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Sunday, June 12, 2016

Bath Salts and the Hannibal Lecter Syndrome

     At five in the evening on Saturday, June 2, 2012, 21-year-old Brandon De Leon, accompanied by three other homeless men, walked into a Boston Market fast-food restaurant in North Miami Beach, Florida. High on marijuana, Xanax, and a bath salt called Cloud 9, De Leon had also consumed a bottle of rum and an alcohol and caffeine-laced drink called Four Loko.

     The moment De Leon entered the restaurant, he became belligerent. Cursing loudly, he challenged one of his homeless companions to a fight. As it happened, two uniformed police officers were eating there. As the officers approached the manifestly intoxicated and unruly man, he swore at them. De Leon was asking for trouble, and he got it.

     Although De Leon resisted, the officers hustled him out of the eating place and onto the ground outside. Once handcuffed behind his back, and seated in the patrol car, De Leon began bashing his head against the glass divider between the back seat and the front interior of the police vehicle. As he slammed the glass with his head, De Leon yelled, "I'm going to eat you!"

     At the police station, De Leon continued to behave like an animal intent on eating its prey by baring and gnashing his teeth. Several officers wrestled him to the floor, then carried the squirming, spitting, growling, and snapping maniac to a holding cell where De Leon tried to bite one of his captors in the hand as they put him in leg restraints. Once they had the prisoner physically under control, officers slipped a Hannibal Lecter-type "bite-mask" over his head.

     Following drug testing procedures at Aventura Hospital, police officers transported the chained and masked De Leon to the Miami-Dade County Jail where he was held on $7,500 bond.

     Because of the recent rash of cases involving cannibalistic behavior, Brandon De Leon's Hannibal Lecter act became more than a local crime story. The intense interest in these type cases brought a gruesome homicide, committed in 2009 by a San Antonio woman named Otty Sanchez, back into the news. Sanchez was found not guilty by reason of insanity for killing and eating parts of her 3-week-old baby. The schizophrenic said the devil made her do it.

     In December 2010, Stephen Griffith, a Ph.D. student in England, murdered three women and ate the body parts of two of them. (He killed one of his victims with a crossbow.) In Russia, a chef, in August 2011, lured his victims to his apartment through a gay-dating website, then killed them with a butcher-knife. He made meatballs and sausages from their corpses.

     More recent murders of this nature include Miami's Rudy Eugene who chewed the face off a homeless man, and Alexander Kinyua, the Morgan State University student who allegedly ate a portion of his victim's heart and brain. In Sweden, a professor, in a fit of jealous rage, cut off and ate his wife's lips. He was charged with attempted murder, and was undergoing psychiatric evaluation.

     Perhaps the most disturbing cases involving cannibalistic behavior have unfolded in Japan and Canada, countries we normally don't associate with violent crime. In May 2012, a man named Mao Sugiyama advertised a meal where five diners each paid 100,000 yen to eat, in a banquet setting, Sugiyama's surgically removed genitals. Sugiyama and the five diners who ate his flesh were not charged with a crime. In Japan, consensual cannibalism is not illegal. (I'm not sure if it's a crime here.) The Canadian case involved Luka Magnotta, the porn star snuff-video maker who ate parts of his dismembered victim, then mailed four of Jun Lin's body parts to two addresses in Ottawa and two in Vancouver.

         The use of designer drugs was linked to 31-year-old Rudy Eugene, the Miami causeway flesh-eater, and Brandon De Leon, the homeless man transported to the Miami-Dade County Jail in the Hannibal Lecter mask. In De Leon's case, he was under the influence, among other substances, of the bath salt Cloud 9 (also called Ivory Wave), a synthetic form of cocaine. Legal in the United States, Cloud 9 can be purchased online, in smoke shops, convenience stores, and at gas stations. (It is illegal in the United Kingdom and Australia.) Cloud 9 comes in 500mg packets containing instructions on how to add it to bath water for a soothing and relaxing soak. There is also a warning not to sniff or inject the product. (I once saw a warning on a curling iron that read: "Not for internal use.")

     Cloud 9 users snort, smoke, and eat the bath salt. The drug produces an euphoric ecstasy-like sensation combined with an amphetamine-like high. Cloud 9 has been known to produce violent and bizarre hallucinations, extreme paranoid delusions, acute agitation, and thoughts of suicide. When the drug wears off, users suffer painful hangovers.

     Do Cloud 9 and other designer drugs turn people into Hannibal Lecter types? According to Deborah Schurman-Kauflin in a 2011 Psychology Today article, "Most cannibals are extreme loners. They do not have friends and they are bitter about it. Killing and eating a victim ensures that the offender is never alone." Jack Levin, author and co-director of the Center on Violence and Conflict at Northeastern University in Boston, in discussing America's most infamous cannibal, Jeffrey Dahmer, points out that Dahmer was a loner. Levin theorizes that Dahmer, who killed and ate parts of 17 young men, consumed his victims out of "affection." According to Levin, this was Dahmer's way of physically possessing the objects of his love.

     While cannibalism has been in the news here and around the world, it is still an extremely rare form of deviant behavior. It is tempting to associate the trend in bath salts abuse with the recent rash of cannibalism cases. The De Leon incident provides a good case in point, but in all probability, notwithstanding increased drug abuse, cannibalism, although freakish and newsworthy, will remain a rare form of deviant behavior.   

3 comments:

  1. I probably be once more to read way more, thanks for that info.
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  2. Hi Jim,
    I loved reading this piece! Well written! :)

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  3. So incredibly stupid and inaccurate. "Bath salts" were never found in the Miami cannibal case. These people have clear cut mental illness that perhaps alcohol and drugs can trigger episodes, making them more violent but as a 2 year regular, recreational "bath salt" user (before the ban), I NEVER had the tendency to eat human flesh nor was I having fits of violent/psychotic episodes. I used it very sparingly to give me a boost, too much and I couldn't eat or sleep. Treat it responsibly and you will find it comparable to a "super adderall". I laugh at the articles on the mainstream media, it is so exaggerated and comical. Will you label Jeffrey Dahmer a "bath salt" zombie too? Oh, right, His cannibalism came BEFORE designer drugs were on the market. I'm sure he drank alcohol, picking up his "food" in the bar... Maybe they should ban that too?

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