The Choking Game: Despair, Demise, and Dismay


Garrett Pope, Jr. was a typical kid who loved doing typical kid things—riding his bike and going fishing. He also enjoyed playing games, such as football and lacrosse.

Garrett, an eleven-year-old, was found dead in his room around 4 p.m. last Wednesday. He died due to accidental asphyxiation while playing another game that far too many young people play, the choking game.

A CDC report titled Unintentional Strangulation Deaths from the “Choking Game” Among Youths Aged 6–19 Years — United States, 1995–2007, stated:

“The ‘choking game’ is defined as self-strangulation or strangulation by another person with the hands or a noose to achieve a brief euphoric state caused by cerebral hypoxia. Participants in this activity typically are youths. Serious neurologic injury or death can result if strangulation is prolonged. In recent years, news media reports have described numerous deaths among youths attributed to the choking game. Because no traditional public health dataset collects mortality data on this practice, CDC used news media reports to estimate the incidence of deaths from the choking game. This report describes the results of that analysis, which identified 82 probable choking-game deaths among youths aged 6-19 years, during 1995-2007. Seventy-one (86.6%) of the decedents were male, and the mean age was 13.3 years. Parents, educators, and health-care providers should become familiar with warning signs that youths are playing the choking game .”

As a police detective, I had the unpleasant task of investigating the untimely deaths of many people, children included. One such case involved a young boy who’d slipped out of his home to visit an abandoned factory, the location he’d chosen to play “the game.”

Here, in a mere forty-five words, is what I discovered when I arrived at the scene.

New Picture

Massive, abandoned.
Machinery, steel dinosaurs.
Tangled debris.


New Picture (1)

Shadows, graffiti.
Glass, jagged shards.
Footsteps echo.


New Picture (2)

Leather, squeaking.
Keys rattle, jingle.
Nervous, anxious.


New Picture (4)

Hanging, swinging.
Rope, rafter, neck.
Boy, dead.


New Picture (7)

One on.
Other on floor.

The choking game.


* Please, talk to your children. Explain the dangers of this “game,” and be alert to warning signs that your kids may be experimenting or “playing.”

The CDC’s study indicated that “few of the parents of children who died had been familiar with the choking game. Parents, educators, and health-care providers should learn about the choking game and be able to recognize any of the following warning signs in youths: mention of the choking game (or the game by its other names); bloodshot eyes; marks on the neck; frequent, severe headaches; disorientation after spending time alone; and ropes, scarves, and belts tied to bedroom furniture or doorknobs or found knotted on the floor. Medical examiners and coroners should be aware of the choking game as a possible explanation for deaths from self-inflicted strangulation in this age group that otherwise might be miscategorized as suicides. In addition, better mortality surveillance is needed, and more research should be conducted (e.g., questions on youth-behavior surveys regarding awareness of and involvement in the choking game) to determine prevalence, risk factors, and protective factors that will lead to effective interventions aimed at reducing or eliminating choking-game participation and deaths.”

* Factory photos by Sunday K. Kaminski

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Crimes Against Children: The Horrible Truth

Kids. So innocent. So loving. And so…well, I believe the Oak Ridge Boys say it best with these few simple words:

When you look down in those trusting eyes

That look to you, you realize

There’s a love that you can’t buy

Thank God for kids…

The ugly truth of the matter is that every day children all over the world are abducted, abused, battered, beaten, raped, and killed. Unfortunately, the dishonor and shame associated with abuse at the hand of a loved one is often so great that victims have a tendency to not report the crimes. As a result, many, if not most, crimes against children remain hidden from public view, and from the eyes of law enforcement officials (only 12% of child abuse cases are reported).

Here’s an indication of just how bad the problem really is. Hold on, because it isn’t pretty.

– Children (under the age of 18) account for 67% of all sexual assault victimizations reported to law enforcement. Remember, many, if not most, cases aren’t reported. 34% of those cases involve children under the age of 12. Children under 6 years account for 14% of all reported cases.

– A little over half of ALL children (530 per 1,000) have experienced a physical assault. Of those children, the highest number of assaults occurred on children between 6 and 12 years of age. 323 per 1,000 are sexually assaulted, and 22 per 1,000 are victims of complete rape.

– 1 in 4 girls is sexually abused before the age of 18.

– 1 in 6 boys is sexually abused before the age of 16.

– The most common age when sexual abuse occurs is between 8 and 12.

– More than 90% of all sexual abuse victims know their attacker. Nearly 50% of the perpetrators live within the same household.

– The U.S. has the highest number of rapes in the world (among the countries that report statistics).

– 74% of all abducted children are murdered within three hours of the kidnapping.

– The average child molester will molest 50 girls before being caught.

– Molesters who target boys will molest 150 victims before being caught. Additionally, he will commit at least 280 sexual crimes during his lifetime.

– Most sexual abuse occurs between the age of 7 and 13.

