Jeb Bladine: Joining us? Please leave meth behind
Editor's note: Information received subsequent to publication of this column reveals that the woman mentioned has no relationship to the alleged bank robber, and that she personifies the column comment that methamphetamine is a drug that "gives grief to its users."
It’s a familiar story: Someone visits the McMinnville area, experiences the general livability and welcoming lifestyle, and decides to make a home here in the beautiful Yamhill Valley. And Oregon, after reigning as the “top moving destination” for three years in the annual United Van Lines study, was nudged down to No. 3 last year by South Dakota and Vermont.
Not all of that in-migration is the stuff of storybook Oregon, however. Consider, for example, the alleged bank robber whose mug and arrest story are all over the news this week.
U.S. marshals nabbed Billy Dean Hays in Astoria Tuesday, calling him a “person of interest” in five area financial institution robberies over the past month. The story notes his previous convictions involving firearms and drugs, and multiple outstanding felony warrants.
Hays, then 39, first appeared in our local public record in September 2003 as a Washington state fugitive booked into the county jail. His local residency, however, was cut short. Within three months, Hays was arrested and sentenced to a year in prison for possession ephedrine, a “precursor substance” that is used in the manufacture of methamphetamine.
Yes, methamphetamine – the drug that keeps on giving to any community where it is used. The drug gives grief to its users and grief to the inevitable victims of their crimes – crimes ranging from stealing to finance drug habits to brutal assaults spawned by drug-induced craziness.
After that initial visit to McMinnville, Portland must have seemed more hospitable to Hays. He didn’t return to our newspaper pages until his August 2008 arrest for possession of meth, followed quickly by a warrant for failure to appear, a jailing for first-degree failure to appear, and in June 2009, at age 44, a lengthy prison term.
Judge John Collins sentenced Hays to 80 months in prison and three years of post-prison conviction. At full term, that sentence would have kept Hays out of our community until February 2016, allowing plenty of potential time for him to think about bank robberies to finance his lifestyle.
It’s interesting to note that since 2013, another meth-related criminal named Hays has graced our public record every few months, with charges of burglary, harassment, probation violations, criminal mischief, false information to police and possession of meth. Most recently, in August, she drew an 18-month prison sentence.
We want to be the welcoming Yamhill Valley, but perhaps we should become less welcoming to new residents caught in the throes of the methamphetamine trade.
Jeb Bladine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-687-1223.