Curiosity & Heroin
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Lives lost to heroin and prescription painkillers…

Think it can’t happen to you? Sadly, they didn’t think so either. Teens and young adults in the St. Louis area and around the country have died as a result of opiate abuse. Their families wanted to let you know that kids just like you can and do die from this. They hope that sharing their tragic stories may stop it from happening to you.

Thank you to these families for sharing their losses here.

If you have lost a loved one and would like their story to be included email Brandon Costerison or call 314-962-3456.

 

 
Jim O’Neill

I did not choose this path I’ve been put on, as a matter of fact, I would prefer to not be telling my story but rather sitting at home watching the TV with my dogs and husband.

Jim’s first taste of prescription pain medications began at 16 when he broke his femur in an auto accident. He told me several times how when he was in the hospital for that month that the “meds were great”. The other piece to this accident was that it left him with a leg-length discrepancy and mild scoliosis. Even with this condition, Jim ran 6 marathons, several half-marathons, a half tri-athalon, and several bike criterions. He was kind, witty and a wonderful husband, stepfather and “gramppa Jim” to two beautiful granddaughters.

During one occurrence in 2013, he was referred to a pain management office and was prescribed 100 oxycodone tablets. When came home with that script, we dubbed the doctor “Dr. Feelgood”.

The most recent problem occurred in September 2015 when he was between contract jobs and we were building a patio with rocks gathered from our creek bed and hauling them up the hill. He tweaked his back. Jim went back to Dr Feelgood and was again prescribed copius amounts of oxycodone and he started down the slippery slope.

Many times I questioned the amount of drugs even going so far as to go to the doctor’s office by MYSELF. I stood in front of the doctor to tell him I believed it was too much and that he was also drinking while on it. The doctor replied “He can’t do that!!” to which I responded “I’ve told him that, now you need to tell him.” Being in a dynamic marriage, you understand, offers only limited amount of weight when compared with the “Experts”.  I questioned:  Why no Physical therapy??  Why no chiropractor??  Why no acupuncture?? Only more and more drugs.

Jim also had Adult ADD and mild dysthymia or depression and had been seeing a psychiatrist for years. Between these two doctors, he was being prescribed: VENLAFAXINE, METHYLPHENDATE, OXYCODONE, BUPORION, TRAZADONE, GABAPENTIN, and CLONAZAPEM.

Unknown to me he had also been taking my oxycodone prescribed to me for a knee surgery that I had in October. I will never forgive myself for trusting the ‘experts’ and not fully understanding the interaction between the drugs being prescribed by two different physicians.

On November 13, 2015, one day before his 53rd birthday, we had yet another argument about his pills. I left the house to get away by myself. During dinner I received a text from him saying “I’m so sorry” and I just figured he had seen my point.  When I came home, after much searching, I found Jim on our swing with a shotgun between his knees – he had taken his own life and forever changed mine.

Don’t ever be mistaken, just because these drugs are prescribed by a doctor, they can and do kill.

Cindy O’Neill

 

Andrew Mary
Andrew Mary: February 5, 2015

My brother Andrew was a herion addict for about 6 months before he passed. With a mix of different personal life events he felt he had no where else to turn. When most people think or hear of a death caused by herion they think they must have OD. In my brother’s case it was nothing like that. Andrew had gotten an infection from a dirty needle that would eventually end his beautiful life.

For a couple days we had thought andrew was going throw the normal withdraws of a drug addict. The shaking, the sweating,chills ect. But one weekend they got a lot worse. He couldnt talk or even walk on his own.. Little did we know he was having strokes in his brain causing his brain to partly shut down. You never no pain until you have to watch someone carry your weak brother to the car becausw he cant walk anymore.  

After 2 weeks in the hospital and 2 different hospitals. Brain surgery, heart valve surgery, and stomach surgery there was not much left anyone could do. He had got an infection (sepsis) that spread throughout his whole body making all his organs shut down, his brain have strokes, and one of his heart valves give out. The doctors told us if he had made it he would be in a wheel chair his whole life and would have to live in assisted living, that he wouldn’t be “Andrew”.

