Man's hunted-for-sport story may have been cocaine delusion

Cocaine comes from South America by way of independent businessmen with large-caliber pistols tucked in behind their spines. They dole it out in portions known as eight-balls, which means one-eighth of an ounce, about the weight of four full-grown cockroaches. Smoking crack is a bad idea, and smoking an entire eight-ball in one sitting is a very bad one. You could die, for one, and you are likely to hallucinate.

You may see bright lights when it is dark, or feel bugs on your skin right after a shower, or you may cause a major investigation and a small media circus by telling the authorities you have been hunted for sport by drug dealers firing arrows.

This really happened.

On June 17, 2007, a 38-year-old construction laborer named James Edward Duffy lurched out of the woods in Hudson, covered with scratches and crying for help.

He said a group of drug dealers kidnapped him, drove him to the edge of the woods and told him to run or die. He told of booby traps, of archers in tree stands, of close brushes with alligators, of getting so thirsty that he chewed on bark. He said he survived in the woods a day and a night despite being fired upon with nearly 100 arrows.

The Pasco County Sheriff's Office took his complaint very seriously. They dispatched helicopters and crime-scene technicians. Detective Richard Harrison searched the woods three times for evidence.

He kept the case open for more than a year, just in case something turned up. He filed 17 pages of supplemental reports. He went back and interviewed Duffy and a female friend, both of whom said Duffy had smoked about an eight-ball of cocaine shortly before going into the woods. Harrison decided this might affect Duffy's credibility.

Finally, on July 16, 2008, Harrison closed the case. He had found nothing to corroborate Duffy's story. Nevertheless, sheriff's spokesman Doug Tobin said it was unlikely the agency would charge Duffy with filing a false police report because such a charge would be hard to prove.

Duffy has cleaned up and gone back to work, his brother Jason said in an e-mail Monday.

"Even to this day," Jason Duffy wrote, "he stands by that story 100 percent. Like I said before, whether or not it really happened, he believes it."

Cocaine delusions often take the form of grandeur and persecution. Even so, could Duffy really have cooked up such a vivid scenario from nothing?

Maybe he had some help.

On May 2, 2007, six weeks before Duffy told his story, CBS broadcast an episode of a drama called Criminal Minds.

Hunters are seen in the woods.

They carry bows and arrows.

Through the trees, just ahead of them, a man is running for his life.

Thomas Lake can be reached at tlake@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3416.

Man's hunted-for-sport story may have been cocaine delusion 09/09/08 [Last modified: Friday, September 12, 2008 5:58pm]

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