While her brother Tom Arnold was making a name for himself in Hollywood, Lori Arnold was making a different splash on the world by running a five-state meth ring. Eventually, her empire came crashing down, and she went to prison twice. At the top of her game, Lori pulled in $200,000 a week, but now she lives a simple life working at a factory in Sandusky, Ohio. Instead of wild parties, she goes home every night to watch TV. In the documentary series Queen of Meth, Lori tells her story, including the difficult childhood that propelled both her and her brother to seek validation in dangerous ways.
The hub of Lori’s operation was Ottumwa Iowa, where she grew up. It ran for six years from the late 80s to the early 90s. While she was in the middle of it, everything moved so fast that she couldn’t really experience it. When it was all over, she describes it as like a “balloon deflating.” She was 31 years old.
Her psychological evaluation for her pre-sentences argued that Lori’s “tragic” life had been influenced by “adults who did not have her best interests in mind.”
The family structure
Lori’s parents are Jack and Linda Graham Arnold. Tom was the oldest, Lori was next, and they have a younger brother named Scott.
They were teen parents who got divorced a few years after their kids were born. Tom remembers their father surrendering the custoy battle to prevent young Tom from having to take the stand. The next day, Linda abandoned the kids with their dad.
Jack raised the kids alone until Tom was 10, when he married their neighbor Ruth, who had two kids from her first marriage. Ruth and Jack had two kids together, so there were seven kids total in the household.
Lori’s tragic teen marriage
Lori found herself turning to her mother more since she lacked attention in a house full of kids. Eventually, Lori moved into her mom’s house. As a young teen she would work with her mom at the Elk’s club. Her mother gave her diet pills so Lori could work longer. She was also happy that it helped her lose weight too.
Linda also allowed Lori to drink by age 14. She also supplied alcohol to Tom when he was a teen. At 14 Lori met a grown man 11 years older than her. She told her mom Bobby Roberts was 18, but he was a divorced 23-year-old man. Her stepdad told Bobby to either dump her or marry her, so he decided to marry Lori at only 14-years-old. The wife he had divorced was only a year older than her.
Lori quit school for her marriage to Bobby, which quickly turned abusive. The relationship ended six months later after Lori found out he had been sleeping with a 12-year-old. At this point Bobby was a serial pedophile who had married two of his victims.
After this traumatizing experience, Lori tried to go back to school but found it hard to relate to the other kids. She had already been married and divorced, been a bartender, and experienced other things that the other kids didn’t understand.