After 2 horrible weeks my brother passed away on his own February 5, 2015 at 1:05am.

I’m not telling his story to have people feel bad or to get attention. I want people to see how horrible this drug is. How it effects everyone. It took my beautiful brother away from my family and I, and no one should ever feel this kind of pain. We need to stop this drug before we lose anyone else to its horrible effects. I also want to say never forget to tell the people you care about that you love them because different things can happen everyday. Things we can’t plan. My brother always said he wanted to help people get clean once he was. I want to take his wishes and do the same so no family has to feel this pain.

Love,
Elizabeth Mary (Andrew’s sister)

tony brown
Anthony (Tony) Brown: October 23, 1993 – July 1, 2014

Anthony grew up a very happy, high spirited young boy. He attended school in the Brentwood school district and graduated in 2012. We were both so happy on his graduation day. He made it and then went on to enroll in Meramec Community College in the Physical Therapy Assistant Program.

Anthony was nice, and always would help anyone in need. He was a true friend to all he knew. Anthony struggled however with self-esteem, depression and anxiety issues. As a pre-teen I started noticing this and we went to counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, medical doctors and even inpatient treatment. I wanted my son to feel better. He did too. But my efforts proved to be unsuccessful for him. I believe Anthony turned to drugs as a way to self medicate so he could feel, what he thought, was “normal”. My son came to me in March of 2014 and told me he had been doing Heroin and needed help. I was totally blind-sided. I had no idea that he would go to such extremes.

When he told me, it was like someone ripped my heart right out of my body. We talked about drugs and the effect it has on people’s lives. He even told me about people he knew of that died from drug overdoses. So, I just didn’t understand how this ugly drug found my family. I cried and he cried that day. But, help is just what I did. We immediately put him in a rehab. He wanted to go. He wanted to get better. Anthony completed the 30 day program. When he was released he gave me the biggest hug. He was so happy to be out of there. But, he did it. He didn’t leave, he completed the program. Anthony was doing good for about 3 months after rehab. But, then I started to notice old habits. He would come home in the wee hours of the night or not at all. It was hard at times to confront Anthony, because he was strong willed when he wanted to do something, and just the difficulty of being able to keep up with someone who is 20 years old. I confronted Anthony about my suspicions the day before he died. Anthony got really angry with me. He got really defensive. He said some really disrespectful things to me that day. After that conversation, Anthony didn’t come home that night at all.

The next day, I woke up as usual and began to get ready for work. It was about 7:00 am when Anthony came strolling in. I was in the bathroom and he called me to the kitchen. When I came to the kitchen, he said, “Now mom, don’t get scared”. I was thinking to myself oh Lord what has happened. I then said, “What Anthony, what’s wrong?” He then says, “Mom, I just saw a mouse in the kitchen.” Now let me stop and say this, anyone who knows me knows that I hate rodents or anything that looks like a rodent. I mean I’m deathly afraid of them. So, when he told me this, I immediately started to scream at the top of my lungs and jump onto one of the kitchen table chairs. As I was doing this, I looked over at Anthony and he was laughing hysterically. He said, “Mom I was just joking.” For some reason Anthony always found it funny to scare the living you know what out of me. But, looking back I now see that he was just trying to break the ice between us. He then apologized for the things he said the day before. I also apologized and explained to him that I just want him to get his life together. I wanted him to win in life and just be happy.

We then talked about some things he needed to do for school and made plans for later in the week to go and complete them. On my way out to head to work, Anthony said, “See ya later mom. I said, “See ya later Anthony.” That was the last time I saw my son alive. Later that day he went to a friends house and overdosed on heroin.

