Before Terrie Clark died last July of a bacterial infection caused by a methamphetamine injection, she didn't blame drugs for her impending death.
Authorities say she blamed her sister for injecting the drugs into her. And since then, they've been piecing together their case against Traci Gerard-Stewart.
Gerard-Stewart was arrested April 9 on warrants issued by the Gila County Attorney's Office for manslaughter, possession of dangerous drugs, burglary, theft, trafficking in stolen property and criminal damage.
When contacted by the Roundup, Gerard-Stewart declined to comment on the arrest.
"We've been working this case ever since the death of (Clark)," Lt. Adam Shepherd said. "It just took this long to get everything together and to get all of the people interviewed. It was a pretty lengthy investigation. There are a lot of reports connected with this case."
A witness contacted deputies July 20, 2001, alleging that Gerard-Stewart injected meth into her 41-year-old sister, also a Payson resident.
According to Shepherd, the witness said, "Traci had shot (her sister) up in the left arm and did not check to see if the needle was in the vein.
"The witness knew the vein had been missed because a knot started to form. (Clark developed a progressive infection) got worse, but she did not go to the emergency room right away ... Finally, she was hospitalized in Payson, but was later transported to Phoenix, where she died as a result of the bacterial infection."
The dangerous drugs charge, Shepherd said, stems from the methamphetamine injection she allegedly gave her sister.
The burglary and stolen property charges involve Gerard-Stewart's suspected involvement in the Nov. 30, 2001 break-in of a Star Valley residence, from which about $4,400 worth of property including televisions, stereos, computer equipment and food was taken and then fenced. A window in the residence was broken, resulting in the criminal damage charge, Shepherd said.
The theft charge refers to an incident which took place on or about April 16, 2001. Shepherd could not provide further details by press time.
Two warrants were obtained from the county attorney's office at 3 p.m., April 9. About 30 minutes later, detectives found Gerard-Stewart in a residence on Dealer's Choice Road east of Payson. She was arrested without incident, Shepherd said.
The following day, she was released from custody after posting a $35,000 bond.
According to Det. Brian Havey, Gerard-Stewart has "a history of meth problems." The sheriff's department, he said, has been working on the case since Clark's death. "That's what we built our case on ... We had a dying declaration from the sister, which changes everything. But we had to wait until we got all of our results back."
Clark's death, Havey said, was not necessarily the result of the tainted methamphetamine which Gila Country Drug Task Force officers have identified in the Rim country.
"What we've been told is that when methamphetamine is injected, misses the vein and goes into the muscle, it causes a gaseous-gangrene infection," Havey said. "There's no such thing as pharmaceutical-grade methamphetamine. It's all kitchen- or clandestine lab-manufactured. There are no controls over the cleanliness of it."
Gerard-Stewart is scheduled for a case management conference May 7 in Gila County Superior Court.