Letters From Prison: Part 14, 2018
Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018
I should explain my reactions on being arrested. I was raised to believe the police were my friends. My father, a TV news reporter, had many friends on the Roanoke force, and one of my cousins was a police chief. So I’d been around policemen all my life and was comfortable with them. So when the Radford police arrested me I talked to them honestly and figured they’d quickly realize they had it all wrong and drop the charges. Wrong!
When I first got to know Marion in early 2002, she was very open with me that she was a druggie. Said she’d been a “pill freak” since the age of 13. Called herself a “walking PDR” (PDR is the Physician’s Desk Reference, a big book that includes information on all prescription drugs, what they are used for, and pictures of all pills, capsules, etc.). Marion could identify almost all pills and capsules on sight. She was also a pot smoker, on pretty much a daily basis. I wasn’t concerned about the marijuana, because I knew it wouldn’t hurt her, but did have some concerns about the pills. Back in the late 60s I’d known Dr. Humphrey Osmond, a researcher at NIMH in Bethesda. He had a project in which he gave people money to buy street drugs and bring them to him. Then his lab would analyze them to see if they were really what they were sold as, and if not, what was really in them. Not surprisingly, many were not what the sellers claimed they were, and some contained pretty nasty stuff, like belladonna, formaldehyde, etc. According to studies I’ve read, the situation is even worse today. A fairly high percentage of “X” sold today is something other than MDMA, the real substance that’s called “Ecstasy.”. MDMA is a so-called “super amphetamine,” and even the real stuff can be dangerous because it spikes body temperature and blood pressure.
Anyway, the question was asked, “did you ever give Marion drugs?”. The honest answer was yes. Marion was taking Valium, and so was I. We both had prescriptions from our doctors, hers in North Carolina, mine in Virginia. Did I have any proof that she had a prescription? All I know is that she would periodically go home to North Carolina and come back with a big prescription bottle full and the label had her name on it. Anyway, she ran out one time and couldn’t go home to get a refill right away so I gave her some of mine to fill the gap. You might think “No big deal!”. But you’d be wrong. I got a one year sentence for that. Did I ever give Marion any other prescription or illegal drugs? Emphatically no! And I’ve offered to take a polygraph exam on that (or any other questions), but the prosecution turned down my offer. Polygraph results are not admissible in court in Virginia, anyway, but it would have been nice to demonstrate that I’ve told the truth from day one.
What about the marijuana? I never bought any for her, but I did pay her for modeling and studio assisting, and I’m sure she spent some of her money on marijuana and pills. Her supplier, a college student named Rob, came to my trial and testified that he’d supplied her with pot, pills, and cocaine. But he said he was not a drug dealer, just a guy who got drugs for her (!). In spite of this admission made under oath in court, he was never charged with anything!
When they searched my studio the police found in Marion’s purse her pipe and the plastic box she carried her stash in, and ignored them. The detective said that they weren’t interested. After my 1969 experience in Richmond, that really surprised me. What a turnaround in those years!
Shortly before her death, Marion had gone to Florida to spend a week with friends near Orlando, had gone to some sort of concert/party/rave and came back with some pills sold to her as X. She’d taken some at the party and said she thought it wasn’t really X. I told her to throw them away, and thought she had. I’ll talk more about those suspect pills another time.
(How many of you know that, at least in Virginia, if you pick up someone else’s prescription medications from a pharmacy, you are violating the law? I was in court for a hearing one time. The person ahead of me was a frightened young woman who had been caught with her grandfather’s pills during a traffic stop. She was facing six years in prison! I don’t know how her case turned out because the judge didn’t drop the charges at the hearing, and sent her off to jail. That’s insane!)
Since Richard Nixon pushed the “War on Drugs” all his successors have followed suit, persecuting drug users but little else. Sure, they make a big splash now and then arresting people like Pablo Escobar and “El Chapo,” but that barely dents the river flowing across our borders. The government should have learned with the Volstead Act and the “Hooch War” of the 1920s that prohibition does not work. As long as there is a demand, someone will fill it.
As far as Marion’s drug use, I figured that she would outgrow it, as I had. By the late 1970s I had completely given up on drugs and considered them time wasters. I was just too busy. I even gave up alcohol, except to nurse a single Campari and soda all evening when appearances demanded.
Marion and I went to several parties when she accompanied me to Las Vegas for a photo industry trade show in 2003. She loved it, all the glitz and glitter. At a party at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant, she was delighted to meet a very drunk Val Kilmer, who was a Nikon spokesman at the time. There’s a picture of us taken by Vladimir Samarin, Editor of Photomagazin in Moscow, at another party on that trip on the opening page of bobshelltruth. com……
About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. Mr. Shell is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonywarderotica.com/bob-shell-letters-from-prison-13/