There are so many regrets I have. One, not knowing anything about this drug and the hold it has on people. Two, that last morning I spoke to him, I noticed he was kind of off. He was nodding in and  out. I asked him if he was okay and he said that he was just tired from hanging out all night with his buddies. I left it alone because we had just made up and I didn’t want to make him angry again. I wish I would have just said what I was thinking whether he got angry or not. Maybe he would have told me. Maybe not. But Anthony was somehow ashamed to tell me he fell off again. So the advice I would give parents who are dealing with children who are addicted to drugs. Don’t be afraid to confront them. But, also don’t be so harsh where they would be afraid to tell you they made a mistake again. Tell them you love them. We hope that the love and treatment is enough, but alot of times it isn’t.

So, I guess I wish I would of told Anthony that if he ever fell off the wagon, or was thinking of, to please call me and that I love him no matter what. I just wish I made sure he would not of been ashamed to tell me. Anthony hated what he was doing. Drug addicts are not the throw away kids you see on T.V. They are not always on the streets, dirty, begging for money. Drug addicts are your neighbors who work everyday, drug addicts are kids from good homes, in college, Drug addicts can be anyone. This drug doesn’t care what color you are, how much money you have or don’t have, or whether you have great parents or not so great parents.

This drug will destroy your life and the lives of those around you. It’s in our neighborhoods. It’s in your own backyard! These good kids are doing this drug. They are trying it and it just takes one time. My Anthony wanted to live. He wanted to fall in love, get married, have children. We talked about that a lot. He won’t get the chance to do any of those things. I won’t get the chance to experience any of those things with him. I miss him everyday and will for the rest of my life. Anthony was my only son and my life and future just isn’t the same without him. If anything, I hope his story saves someone’s life. I hope his story saves a family. I love you Anthony!

Love,
Anitria Lawrence (Tony’s mom)

Steve Johnson
Steven Johnson: March 15, 1957 – February 13, 2013

Steve lived his life in a simple format. If he was your friend, he was simply your friend. If you needed a helping hand, his answer was simply “sure”. He may have been a little late, but he would always be there. In being my brother, he would never turn down any request; hot and humid – no problem, cold and windy – let’s get it done. Oh yeah, “got a beer?”

Steve loved family get togethers and loved to eat. He could make a well stocked refrigerator look like a floor model at Sears in 3 days. His best friend, Jim, can attest to that. Steve’s needs were simply: a pick-up, bicycle, smokes, and beer. The support and friendship Jim had shown to Steve is very much appreciated by the family and especially by Steve.

Steve could keep up with most when it came to manual labor. His love of the outdoors was simple. He loved a walk in the woods, he loved the ocean, he loved the Missouri River and bluffs and loved his childhood. Remembering his childhood was one of his most favorite things to do. Steve was a friend, brother, kind gentle man who loved his son. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him but in our hearts, we all know you are simply in a better place and are at peace.

Love,

Stacey Johnson-Burke (Steven’s sister) and James (Skip) Johnson (Steven’s brother)

Andrew Eigles: February 6, 1989 – September 29, 2011

It can be hard to put into words the pain a person can feel from losing someone they care about, especially when that person was taken from you far too soon. Unfortunately, that is something that is all too familiar to us. On September 29, 2011 we all experienced this first hand when we lost our beloved friend, brother, son, cousin and nephew, Andrew Eigles. He was only 22 at the time and had so much more of his life to live.

Growing up Andrew was like any other kid, nothing about the way he grew up would make you think that we would be talking about this today. He grew up in a two story house in the St. Louis suburbs with two parents, two older sisters and some pets. He was involved in all kinds of activities like Boy Scouts, baseball, soccer, camps and so many other things that we all experienced growing up. He was always happy, caring, liked by all and never turned anyone away who wanted to be his friend. Andrew had something special about him from the start, like he was destined to make a difference in this world.

As he got older and entered his 8 grade year, his friendships continued to grow as well as his experiences. He began experimenting with marijuana, like many kids that age begin to do. Later, as he entered high school he had moved on to alcohol. Life at home had become increasingly more difficult as family issues began to rise causing him to use alcohol as a way to cope with everything that life seemed to be throwing at him.

