Murder on Haycamp Mesa: Meth is believed to have played a role in the county’s first killing in 2018

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Speed kills.

That nugget of wisdom from the last century’s methamphetamine craze remains, unfortunately, as relevant today as when the insidious drug infiltrated the peace-and-love counterculture of the 1960s and left it in ruins.

The present epidemic appears to be taking an even stronger grip on America, and the Four Corners is certainly no exception.

Montezuma County’s first murder of the new year allegedly took place under the influence of meth.

And the suspect’s stated reason for the fatal shooting of 42-year-old James Box Jr. certainly seems to be attuned to the twisted thinking of a speed freak.

Box was a member of the Southern Ute tribe and lived in Ignacio, Colo. He was a father with two children.

The man accused of his killing, Kevin Wade Folsom, 39, of Montezuma County, was arrested Jan. 3 and is charged with first-degree murder, along with numerous other felonies. Those include possession of a controlled substance, possession of a firearm by a previous offender, tampering with a deceased body, and being an habitual offender. He was advised of these charges Jan. 4 and remains in jail on a $500,000 bond.

Folsom has an extensive criminal history and had been paroled from prison in 2014 after serving six years for a burglary in La Plata County.

After his arrest, Folsom agreed to talk to a sheriff ’s detective without counsel, according to the affidavit of Detective Lt. Tyson Cox of the Montezuma County Sheriff ’s Office, and gave his version of the homicide.

Folsom told Cox he was partying and using meth at night on Haycamp Mesa with Box and Box’s wife, Jennifer, the affidavit recounts, when a physical struggle erupted between the couple, and then Folsom heard a gun go off.

“Kevin Folsom [said he] was not sure who had the gun or who had brought it, but he observed James Box, Jr. bleeding profusely,” the affidavit states. “He picked up the gun off the ground and shot [Box] in the head ‘to put him out of the misery’.”

But whether this is an accurate account of the event remains to be seen.

Whatever the truth, the powerful stimulant appears to have played a major part in the slaying.

“Apparently everybody was using meth – that’s why I said from the very beginning drugs were definitely involved,” Sheriff Steve Nowlin told the Free Press in a Jan. 26 interview.

When Cox asked Folsom why he didn’t call 911 to get the victim medical help instead of shooting him, the affidavit continues, Folsom said that he “didn’t believe [Box] would survive that long due to his extensive blood loss.”

Two bullet wounds to the head in close proximity were observed once the body was recovered from the crime scene, according to Nowlin. A gun believed to be the murder weapon was also recovered and was being tested by the CBI.

Folsom was apprehended Jan. 3 after Jennifer Box’s father contacted Nowlin and informed him that the suspect had told him about the shooting and demanded he help in disposing of Box’s body.

“He didn’t have much of a choice [but to accompany Folsom],” Nowlin said “He was pressured.”

However, Nowlin said, Box’s fatherin- law kept in touch with him by texting the sheriff from his cell phone as he accompanied the suspect back to Haycamp Mesa to the crime scene off Forest Service Road 557. There, the witness watched as Folsom removed Box’s pants from his body and placed them in the back of Folsom’s pickup, the affidavit states.

A team of detectives who were keeping the father-in-law’s residence under surveillance arrested Folsom shortly after he dropped off the witness at his residence.

Although Folsom was initially held for murder in the second degree, the charge was soon amended to first-degree murder, which, if he is convicted, could mean a sentence of death.

Nowlin said it was changed “because of the premeditation the evidence shows.”

“The district attorney believed that it definitely met all the elements of the crime of first-degree murder,” he said.

The sheriff declined to go into further detail about what that evidence may be.

“There’s a lot more to [the shooting] than what you’re seeing there [in the affidavit],” Nowlin said, “and if we didn’t have the elements to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt, he never would have been charged with what he has been charged with.

“The big thing is we don’t want to taint any potential jury pool,” he explained. “Everybody is entitled to a fair trial as provided by the Constitution and Mr. Folsom’s no different.

“But I feel very comfortable in everything he’s been charged with, that all of that can be proven.”

Pleasure and paranoia

Meanwhile, the damage meth is wreaking on the social fabric keeps on keeping on.

Incident reports from local law-enforcement agencies are rife with arrests for meth possession, both in smaller quantities as well as more significant amounts (often accompanied by scales and micro-baggies), which can bring the additional charge of distribution.

In many cases the arrests start out as routine traffic stops, or a warrant service or a domestic-violence investigation during which the drug is found.

Just last month, two juveniles found a pouch containing meth near the Dolores High School, which they turned over to a deputy. It had apparently been dropped by a careless consumer. “It’s everywhere,” said Nowlin, who believes the drug makes people more likely to engage in violent acts.

Researchers agree.

Methamphetamine is “a highly addictive, long-lasting chemical substance that affects the central nervous system and creates a feeling of intense euphoria in the user,” according to an article by Elements Behavioral Health.

Meth affects a user’s brain in two ways. It stimulates the limbic system to produce as much as 12 times the normal amount of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that causes pleasure, resulting in that euphoric state. However, at the same time meth destabilizes another part of the brain, the amygdala, reducing a user’s self-control and commonly producing a sense of paranoia, the feeling that “someone is out to get you.”

Statistics and estimates vary, but most are in agreement that nationally more than 1 million people are using meth, and drug treatment programs are seeing increasing numbers seeking to kick their habits.

More to come

The complete role that meth played in Box’s slaying is yet to be established, along with what other motive Folsom might have had for allegedly committing the cold-blooded murder.

A preliminary hearing is set for April 6, during which the prosecution would have to produce sufficient evidence to have the case bound over to district court for trial; but Folsom’s defense has the option of waiving the hearing and going directly to trial.

Either way, time will tell.

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From February 2018.