– Most offenders who assault children are white.

– 2/3 of all offenders who assault children were or had been married, and were more likely to have been victims of child abuse.

So there you have it, the ugly truth that no one wants to talk about.

Why don’t you take a moment to do something nice for your kids today, starting with a hug.



Sources – FBI, Crimes Against Children Research Center, and The National Sheriff’s Association (Master Deputy Mike Robertson: Crimes Against Children).

* As always, I thank the Oak Ridge Boys for all they do.

*I’ll be traveling for the next several days, therefore my responses to messages may be delayed. Actually, the entire Writers’ Police Academy staff is on the road at the moment. We’re on separate missions in different locations throughout the country, but we’ll soon be back at our desks working on last minute details for what is going to be the the most exciting weekend of your life (unless you’re an astronaut or one of the Flying Wallendas).

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Children Who Live In Meth Homes: The Dangers and Long-Term Effects

The dangers for children living in a home where methamphetamine is manufactured are many, and they’re not all related to the finished product. Sure, small children could easily ingest the stuff, and you’ve all heard about the danger of fire and explosion. But have you considered…

1. Methamphetamine is made from a concoction of chemicals and other material that makes you scratch your head wondering why a person would want to put this stuff into their bodies. For example—muriatic acid (the stuff used to clean pool walls and freshly laid brick walls), ammonia, methanol, ether, benzene, methylene chloride, trichloroethane, toluene, anhydrous ammonia, red phosphorous, and iodine.

So, not only are the kids who live in these environments exposed to the immediate effects of harsh and toxic chemicals, they also must endure long-lasting and lingering effects because things like carpeting and draperies absorb vaporized chemicals. And let’s not forget other items that may absorb the fumes. You know, like baby bottles and nipples, and clothing. The list is long.

2. People who make meth are often users as well. Therefore, children in the home almost certainly ingest second-hand smoke. Not to mention the accidental needle-sticks from contacting improperly stored syringes (lying about in ash trays, on table tops, etc.).

3. Children living in “meth homes” are normally at a severe risk of abuse and neglect due to parents who use the drug, a drug that often makes its users extremely violent—irritable and careless at the lower end of the spectrum. Parents (users) often fall asleep for many hours or days after binging on meth, leaving small children to care for themselves. In fact, it’s often that a small child ends up caring for the addict/parent.

4. At some in-home meth labs, the “cook” often dumps the toxic byproducts into the plumbing drains, contaminating the entire waste system, including sinks and toilets. Therefore, children are in constant contact with not only the active chemicals, they are also exposed to the byproducts, which are just as deadly.

5. Meth chemicals are often stored in 2 liter soft drink bottles, which small kids easily mistake for the product they associate with those type bottles—colas, etc.

6. Meth homes/labs are notoriously filthy—hundreds, if not thousands, of roaches, flies, and fleas, dirty clothes everywhere, dirty dishes, used condoms, used needles, cigarette butts, half-eaten plates of food, spills, grime, razor blades lying about, pet urine and feces throughout, well, you get the picture. Unsanitary and unsafe to say the least.

7. Small children have often been found with meth powder on their clothing and bare feet.

8. The risk of fire and explosion is great. In fact, a substantial number (15% or so) of meth labs are discovered due to fire and/or explosion. The stuff used to make methamphetamine is highly volatile and can be set off simply by accidentally mixing incompatible chemicals. Of course, manufacturing explosive/flammable material in a mobile home where the chemicals are stored next to stoves, ovens, and heat sources is never a good idea.

Meth and pipe (DEA photo – thanks again to my friends at the Drug Enforcement Agency for the use of their photos in my book)

Other than the obvious physical health issues, children in meth homes are also prone to:

a) attachment disorders when parents fail to care for their most basic needs.

b) extremely low self-esteem

c) feelings of shame

d) substandard social skills

The consequences of living in a meth home are not limited to short term effects. Some deep-rooted and lasting effects after exposure to their parents behavior places the child at a greater risk of they too becoming involved in criminal activity, drug use and addiction, and violence.

It is important to note that normal cleaning (scrubbing, dusting, and mopping WILL NOT remove all of the chemical residue from surfaces in meth labs/homes. Residues have been found even on eating utensils and dishes after what was thought to be a thorough cleaning.

Exposure to methamphetamine can result in:

– brain damage

– kidney failure

– liver and spleen damage

– birth defects


Street Names for Meth – Speed, Meth, Ice, Crystal, Chalk, Crank, Tweak, Uppers, Black Beauties, Glass, Bikers Coffee, Quick, Poor Man’s Cocaine, Hillbilly Crack, Crystal Meth, Stove Top, Trash, Go-Fast.

Methamphetamine, although highly addictive and dangerous, is a schedule II drug, meaning there is a medicinal use for the drug. Interestingly, is it classed lower than marijuana.

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