High school was where his friends started to notice a change in him. When he drank, he would seem like he was drinking to an excess and not just for fun. It seemed as though he was using the drinking as a way to self-medicate to deal with his ever growing depression. On more than one occasion had even contemplated suicide. During Andrew’s senior year of high school he tore his ACL during a football game causing him to undergo surgery to repair it. After he was sent home he was prescribed prescription pain pills to deal with the pain, but little did we know at the time that those pills would be the unraveling of one of the most amazing people we knew.

After taking pain pills for his surgery, Andrew became addicted to them again using them to help him block out the things in life he just couldn’t face. He continued to use them and at some point graduated to heroin. Heroin is a drug that no one thinks about or assumes is being abused, but little did we know at the time is that pain killers are a gateway to heroin because they are both opiates. Everyone began noticing a change in him as his drug abuse became more of a problem. We would notice that he would fall asleep in random places or in the middle of your conversations with him, or that he seemed like he had pulled away from everyone he cared about. One thing that was always true about Andrew is that he always wanted to make everyone happy, even if that meant putting himself second, but eventually it got to a point he didn’t want to hurt people by letting them see him that way.

Andrew ended up going through rehab twice over the course of a few years, once after overdosing and surviving it. After he partook in an intensive three week in house rehab, we all began to feel like he had returned to the Andrew we all knew and loved. Someone who was happy and enjoying life the way he used to before he started down this dark path. It even began to feel like maybe he had overcome his addiction and it was all in the past. Towards the end of his 9 months of sobriety there were signs that he may have been using again, but we all believed him when he lied and said he was fine which we now all questions why we didn’t see it or do more. Eventually, Andrew became a victim of his own addiction, as many heroin users do. It is a drug that many users do not out live and that is why we are here today.

Andrew was one of the most amazing people any of us ever knew. He had an amazing ability to bring people together, even those who normally wouldn’t have been brought together on their own. Even in death, he has managed to bring those he cared about together as a reminder that even though we are sad and scared what a future without him. We cannot be silent anymore, so we started the Andrew Eigles Memorial Fund. It is our mission to tell Andrew’s story and educate those around us about the dangers of addiction and share the signs and resources we have gained from our own experiences. Ultimately, we hope to be able to stop others from ever having to go through what we have, and in our opinion that is the best way we can honor Andrew- by always looking out for others. He would have wanted us to be able to move forward and use his experience to make a difference in this world as he has done for all of us.

In Loving Memory,

Adrienne & Julie Eigles (Andrew’s mom & sister)

 

 

Nicholas James Gore: July 8, 1991 – January 16, 2012

We remember when Nick was younger, maybe 8 or 9, and he asked his father what we would do if he died.  His father replied that we would never stop crying.

The death of our son, Nick, is somewhat similar to many others that have fallen to the disease of addiction.  A journey no one wants to travel.  It is full of pain and suffering, for the addict, the addict’s friends and the addict’s family.  Heroin destroys lives.  Its function is death and destruction.

Nick was born on July 8, 1991.  It was an easy delivery and we were ecstatic to have our first child.  Nick was quick to talk and loved to explore the world around him.  Nick was a free spirit who charmed his way into many hearts, with an unmistakable laugh and smile.

As he grew, Nick excelled at several sports, but found his true love was ice hockey.  He played goalie for St. Peters Spirit, eventually joining the travel team.  He and his dad spent a lot of time at the rink and traveling to many cities for games.

In eighth grade he joined the C team at Ft. Zumwalt West, then played on JV and Varsity as a freshman. These seem to have been some of the happiest times of his life.

Unfortunately, these times came to an end when he began using drugs.  Nick started smoking pot the summer before his freshman year, at around age 15.  Soon after he also began drinking.

At this time we realized Nick was suffering from depression and anxiety.  We sought outpatient treatment and tried a variety of anti-depressants.  Nick was uncooperative most of the time and eventually refused to take his medication.   His commitment to school and hockey dropped dramatically.

