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Quick shop killing: neighborhood tragedy prompts discussion on meth, violent-crime connection

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The Loaf 'N Jug in Rapid City is near a school and park.

The Loaf ’N Jug.

It’s just out the side door of Wilson Elementary School near the heart of Rapid City, a little quick shop good for a tank of gas, a six-pack of beer or a treat or two.

It’s a place that on winter days draws neighborhood children — including our grandkids and their buds — to take breaks from skating at the ice rink in adjoining Wilson Park and scurry next door for a quick-shop hot chocolate.

On hot summer days, kids stroll over from the park’s tennis courts or the school playground, looking for a bottle of pop or a drink of water, for free, in little paper cups offered by the clerks.

Clerks like Kasie Lord.

They help make it more than a little roadside business. It’s a familiar, friendly part of the neighborhood along Mount Rushmore Road.

Or at least, it was.

But now it’s also the place where Lord died in the early morning hours of Jan. 18th, brutally stabbed to death, police say, in a beer theft gone horribly wrong.

“In 22 years in this business, I’ve seen a lot of tragic deaths,” said Rapid City Police Chief Karl Jegeris. “And I’ve never seen somebody stabbed more than 30 times. That’s a vile, savage act.”

Likely influenced, directly or indirectly, Jegeris believes, by methamphetamine, a drug that is devastating lives and posing an increasing threat to Rapid City and other communities across South Dakota.

Now 17-year-old Carlos Quevedo stands charged as an adult with first- and second-degree murder and first-degree robbery, while 19-year-old Cody Grady has been charged with first-degree murder and second-degree robbery.

And while the legal process moves forward, the family of 45-year-old Kasie Lord, a pharmacy technician who also worked part-time as a Loaf ’N Jug clerk, lives with the pain of their loss.

Just two days after the killing, grieving members of Lord’s family came in to thank police for their support and work on the case.

“And they talked about Kasie with us, and what a quality, bubbly person she was,” Jegeris said. 
“She was a mother and a grandmother, very well loved and missed. I could see her personality through her family members. It’s a terrible loss.”

Two weeks after the killing, the loss is palpable in the quick shop, and condolences still come from customers to clerks who nod and smile and offer thanks. Shop employees say they’ve been comforted by the community and were inspired as they watched a container on the counter collect more than $800 in donations in just a few days after the attack.

The container is gone now, and clerks direct financial gifts to a GoFundMe page set up to help Lord’s children and grandchildren. The page includes tributes to the mother of four and grandmother of four more, who was known for her bright attitude, love of family and strong work ethic.

“Everyone who knows Kasie knew how hard working and beautiful she was, inside and out,” says an essay on the GoFundMe page. "She never walked into a room and didn’t have everyone smiling and laughing. If you know Kasie from a hello or a friendship, you knew she was a gif from God on this earth …”

It’s a gift now gone from the lives of her family and friends, and from the employees and customers at the little convenience store, where life grinds on.

Jegeris argues that the stabbing was a terrible and unsettling sign of an elevation in violent crime in the community that he believes is directly connected to meth.  Jegeris said Quevedo came from a home where meth was used, with a mother who was arrested for it.

It’s unclear exactly how that all played into a 17-year-old’s deranged attack on Lord when she tried to stop the beer heist. A human life for a six-pack of beer? Insane. But what causes the insanity?

Jegeris says meth use and widespread impacts are an increasingly common and dangerous phenomenon that tears families apart and dehumanizes people.

Including Carlos Quevedo? Maybe.

Some argue against the idea, saying there’s no clear evidence that Quevedo was on meth at the time of the attack or even was a regular meth user. And they point out that people can do crazy things while they’re drunk, which is true enough.

Jegeris believes there are new levels of crazy because of meth.

“We have experienced a normalization of meth and meth use in the city and in South Dakota,” Jegeris said.

It’s  a problem across the nation that hits home here. Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo won’t talk about the homicide cases tied to the stabbing. But he does believe meth magnifies violence in a community in ways that aren’t limited to direct use.

Vargo says he saw upticks in violence tied to meth in Miami when he worked there as an assistant state’s attorney before coming to Rapid City. Here he was a long-time assistant U.S. attorney before being elected state’s attorney. And he has seen the mark of meth in Pennington County.

