It took just 25 minutes for a Volusia County jury to pronounce Kenneth Jenkins Jr. guilty.
They’d watched the surveillance tape that showed Jenkins and two accomplices storm Ormond Pharmacy and use guns and duct tape to subdue the pharmacist and pharmacy technician working inside. They’d heard the audio from that tape: “Roxies — where are the roxies? Don’t get hurt for the roxies!” They’d seen thousands of pills the prosecution offered as evidence. Their decision didn’t take long.
Jenkins, a Bunnell resident, was found guilty as charged for robbery with a firearm, kidnapping, trafficking in illegal drugs at an amount of 28 grams to 30 kiligrams, all first-degree felonies. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison following a two-day trial.
He and two other Flagler County residents entered the Volusia County pharmacy wearing hoodies and gloves just before noon Sept. 6, 2011. Though the court didn’t determine whether Jenkins wielded a gun, it was clear the other two did.
The men forced Magdy Fam, the owner of the pharmacy, and Amanda Campell, the pharmacy technician working at the time, to the floor. After getting Campell to open the safe that contained narcotic drugs, including prescription pain killers, they forced her to pack its contents into a bag, holding a gun to her head all the while.
“You are out of the world at this time,” Campbell said during her testimony. “You do not know what’s going on. You can’t focus on anything.”
The men bound both Campell and Fam with duct tape and left, also taking with them the store’s video surveillance system, cash from the store’s register and Campbell’s purse. As they left, one of the men spoke to Campbell for the last time.
We took your purse, he said. We have your I.D. If you talk to the police, we’ll kill you.
The men left the store and drove north, thinking they’d escaped the scene undetected. But the owner of a neighboring business had seen the men enter the pharmacy and called the police. The car was being pursued less than half an hour later. The men were eventually caught trying to flee into the woods near Zoeller Court in Palm Coast.
It was a wild night. But it was just one incident in a broader problem.
“We’ve got an epidemic of prescriptive drug use on our hands,” said Jim Griffis, executive director of the Vince Carter Sanctuary, an adult drug treatment, alcohol rehab, detox and dual diagnosis center in Bunnell. “But it’s snuck up on us in the last three to five years.”
The Center for Disease Control reports a 300% increase in the sale of prescription painkillers, such as oxycodone and morphine, since 1999. The number of emergency room visits for reasons related to misuse of such drugs has nearly doubled in the last five years, the center said.
Griffis said that of the people his clinic treats, 50-60% of them have abused painkillers. And though some people become addicted to the drugs by taking them for legitimate pain issues, Griffis estimates up to three-quarters of them take the drugs recreationally.
The drugs, also known as opiates, are central nervous system depressants — and that’s their appeal to those who take them illegally.
“People who love that downer feeling are drawn to it,” Griffis said. “But it’s addictive and you build up a tolerance for it, just as you do with alcohol. That’s why alcohol and opiates are the most danger detox processes we offer.”
The Vince Carter Sanctuary operates on a medical detox program under the supervision of a board certified addictionologist. Its inpatient program works by putting a patient on detox medicine and gradually weaning them off drugs.
They’re seen by the facility’s doctor every day, because opiate withdrawals can cause seizures and life-threatening diseases.
The facility also offers intensive outpatient support and support groups.
“The ongoing support is important,” Griffis said. “Addiction is the only disease that tells you, 'You don’t have it anymore.' It tells you, ‘Sure, you can have another drink or just one oxycodone.’”
Griffis has worked in treatment more than 30 years, but he has a vision for preventative measures that would stop the problem before detox was needed.
Most psychotropic drugs — that is, mood-altering drugs like painkillers or antidepressants — are prescribed by family practitioners, Griffis said.
But sometimes, these prescriptions can be made in haste, before alternative methods of relieving pain are tried.
“For those with a genetic predisposition to addiction, trying these drugs can be like flipping a switch,” Griffis said. “It becomes bigger than a physical addiction; it becomes mental, emotional and spiritual. Anyone can be addicted to drugs, but to be a drug addict is an entirely different thing.”
Griffis said the popularity of oxycodone outside the medical community stemmed from people contacting the drugs through prescriptions. Griffis hopes for increased education, especially among medical professionals, about the dangers of prescribing an addictive drug.
“It’s becoming a drug of choice,” Griffis said. “Unlike meth, which is just made in a lab in someone’s basement, people know these are highly purified and, in a sense, safer.”
More than 2 million people reported using prescription painkillers for the first time in 2010, the CDC said. That’s 5,500 people trying the drugs for recreational purposes each day.
And prescription painkillers have a strong market value on the street, said Ormond Beach detective Donnie Brock during testimony at the Jenkins trial.
Prosecution argued that Jenkins and his accomplices were planning to rob the pharmacy, in part, to sell the drugs.
As the prosecution showed the jury bottle after bottle of drugs, most of them containing at least 100 pills, it was clear: This could amount to a small fortune.
Jenkins first asserted that he didn’t take part in the robbery, that his friends had picked him up following the crime without his knowledge of how that happened.
When Brock pointed out that the window of time between the robbery and when police made contact with the men was too small for this to be true, Jenkins conceded that he was present at the robbery, but did not go in when the other men robbed it.
When security footage revealed that wasn’t true, Jenkins said he was forced by the other men to commit the crime.
Brock said these changes in story were typical.
“People who are addicted to drugs don’t want to be incarcerated, because if they are, they can’t get drugs,” he said. “Once they’re in, they will give their souls to get out.”
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