By the tenth grade, things were getting worse.  He quit hockey and was unable to function at school.
Luckily, we were able to get him into the alternative high school in our district, Hope High.  At Hope, the teacher-student ratio was small and he seemed to fit in much better and his grades improved.  But this was false hope, because it was at this time that he started to experiment with harder drugs.

In the middle of his senior year he quit school and his behavior became extremely erratic.  We thought he was experiencing mental health issues and sought an evaluation at a local behavioral health hospital.

Nick was still unwilling to come clean about his drug use and was still uncooperative with the hospital counselor, so we left without any treatment plan.  Whenever these erratic behavior events occurred, Nick would always have believable excuses and his behavior would become more normal for awhile.

He started working for the family business and did a very good job.  He seemed to take both an interest and pride in his work.  His self-esteem seemed to improve.

A few months after starting work at the family business, Nick started missing work due to illness and would stay in bed all day.  He became agitated easily; at times he threatened to hurt everyone in the family.  Our first thought once again, was that Nick had serious mental health issues.  We were scared to death and Nick was living a miserable life.  After he was clean, he told us those were the times when he was dope sick and going through withdrawal.

Nick came to his dad and confessed his heroin addiction.  We were shocked, never in a million years did we think our son would use heroin.  He agreed to treatment and entered a rehab facility on his 19th birthday.  He successfully completed rehab and was well on his way to regaining his health and his life.  After 9 months of heroin addiction, he was finally free of the bonds of heroin.

Nick was clean for 18 months. We are confident he was clean because his usual group of friends were anti-heroin and supportive of Nick and we also tested him quite often, just to insure that he didn’t relapse.  Last, but not least, he no longer looked like a drug addict; he was clean, interested in his appearance and he had regained the 40 lbs he lost during his active heroin use.  We had our son back!  We beat heroin!  We won!

On January 15, 2012, Nick left our house for the last time.  He was picked up by an old friend, not one of his regular buddies, but someone he had known since he was a small child.  He said he would only be gone a few hours, but by midnight, he was still not home.  We texted him and he replied that he would be home soon.

When we awoke the morning of the 16th, Nick was still not home.  We called multiple times, but all the calls went straight to voice mail.  At this point, we were more angry than concerned.  We figured that Nick and his buddy must have drank most of the night and they were sleeping it off.  We went to work.

While at work we continued to leave messages.  By 11:00, we still hadn’t heard from Nick.  We were now concerned.  We were now starting to think about heroin.  We left work and went home to wait for Nick’s apologetic phone call or the police to arrive at our home.

At 12:45 p.m. on January 16, 2012 we watched a sheriff’s car pull onto our street and stop in front of our house.  We knew our son was dead.

Nick was found unresponsive in the back seat of his friend’s car, parked in his friend’s driveway.  The driver of the car had taken off, leaving Nick to die in the back seat.  Nick was dead at age 20 of acute heroin intoxication.

It’s been almost a year since the day our son died.  Almost a year and we still cry everyday.

Bob & Jeanie Gore

 

Billy Joe Richardson: February 3, 1992 – August 12, 2012

Billy Joe, BJ as he was known when he was younger, was a very artistic talented guy. Everyone loved being around him. He was outgoing, fun, the life of the party. Loved to make people laugh…the CLASS CLOWN! He was an avid lover of music. He played bass and enjoyed the time he spent playing with his band Screaming Glory. BJ was the BEST big brother to his two young sisters, Taylor and Rianna. They loved spending time together enjoying each other while always laughing, giggling and goofing around the house. BJ made sure his sisters knew how much he loved them and how important it was for them to continue to be the wonderful responsible girls they are growing up to be.

