Many questions that surround the demise of James Strobel, but one thing is clear — his death came as a result of a descent into drug addiction.
Strobel’s death by apparent hanging was first ruled a suicide by Cadillac Police. They later reopened the case in an effort to determine if he had been murdered.
Strobel disappeared July 6, 2013 and his body was found two months later in woods outside of town.
Police won’t comment on details in the case and no charges have been filed. They have said witnesses involved lack credibility and that evidence points to suicide.
Strobel’s mother, Michelle Strobel, does not believe her 30-year-old son, who she called Jimi, killed himself.
She believes he was murdered by fellow drug addicts.
PARANOIA AND HALLUCINATIONS
Things were bad in the Cadillac drug scene before bath salts arrived, but after the synthetic amphetamine became a convenient alternative to methamphetamine, things got crazy.
The drug can be taken orally, smoked, or put into a solution and injected into veins.
Tasha Faber, a friend of Strobel’s and a self-described former drug user, said bath salts came to dominate the drug scene in 2013, bringing along with it paranoia and hallucinations.
The drug existed in a sort of legal gray area. Even as states like Michigan scrambled to classify and outlaw the drug, bath salts remained available online.
Bath salts are made of synthetic chemicals and their effects include “agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, chest pain, increased pulse, high blood pressure, and suicidal thinking,” according to the medical website WebMD.
The drug entered the mainstream consciousness in 2012 when the drug was blamed for an incident in Miami, Fla. when a 31-yearold man attacked and chewed the face of a 65-year-old homeless man.
TURNED INTO ZOMBIES
Bath salts indeed turn people crazy, Faber said.
“It’s like something took over you. They do what’s called ‘God punch,’ and basically, it’s the closest to death that you’ll ever get without dying,” she said. “You’re under the complete control of the drug.”
Faber said at first bath salts offer an energetic rush.
“When you take it at first, it’s like speed – you stay up for a few days and then you crash,” she said. “But after long-term use, you just don’t sleep.”
Prolonged use can cause strange, involuntary movement of the hands and arms, which make users appear like zombies. Worse, users eventually lose their good sense.
“I got hit in the head with a hammer. I got beat. My lung was collapsed, and I [was] still walking around like I had no health issues,” Faber said. “You know, every time I breathed out, blood was coming out of my mouth. And I didn’t care.”
‘DOWN THE STREETS NAKED’
Lt. Todd Golnick, the interim head of the Cadillac Police Department, said bath salts indeed caused mayhem and crime in the city a year ago.
“We had all kinds of problems with it last summer. We had people running down the streets naked that were on it,” Golnick said. “People were injuring themselves. They were hallucinating. They were delusional. They were paranoid.”
The source of the bath salts was a local dealer who was getting the drug via mail from China, he said. The prevalence lasted several months until some central figures were busted.
Police went back to busting meth labs and heroin dealers.
“TNT [the Traverse Narcotics Team] did some work and were able to create an impact,” he said. “It definitely seems like the local trend in drugs can be measured in months now, rather than years.”
Golnick said he could not comment on the Strobel death investigation because it’s still officially open.
“We are pretty much wrapping it up,” he said.
He said before the case is closed it will be reviewed by an outside agency to make sure there are no questions about how it was conducted.
‘THERE WAS A SET PLAN’
Strobel’s mother says that because police don’t trust the witnesses who she believes know what happened to her son, they have ignored evidence that her son was murdered.
On July 6, on what is thought to be his final day, a farmer found Jimi Strobel in his hunting blind outside of Cadillac. He accused Strobel of trespassing and told him to leave.
Police believe Strobel walked several miles from there to the woods where his body was found and he hung himself with a garden hose, Michelle Strobel said.
She doesn’t believe it makes sense that he would walk so far just to go to different woods. She also said she has talked to people who saw her son alive in Cadillac later that day.
She believes, based on sources from the drug world, that her son wound up with a group of people at the Hampton Inn that evening. Later he left with a couple of people and he was last seen going into the woods with a couple of people.
“They came out and he didn’t,” she said.
‘BECAUSE HE WAS A SNITCH’
Michelle Strobel believes two people murdered her son after an attempt to get him to overdose failed. She believes others served as lookouts and even more people were aware of what happened and helped cover it up.
“They wanted him out of the picture because he was a snitch,” she said.
While her son was missing, people told her and Faber that he was alive in Ohio, she said.
She said that before her son was found dead in September, other people told her she could find his body if she searched the woods near where he was ultimately found.
Golnick said investigators were challenged because some potential witnesses in the case were not believable.
“Obviously, Jimi was struggling with drug addiction,” Golnick said. “All of his friends have a common thread – they are all entrenched in a history of drug abuse.”
Strobel believes the case has gone unsolved because the police were too quick to decide it was a suicide. She also complains that police didn’t take her seriously when she first reported him missing.
Police had had run-ins with Jimi Strobel before his death that indicated suicidal tendencies.
He was involved in a standoff with police at a cabin on June 19 when he held a knife to his wrist and threatened to kill himself. An officer talked Strobel down and convinced him to turn himself in.
Michelle Strobel said she twice attempted to convince police to have her son committed because she was so concerned about his erratic and self-destructive behavior.
As recently as July 4, she pleaded with officers to arrest her son, take him to a hospital, and allow her to have him committed.
DESCENT INTO PARANOIA
Prior to his disappearance, loved ones watched bath salts tear Strobel apart.
“I begged him to stop doing that stuff.
I’d never seen him like that before,” said Strobel’s sister, Jessica Edson, who said she thought bath salts made her brother’s morphine habit look benign.
The bath salts deepen the mystery of Strobel’s disappearance because use of the drug calls into question what he said in the days before he disappeared.
“On the Fourth of July, he was really upset about something, and I know, who’s to say if it’s real or not. Was somebody after him? Or was it the drugs? How do you know? How do you determine?” Edson said. “He told me somebody was after him. He said, ‘They.’” Faber said her friend was normally a kind person but on bath salts he became someone else.
“They were giving Jimi bath salts in exchange for his muscle,” Faber said. “They were paying him in drugs to assault people, to collect, to do these things, and they even stated that they created something that they couldn’t control. Everybody was afraid of Jimi. He started losing it. He started snapping.”
Michelle Strobel said her son was kindhearted but he started getting into schoolyard fights at a young age. His father left the family when Strobel was 4.
“It doesn’t matter what grade you’re in, if you get into a fight on the school yard, it doesn’t matter if they did it first,” she said. “If you retaliate and you fight back and you end up whooping them, you’re the one getting charged.”
Jimi Strobel transferred to a military academy and graduated high school by age 16, but his mother said the five misdemeanor assault convictions he had racked up when he was younger prevented him from getting into the military.
“He moved out and he moved in with the Lake City boys, and that’s where it all began,” she said. “He was hanging out with an older crowd.”
That’s when her son got into hard drugs and more arrests followed. Jimi Strobel ended up in prison before age 20 for assaulting jail guards. Other stints in prison followed. He was most recently released in February 2013.
Jimi Strobel wrote his daughter from prison in 2010, vowing to be more responsible than his own dad.
In the letter, he urged his girl to study because he’d learned that people who do well in school do well in life.
“Sometimes going to jail teaches us to grow up even when we don’t want to,” he wrote.