“We were all asleep and we’d been up for like a month partying and everything,” Lori Arnold recalled to Fox News. “All I heard was a big crash. But I was so tired. I hadn’t slept for a while. So I didn’t even move. I was lying in bed. I was naked. My husband was next to me.”
“The next thing I knew I’ve got somebody on top of me with a gun on my forehead,” she shared. “I just felt that cold gun rest on my head. I rolled my eyes and said, ‘What do you want? Go ahead.’ I didn’t fight it. Ain’t no point in resisting. They told me to put some clothes on. And as I got dressed, I saw my husband laying on the floor handcuffed. The feds were on him.”
The story of Arnold, one of the most prolific meth dealers in the Midwest, is the subject of a new docu-series titled “Queen of Meth,” which is now available for streaming on discovery+. It details the rise and fall of the 60-year-old, once dubbed “Scarface in a skirt,” told from Arnold herself, as well as her older brother, Tom Arnold.
“I don’t like that I’m getting old,” Arnold chuckled. “I’ve had a lot of downs. But I was able to pull out of it and survive. And I wanted to tell the truth about what really happened to me. There was no glamourizing needed to make it sell better. This is exactly how it happened.”
Arnold, who grew up in the small town of Ottumwa, Iowa, seemed doomed from the start. She was just a toddler when her mother Linda abandoned the family. As a child, she lived with her father. Then during her teenage years, she and her siblings moved with the hard-drinking, remarried matriarch. And there were no rules.
In 1974, when Arnold was just 14 and in the eighth grade, she wanted to marry a 23-year-old man, People magazine reported. According to the outlet, Linda drove the couple across the state border to Missouri to legally secure a marriage license.
But six months later, the teen bride divorced her husband because she said he was abusive and a cheater, the New York Post reported. She remarried to biker Floyd Stockdall in 1980 and the couple welcomed a son named Josh in 1981.
As a teen, Arnold developed an alcohol addiction and began drug dealing. She started selling speed and prescription drugs before eventually moving to crystal methamphetamine when the drug began to spread across the Midwest, the outlet noted.
“It just turned out that way,” Arnold explained. “Initially, I was just doing it to drive up my own life a little bit because of boredom and low self-esteem. I needed something to excite me, to make me feel like I was alive, you know? And then I was offered deals – lots of them. I thought, if I could make a hundred bucks a week, that’d be awesome. And it felt so good to make that kind of money during a depressing time. And my friends, we were all in the same boat. I shared it with them, they loved it and they wanted more. And they kept coming back.”
And Arnold’s supply made her stand out. Arnold said she paid “a little extra money” to get the best quality meth she could obtain for her eager clients.
“I had to get the best quality,” she said. “This is me and my friends doing the stuff. I didn’t want anybody to get hurt. I’ve heard a lot about bad drugs from drug dealers who sold them for cheap to make a quick buck. But I wanted to make sure they got the real, clean stuff.”
And people quickly took notice. At one point, Arnold was grossing more than $ 200K a week. There was a red Jaguar, a car sales lot, a massive ranch, racehorses, her own plane and a local bar called the Wild Side. Arnold said she also bought homes at auction and fixed them up as Section 8 houses to help local residents in need.
And the money kept pouring. She led a multistate methamphetamine production and distribution network. Arnold allegedly peddled more than 10 pounds of meth a week alone.
“I put it back into the economy and business,” she said. “That way I wouldn’t have to sell drugs my whole life. I never wanted to be a drug dealer or anything. I just wanted something more for my family.”
“And I was bad,” she laughed. “A lot of the guys were scared of me because they knew I was crazy and tough. You have to be if you don’t want to be messed up. So I didn’t have issues with anyone. And I had [my man] Floyd. He was my backup. I never had to use him for anything. Nobody wanted to mess with him. So no one messed with me. And I’m a people person. I put myself out there and say it the way it is.”
But Arnold had no idea that her booming business was coming to an end.
“We found out later on that there was a guy we were buying drugs from out in Arizona and California,” she said. “Evidently, he got arrested. And in order to get less time, he was going to turn his Iowa connections. And it was a big one. So the feds worked with him for a couple of years and just watched. Anytime we would come out and buy drugs, they were preparing until they got enough for a big bust.”
When the FBI arrested her, they seized more than $ 10 million in assets, People reported.
Arnold’s arrest stirred headlines due to her celebrity connections. At the time, Tom was a famous comedian who was married to Roseanne Barr. The comedienne was also the star of a popular series titled “Roseanne.”
Arnold said she wasn’t fazed by the media scrutiny.
“It actually helped me because I was very popular in the county jail,” she said. “I was at the top floor with women who were mostly prostitutes and things like that. I was the only White person when I got there. And so, I was warned by the guards that I might have problems. And I’d never been in jail before. So when I walked in, they were watching TV and the news came on. They were showing Tom and Roseanne coming to visit me in jail. So they thought that was really cool. I was a hit right away and I had nothing to worry about.”
Arnold was sent to prison in West Virginia from 1991 until 1999. After serving her first sentence, Arnold tried her hand at local jobs but temptation soon overpowered her. In 2001 she was sent back to prison for six more years. Arnold served a total of 15 years.
“I was missing the old days,” she admitted about her second arrest. “I was missing the respect. And I tried to stay clean. When I first got out, I did two jobs. I didn’t go anywhere. Didn’t see anybody. I wanted to stay clear of drugs and alcohol. But I was an addict. And somebody offered me a way to make a little extra money and it just rolled right back into the way it was. All the things of prison had gone away. I was back in the game.”
Today, life is simpler. Arnold, now sober, lives in Sandusky, Ohio where she has a blue-collar job. She’s also engaged to a local name Bill who is understanding of her past. As for her son Josh, who also spoke out in the documentary, he’s happily a part of her life. She said being an absent mom during her repeat incarcerations was her “biggest regret.” Stockdall died behind bars in 2004.
“I work a full-time job,” Arnold explained. “I’m working 10-hour days. I’m on my feet all day long. I drive a cherry picker, forklifts. I load boxes and everything. I work really hard. I fix dinner, my husband I go fishing, I ride my Harley. I’m not around that kind of crowd before like I used to… As an addict, you don’t want to put yourself in the same situation again. You might get tempted. So you stay away. Now, I think about my future and how I got here. Going back to that life would be like driving down the road without a seatbelt.”
In the documentary, Arnold said she felt remorse knowing that those who either purchased from her or her suppliers faced their own addiction battles.
“When you go to prison, you don’t really hear about what’s going on,” she said. “You don’t get a lot of letters. You don’t keep up on what’s going on. When I got out, I realized some of my old buddies were still doing it and nobody had done better for themselves. They were living day to day, dollar to dollar. Meanwhile, I had a nice house and a car. So it made me feel guilty because I got hooked on the stuff to start with. It didn’t matter if I was in the picture or not because they still had that addiction. And I had it too. That’s why I didn’t want to go back.”
Arnold hopes viewers learn that her life wasn’t always about “money, cars and wild times.” She still has many regrets, but her purpose now is to keep what she’s always wanted – a better life for herself and her family.
“It all was fun, but then one day, all of that is gone,” she said. “They took everything. I’m back on the river like I was before I started. And you miss out on so much of your children’s lives. The world can be cruel and drugs may make you feel better, but it will kill you. It will quickly take away everything.”