But from the time he was small he was always pushing the envelope. He needed to be parented with a tight rein. Life started to change in the summer of 2009, just before his senior year in high school. We started to see a significant change in his attitude and personality. Mood swings, anger, defiance, disrespect…we didn’t know it at the time but we’ve since learned he was using alcohol and marijuana. In the fall of his senior year he had a terrible auto accident and broke two bones in his leg. He came home on pain medicine, and the mood, anger, defiance reappeared. In the fall of 2010, a year later he had a near fatal auto accident. He sustained a head injury causing long term headaches and spent over a month in the hospital recovering, all the while on heavy pain medicine. He came home with headaches and pain medicines. He was extremely lucky, recovered, got a great job and started going to school. We thought things were finally turning around.

But in the spring of 2011 we started to see major changes.  He was hanging with new friends. We noticed drastic weight loss (he told us he was eating healthy, trying to lose weight and get in shape) He had a scrubby appearance, was no longer shaven, his hair was dirty. He was edgy, moody, hyper, shaky, talking fast.  He would become angry easily and was going through LOTS of money. We learned later he was borrowing money, selling his clothes at resale shops and calling in sick to work. In the summer 2011 our oldest daughter told us she thought BJ was using drugs.  We dismissed her, but we started watching.  In the fall 2011 we finally confronted him and told him we thought he was using.  He denied it and became VERY angry. It was less than 1 week later he was arrested for possession and actively shooting up with heroin. We were devastated!

We were lost, didn’t know where to go or what to do. He was taken to the Emergency Room and they guided us to outpatient rehab locally.  He completed that program in less than 4 weeks and said he was fine. We now know that was not a good thing. A few weeks later he relapsed again.  We did an intervention and “convinced/forced” him to agree to go to inpatient rehab out of state.  In October of 2011 we took him to Battle Creek, MI and admitted him to an extended stay inpatient rehab program.  He was doing great, but in January, two weeks shy of graduating the program, he said he had enough and walked out on the program.  We refused to go get him so he found his way back to STL on his own.

A little over a month later his grandparents came home and found him in full respiratory arrest on their office floor having overdosed on heroin.  They had to perform CPR on their grandson until the paramedics arrived with a shot of Narcan.  He spent the night in the hospital and came home the next day with the same attitude, completely unmoved by what had just happened.  Unmoved by what he had just put the entire family through.  He still did not think he needed help nor had a problem. We were done! We told him we were done with him until he was ready to get help, don’t call, don’t come around, he couldn’t see his sisters or the family. It was one of the hardest things we’ve ever done, but we knew we could no longer enable this addiction.

On Mother’s day 2012 BJ called and asked for help.  He said he was ready to go back to rehab; he wanted to have a “normal life.”  He was an addict, and he couldn’t beat it on his own. We searched for a program that would take him, and put him on a flight to New Jersey two days later. July of 2012 he came home having completed that program and for the first time in a VERY long time we saw our SON!  He was clean, sober and eager to get started with his sober life. He was scared and at one point told us he wanted to go back to New Jersey because he knew he’d be safe there. He moved into a sober living house and began his new life. He got a job, attended 12 step meetings, worked very hard to stay clean and sober, and seemed to be on the right path.

He was fighting hard to stay clean for himself, his girlfriend Kayelyn and their daughter that was coming in October. But we could see the pain in his eyes and the fight and struggle he was living with every day, it was a battle. In early August he started to drink again. On August 12, 2012 he overdosed on heroin and died, he was 20 years old.  It was the day he would have been 90 days clean.

His daughter Emberlin was born less than two months after his death.  She will never get to know the wonderful man her father was.  He will never have the opportunity to be the father he wanted to be. He told us once that he could take the most holy man on the planet, inject him with heroin and the man would NEVER be the same again. BJ didn’t want to die, he wanted to live, he wanted to be a father and husband, he wanted a NORMAL LIFE, he wanted to beat this addiction! He fought hard…he lost his battle as so many do. We thought we did everything right and we still lost our son.  If it can happen to us it can happen to anyone.

The message is clear: You CANNOT try this drug EVER, NOT EVEN ONCE!

