Two Grisly Child Murders Prompt PCP Crackdown in New Jersey

Authorities are cracking down on the drug that mimics effects of schizophrenia.

ByABC News
September 6, 2012, 10:55 AM

Sept. 7, 2012 — -- Authorities in New Jersey are cracking down on PCP, a hallucinogenic drug that has been involved in two grisly murders of children in less than two weeks in the crime-ridden city of Camden, N.J.

The Camden County Prosecutor's Office and the Camden Police Department say they are "concerned" with the use of the drug in the city and are "taking steps to curb the market for this exceedingly dangerous and destructive drug."

"Violent behavior with PCP, that's nothing new," Police Chief Scott Thomson said. "It's happening on a daily basis in Philadelphia and urban centers all over the country. But what has us concerned is the attacks on small children...Is something being added [to the PCP]?"

They have seized batches of the drug for analysis and are implementing a $500 reward program for anyone who can provide information about the sale of the drug that leads to an arrest.

The crackdown on PCP came after a pair of horrifying murders which police say involved the drug PCP.

Osvaldo Rivera, 31, told police that he smoked "wet," a combination of PCP and pot before he allegedly slit the throats of a 6-year-old boy and his 12-year-old sister in the middle of the night in their Camden, N.J., home on Sept. 2.

Police believe the attack started as a sexual assault on the 12-year-old girl and turned into a murder when the girl's 6-year-old brother tried to intervene. Rivera allegedly killed the young boy and his sister was able to escape and get help with her own throat slashed. After fighting for her life, she is now in stable condition in the hospital.

Rivera has been charged with murder and attempted murder. He sobbed throughout his first court appearance on Tuesday and prosecutors said he asked investigators during an interview, "How bad did I hurt them?"

On Aug. 22, authorities believe Chevonne Thomas was smoking wet before beheading her 2-year-old son Zahree in Camden.

Thomas had a history of substance abuse and mental health disorders, according to the Department of Children and Families.

She admitted that she killed her son to a 911 dispatcher moments before she stabbed herself to death.

Authorities are blaming PCP for the attacks.

"You've got paranoia, anxiety, delusional behavior, hallucinations and then you add to that a disconnect between the mind and body so the person doesn't feel pain and can behave as if they have superhuman strength," Jason Laughlin, spokesman for the Camden County Prosecutor's Office, told "The consequences can be dire."

"It's a really dangerous combination and these two cases in particular brought it to the forefront," he said.

PCP is a synthetic drug that was developed in the 1950's as an IV anesthetic. It was never approved for human use because of "problems during clinical studies, including intensely negative psychological effects," according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

It made a comeback as an illicit recreational drug in the 1970s and 1980s when it was often known as "angel dust," but quickly fell out of favor due to its extremely adverse effects.

"PCP is a drug that has gone in and out of popularity over the years," Paul Doering, professor emeritus at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy, told "It's a drug that is not considered to be terribly kind. In fact, it induces a state of mind that is not distinguishable for a psychotic episode."

"It's not your father's regular joint that would be rolled up in the college dorm 30 years ago," he said. "This is really, really, really dangerous stuff to do."