commentary by Patrick H. Moore
Folks don’t make a great deal of money in Buffalo, Missouri, a town of less than 4,000 people in the Ozark Mountains in the southwestern part of the state. The median income for a household is less than $20,000 and close to 30 per cent of the town’s population lives in poverty. There’s one thing you can count on, though. Except during the periodic droughts, you can count on plenty of home-cooked meth being readily available. These days, Missouri, and particularly the Ozarks, is known as the world’s home-cooked meth capital.
People in the Ozarks once made moonshine whisky, but back in the 1950s, the locals started buying mail-order speed in pill form in large quantities. When the mail-order supply was eventually cut off, ingenious souls learned how to manufacture their own crude amphetamines. This in turn led to making meth which caught on quickly. Before long, the entire Ozark plateau found itself in a methamphetamine choke hold. 40 years later, the situation really hasn’t changed.
Although the meth plague is often associated with the rural folk — the so-called hillbillies — the reality is that meth long ago spread to the small towns and cities and as likely as not there’s somebody cooking meth right on your block — could even be your next door neighbor.
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Amy Lee Hartley is a meth addict. Her home, which is located at 810 Locust Street in the town of Buffalo, has been described as an “uninhabitable” meth lab by the Associated Press. You see Amy — who sustained a brain injury in 2008 stemming from a traffic accident and struggles with short term memory problems — and her boyfriend, 47-year-old career criminal Anthony Balbirnie, have been in the news lately. On September 21, 2012 a 15-year-old girl named Khigla Parks, whom Amy had reportedly befriended at at a party, died of asphyxiation at Amy’s house while being raped by Anthony. Charges were filed against Amy in October of this year.
Khigla had been reported missing on September 20, 2012 after she left her grandparents’ home in Willard, Missouri to go for a walk. She was last seen at a party in Buffalo, which is probably where she met Amy.
According to a local newspaper, the News-Leader, Khigla died at Amy’s house on Locust Street on Sept. 21st within hours of meeting her during “asphyxiation sex” with Balbirnie.
Court documents outline a grim scenario. First Amy invited Khigla to stay at her home/meth lab, and “to engage in sex with multiple partners, some of whom were known by the defendant to engage in asphyxiation sex.” The court documents also state that Hartley, 37, engaged in “deviate sexual intercourse” with the teen. Her actual death, though, is thought to have occurred during asphyxiation sex while she was being raped by Balbirnie.
After Khigla died, the police allege that Amy helped dispose of her body. Balbirne allegedly weighted down the deceased victim and dumped her body in nearby Truman Lake, where, according to Ozarks First, it was found by a boater on Sept. 30, 2012.
Amy was arrested after the charges against her were filed on Oct. 17th, Ozarks First reports. She is charged with second-degree statutory sodomy, tampering with physical evidence and abandonment of a corpse. Amy is also charged with endangering the welfare of a child by allowing Khigla into her home, where methamphetamine was made and used.
The charges against Anthony Balbirnie may stem from information provided to the police by Amy who reportedly told investigators that she saw him wrapping up a girl’s body and placing it in the trunk of his car in the early hours of September 21st. In addition to facing a federal charge of abandoning a corpse, Balbirnie is charged with Khigla’s murder, and faces additional counts of statutory rape and child molestation.
Balbirnie was released from prison on parole in August of 2012 after serving 15 months for possessing marijuana, according to the Missouri Department of Corrections. The 47-year-old has a long history of criminal charges ranging from drug possession to resisting arrest.
* * * * *
Amy Lee Hartley and Anthony Balbirnie are not the world’s nicest people. Neither are the other “persons of interest” who are still being investigated by law enforcement. You put a bunch of meth freaks together in a group and God only knows what will happen. Khighla Parks found out the hard way. One can only surmise what was going through her head during her final moments after she made the foolish decision to accept Amy’s invitation “to party”.
Meanwhile, life goes on as always in the Ozarks and it’s not likely to change any time soon, not as long as people still cook up their homemade meth and smoke it in glass pipes or inject it into their veins.
SFGate reports that one of three suspects charged in the death of 15-year-old Khighla Parks will be sentenced in December for his role in her case.
Dallas County authorities report that 40-year-old Larry Warner of Springfield, who was originally charged with second-degree-murder, pleaded guilty last Friday to endangerment and conspiracy in Khighla Parks’ death in September 2012.
According to KYTV, Warner, who although apparently a person of interest was not technically a suspect when this story broke last fall, has stated that he took Parks and Anthony Balbirnie to the home of Amy Leigh Hartley in Buffalo but later left. Prosecutors allege Balbirnie killed Parks during sex and he and Hartley dumped her body in Truman Lake.
Balbirnie is scheduled for trial in March. Hartley is scheduled for a hearing next week on several charges, including statutory sodomy and abandonment of a corpse.
The fact Any Lee Hartley has a hearing scheduled a few weeks after Warner’s guilty plea leads me to believe that she will also probably enter a guilty plea one or more of the charges against her. And, I also think it’s very likely that she has agreed to testify against Anthony Balbirnie.
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