Joe and Wendy Richardson

 

Aaron Lawrence: May 29, 1990 – July 20, 2010

Aaron was and is my middle son, he has 2 brothers. He loved music, cars, and family. He was the type of person to help anyone at any time. It didn’t matter if you were a stranger or not. He loved children, and he used to read to them at the local YMCA when he was at summer camp. He had many friends with babies and young children, and they always tell me how he took such great care in watching out for them.

He was unfortunately taken from us before he could have any of his own. We love and miss him beyond words and life has changed so much since he has been gone. I talk to him often, and sometimes I know he is listening. But I also know he is helping those who are arriving at the gates, showing them the way and trying to comfort them in their new home.

In loving memory,

Tracy Lawrence- Felton

 

Julia Ellen Kempland: June 17, 1985 – August 14, 2007

“It’s quite a task to write one’s life story. Capturing special moments are always subjective. All of the little things are so much more precious now. Reminiscing, seems like we had a regular and fairly happy family life…”
— Barb Kempland, mother

Julie was no ordinary girl. Her mind was always craving something new or ways to improve skills she already knew. She was dedicated to beating levels and finding cheats in video games before they were posted online. She loved watching and playing sports, especially St. Louis Blues Hockey. Number 44 Chris Pronger was an all-time favorite. She danced, played softball, soccer, cross country and tennis. She tore her ACL sophomore year and after that never made it back on the high school soccer team. It’s tough to try to make a new sport without any experience, so we signed her up at the Vetta Sports tennis club. All of the kids were much younger and she’d come home with stories we would laugh and scream about. Her persistence was amazing and that fall she was on the Lindbergh tennis team.

If you asked Julie to do something she wasn’t able to do, you better believe she’d have it down to perfection the next time you see her. One day, we were checking our genetic abilities to see who could curl their tongue. Julie was so mad that she couldn’t. Well, lo and behold, she figured out a way to make it curl. Amazing!

“She was the kind of sister you’d want on your side. She not only loved me as a sister, but as a best friend and protector. I like to believe the differences we fought about really bonded us more.” — Karen Kempland, younger sister

Julie finished high school and worked part time at Pizza Hut. She met a guy named Nick. I’m short of words here because he was the beginning of the end for our Julie. In hindsight, I wish I had communicated more with both of them.

Julie and Nick moved into an apartment together. They must have used most of their money for drugs and they got kicked out. Julie moved home for awhile and went to detox. I know her heart wasn’t really ready to change though. I allowed Julie and Nick to live with us, but after a few months and no real change, I told them Nick had to leave. Well, he left and so did Julie. I realize now they had nowhere to go and spent some nights on the streets. They both had warrants and such and moved to Columbia to escape their hopeless fate.

In April of the following year (2006), Julie was hospitalized for an overdose and came out of it. She never got any further help. She was let out the very next day which I have trouble coming to grips with still.

The surgery Julie had during high school for her ACL was not successful, so she had another surgery in May 2007. She got prescriptions of heavy pain medicine to deal with the physical therapy and such.

Julie went back to work for the transportation department in Columbia and seemed to be doing well. She and Nick had finally split up. Julie told me she’d rather be lonely than miserable. Shortly after their on and off again relationship, Julie had met a new guy name Jeremy. I got to talk with him over the phone and he seemed genuine. She sounded happy.

In August 2007, our family planned a trip to Florida. Even though Julie really wanted to go with us, her job was temporary and she didn’t qualify for time off. We left for vacation as scheduled. Julie called to wish us a happy journey. On the morning of 8-14-2007, we took Karen parasailing for her birthday. Shortly after we came back, I heard Karen scream. That was a phone call from a mutual friend to relay the tragedy of Julie’s death. My worst fears were realized. She had overdosed. It was heroin. Needles were all over the place. She was alone but her door was unlocked. The police said she probably wasn’t alone, but the others couldn’t risk getting found out. It’s a secret disease. We also found out that Julie and her so-called friends had had a pill party over the weekend. Julie had a new script from her doctor in St. Louis for the heavy pain pills (synthetic morphine) even though it had been 3 months since her surgery.

