When the officers came to the house, they noticed a distinct smell.
"I smoked a little marijuana to help ease my mind from the fact of my girlfriend cheating on me," Craig Petties said, according to an arrest report.
But this was more than one man dulling his sorrows with weed. In a bedroom closet of the home in southwest Memphis, officers found three duffel bags stuffed with marijuana. Six hundred pounds in all.
That 2001 discovery, big as it was, only hinted at things to come for Petties.
In the years that followed, authorities say, he moved to Mexico and, working with a branch of one of that country's most notorious cartels, operated a trafficking empire that funneled hundreds of kilos of cocaine and more than a ton of marijuana into Tennessee and other states.
The enterprise has been described as one of the largest and most ruthless such businesses ever uncovered in the region.
The story of Petties' alleged rise from petty drug peddler to international trafficker illustrates how the drug business works and Memphis' role as a distribution hub. It also shows how an enterprise built on American demand for marijuana and cocaine can spread violence and mayhem from Mexico all the way to middle-class Memphis suburbs.
While in Mexico -- a nation wracked by drug-related violence -- Petties allegedly was ordering the killings of rivals, suspected informants and others in the Memphis area.
The victims include a 28-year-old man who was shot and killed in his garage near Shelby Drive and Hacks Cross while his young children were in the home. Later, assassins executed two men in a car in Hickory Hill, and fatally wounded a man in an afternoon shooting in a restaurant.
In all, the 50-count federal indictment accuses Petties of conspiracy in six murders, as well as an assortment of racketeering charges.
The resulting federal case is a sprawling web involving dozens of defendants and witnesses.
Petties, who could face the death penalty if convicted, has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He declined a request for a prison interview, and defense attorney Ross Sampson also wouldn't comment.
A trial date has not been set.
But even as he sits in prison, Petties remains the subject of fear, hatred and even mythic lore on the streets where he grew up.
One narcotics officer tells of T-shirts in South Memphis emblazoned with Petties' picture. Messages on social networking sites range from calls for his death ("PUT HIM IN THE GROUND") to admiration ("Trying to get that Craig Petties money").
His story is a testament to how the city's deep social problems suck young people into the trade.
This photo of Craig Petties was taken by Mexican authorities shortly after his arrest in Queretaro in January 2008.
Troubles began early
Craig Petties was born in 1976 and came of age in the 1980s just as a new, highly addictive form of smokable cocaine called crack swept through inner cities throughout America. It touched the Riverview neighborhood where Petties grew up in a small, brick, shotgun-style house that his mother had bought for $17,000.
His section of West Dison Avenue was "a well-known drug trafficking area," wrote a police officer who arrested Petties in 1996.
Petties got into serious trouble early in life.
His first arrest came at 15, when he was charged with possession of a sawed-off shotgun. According to juvenile court records, he had set off the gun in his house when he and a friend were looking at it -- Petties called the police and said that he planned to use the gun to scare robbers who had taken his coat.
In the summer of 1993, when he was 16, he was twice arrested and accused of selling crack.
That December, days before his 17th birthday, he was arrested for attempted murder.
He had been with a group of young men who walked up to Eric Cole and started shooting, according to records. Cole was hit in the back, survived, and identified someone other than Petties as the one who shot him.
Still, authorities moved to try Petties as an adult. Records from the case offer a glimpse at his home life.
He was raised by his mother, Ever Jean Petties, and lived with one sister. The whereabouts of his father were unknown.
His mother reported in 1993 that she received $1,279 per month through her position as a foster parent and from her job at the board of education. That put the family income slightly above poverty level.
After Petties turned 18, his arrest record continued to grow. In 1998, for instance, he pleaded guilty to burglarizing railroad boxcars.
In March, Ever Jean Petties declined to be interviewed. "I'm not doing nothing on my son and I'm not talking about anything."
One significant person in this story doesn't show up in the juvenile court records.
According to U.S. Marshals spokesman Dave Oney, Petties is a half-brother of Paul Beauregard, better known as rapper DJ Paul of Three 6 Mafia, a group that has sold millions of recordings.
It is known for songs on topics that include drug-trafficking and murder, the very activities Petties is accused of.
A publicist at Columbia Records said Beauregard wouldn't comment.
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