“It is almost impossible to ignore, when you see a wave of violence. Whether they cause one another or are both related to the same root cause,” Vargo said. “But I do think violence begets violence and I think meth is a leading indicator of violence.”

 Jegeris says there’s an additional factor in the meth challenge in South Dakota.

“This is partially connected to the reform effort in South Dakota the last few years,” he said.

Among the goals of the adult corrections reform by Gov. Dennis Daugaard and the South Dakota Legislature was to provide more alternatives to sending non-violent offenders to prison and increase treatment options for offenders struggling with substance abuse. The main legislation was SB 70, which was shaped through a series of study sessions by a task force formed by the executive, judicial and legislative branches.

Jegeris liked a lot of the goals of the task force and the legislation, but not all of the effects.

“We have allowed the condition with meth to fester,” he said. “And it doesn’t just affect us. Last year Sioux Falls had a record year for meth (cases).”

He was among law-enforcement leaders who expressed those concerns to Daugaard in a meeting in Pierre. And he believes Daugaard listened.

Jegeris is encouraged by the recent move by the governor and Attorney General Marty Jackley to form a new drug-interdiction task force, with four new state Highway Patrol officers joined by designated DCI agents.

“The governor called meth an epidemic in South Dakota,” Jegeris said. “We have the full attention of leadership in the state.”

They have the attention of a 34-year-old Sioux Falls man named Chris, too. He knows about meth because he started using it when he was 12 years old.

“It can make you feel like the energizer bunny,” he said. “It can make you feel like everything is fresh and new and full of excitement. You can turn a day into days.”

But there’s a big “but” in that meth-induced flurry.

“There’s a huge crash to it,” Chris said. “Eventually you stop having fun and become addicted to it. And you’ll do anything in your power to get it. People give away everything in their lives including their bodies and do anything they can to feed that monster.”

After jail, a boot camp and prison time, Chris has earned an education and found ways to fight his addiction through state corrections programs and a support group through his church. And he’s learned to stop feeding the meth monster.

Now vice president for operations of a small business in Sioux Falls, he appeared on an anti-meth video with several other former addicts last year. And he was mentioned in a recent column by Daugaard promoting the latest state anti-meth initiative.

Chris said he tells his story to help his own continued recovery and in hopes of sparing others the meth misery he has known. He is encouraged by the renewed emphasis on fighting meth at the state level.

“It’s huge, huge,” he said. “I think it’s the greatest thing they’ve done in a long time.”

For Jegeris, it’s part of reshaping the effects of SB 70 and criminal-justice reform to make sure there’s still a hard edge of enforcement on meth to go along with alternatives for those willing to take them.

“Most of the elements of SB 70 were helpful and effective in reducing incarceration for non-violent offenders,” he said. “But that one major gap was a soft approach with meth users.”

While law enforcement will step up work on meth, Daugaard continues working to find alternatives to prison time for those who earn the privilege. That includes expanding a probation program called HOPE 24/7 to all counties in the state from the current 10. Like the 24/7 program for alcohol abusers, HOPE 24/7 provides intensive probation and treatment with required drug testing.

Also, offenders who complete court-ordered treatment within a year would have one chance to reduce a felony drug possession or use charge to a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Jegeris called the governor’s “treatment carrot” extremely promising.

“And we need to expedite this and make it happen as soon as possible,” he said.  “I think we’re on the right road.”

There’s another road, though. It’s the painful process of recovery for the family of Kasie Lord. They must move on without their beloved mother, grandmother, aunt, sister and friend, but they also pledge to keep her memory alive and fight to prevent others from losing a loved one in such a horrid way.

“As our hearts are heavy and it seems like our world is falling apart, we know Kasie would want her name to live on and make a change so this doesn’t happen to anyone else’s family,” they say on the GoFundMe page.

One change has already taken place. Signs on front doors at the Loaf ’N Jug announce new hours for the store: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. That ends the overnight work period during which Lord was attacked.

Otherwise, much is the same, on the surface. The crime-scene tape is gone and the little convenience store in the Wilson Park neighborhood is back in business. Those who never knew it before, or didn’t learn of the stabbing, wouldn’t know the difference.

But for those of us who did, just passing by or stopping for a tank of gas or a treat, the little quick shop, and the place it holds in our neighborhood’s heart, will never be quite the same.