02/27/2013 // Chicago, IL, US // Cooney & Conway // Jessica McNeil // (press release)
Mesothelioma News – At the age of 12, James Fogle stole a car and set sail on what would be an endless string of crimes throughout his life. He spent the majority of his life in prison, and passed away behind bars from probable malignant mesothelioma at the age of 75 in August of 2012.
Fogle was born in a small town in Wisconsin, and said that he was a restless child who had an abusive father. Stealing cars became a form of escapism for him. He spent much of his youth in juvenile correctional facilities where, he said, he learned tips from fellow detainees on how to pull off crimes. He continued his life of crime upon his release and, after serving time in jail as an adult and learning from fellow inmates, he began robbing drugstores. For the rest of his life, he was in and out of prison, and was rarely free for more than a year at a time.
At one point during his prison stint, Fogle was trained to be a steam pipe fitter. It is believed that this is where he was exposed to asbestos, which later led to his development of mesothelioma. If exposed, asbestos fibers can become trapped in the lungs when inhaled, and can cause deadly diseases such as mesothelioma and lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure. There is often a latency period of 20 to 50 years from the time of exposure to the development of symptoms. Due to his mesothelioma, Fogle was forced to use an oxygen tank to breathe toward the end of his life.
Fogle had only a sixth-grade education, but—inspired by books he read while locked up—wrote 11 autobiographical novels while behind bars. “Drugstore Cowboy,” which told the story of drug addicts who joined forces to support their addictions by robbing pharmacies, was the only one that was published. The novel was made into a highly-regarded, successful film by Gus Van Sant in 1989 in which Matt Dillon played the lead role. William Burroughs, one of the major faces of the Beat Generation, had a minor role in the movie, and lauded Fogle’s novel.
Fogle was serving a 16-year sentence for his crimes at the Monroe Correctional Complex in Monroe, Washington when he passed away.
Address: Chicago, IL