entire analysis can take more than a month, the state crime lab can make an initial determination whether the confiscated material tests presumptive positive for the chemicals, Walsh said.

A presumptive positive would be enough to issue an arrest warrant for a person who possesses or distributes the drug, he said.

The crime lab also will be testing whether the plant material contains other substances besides the spice chemicals that may have caused the kidney problems, he said.

Meanwhile, the Health Department, Police Department, Wyoming Medical Center, Mountain View Regional Hospital, the Natrona County School District, Casper College, the Natrona County Sheriff's Office and the Wyoming Department of Health are continuing their investigations, according to a joint news release.

Walsh said Friday that federal authorities have been notified as well.


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