Enough is enough. In writing this, I am saddened again. I know everything happens for a reason and I truly hope our loss can be viewed as a means to stop someone else’s tragedy. I want to share this last thought with you. I remember asking Julie why she got involved with heroin and she said because she couldn’t understand how her boyfriend wasn’t able to kick his habit. She was going to try it to know why that was.

In remembrance,

Barb and Karen Kempland

 

 Andrew Jones: July 23, 1986 – May 12, 2010

Andrew always went full speed at every aspect of his life. He excelled in school, soccer, baseball, basketball and football in junior high. At Duchesne High School, Andrew made honor roll and became a standout on the gridiron, earning him an All-State distinction. He started receiving calls from Division I coaches from all over the country. He would work out every day, and preached to people about caring for their body and what they put into their system. After all the honors and hard work, Andrew chose Missouri State. I think that his freshman year was the best year of his life.

Standing at 6′ 2′ and 240 pounds Andrew was ready to go to two-a-days football training at Missouri State his sophomore year. One morning after waking up dehydrated with a fever, he was rushed to the hospital. An unknown virus left him weighing 210 pounds with a damaged pancreas. He bounced back from the illness and made it to number one on the depth chart as a linebacker. Then he suffered a wrist injury and had his wisdom teeth pulled. The prescription medication started to take a hold on Andrew.

His friends started to change, and Andrew began losing interest in football and struggling with his grades in school. In some ways we knew he was not the same. He had always been on the go with his best friends during the summer months. This too changed, as well as sleeping habits, becoming argumentative and hanging around people we didn’t know. Finally we noticed things of value were missing and he was always in need of money. Still, we didn’t grasp what was happening.

“I’m sorry” he said one night to us and that he needed help. He told us that he was hooked on Oxycontin and that he wanted to stop using the drugs. Later after a relapse and an overdose, we found out it was heroin. We tried several doctors and clinics. After spending a week at a treatment program, Andrew came home on Christmas Eve, clean and with a sparkle in his eyes. He began his treatment and counseling. We thought we were out of the woods. But as one knows, addiction cannot be cured in a week.

Andrew wanted to go back to school but we wanted him to take the semester off and stay at home under our supervision. He started to work, but he still had the cravings and he said he “thought he was going insane.” We kept Andrew’s money and only gave him enough money to eat or put gas in his car. We never trusted the fact that he would head down to the city if given the chance. We changed his cell phone number and monitored his phone. We wanted to know his every movement. The only time he complained is when he had the cravings and wanted to use.

On May 12, 2010 we went out with Andrew and a trusted friend to a dinner party. He left with his friend and went to downtown Main Street in St Charles. He came home around one o’clock and came into our bedroom and said good night. The last thing he said to me was “Dad you would be proud of me I took a taxi home.” My wife woke me up and Andrew had overdosed in our downstairs bathroom. I did CPR until the medics came but it was too late. Andrew had passed away. A friend that he had known since childhood had given him the drugs. His words meant little to us in this situation, but he did tell us he was sorry at Andrew’s funeral.

I hope by sharing our story, this will reach someone in need. We will never forget how Andrew carried on courageously during the last year of his life—but we will always remember how those other years were the best of our lives.

In Loving Memory,

Terry & Pam Jones

 

 Taylor Wade Green: September 5, 1991 – December 5, 2009

Taylor was a very interesting and brilliant kid. He was always laughing and joking around, and had a smile that was contagious! Taylor loved playing video games and hanging out with his dad. Teachers always commented on his intelligence and his great imagination. Taylor didn’t like to do his homework, but was able to ace tests and he didn’t even have to study.

Taylor had a hard time in school because he was bored and felt like he didn’t fit in. At the age of 12, we were told we had to get him on medication or send him to an alternative school. He was diagnosed as ADHD and having depression. His father and I didn’t completely agree with it but felt we had no choice. By the age of 14, he was using marijuana and not going to school. At that time, Taylor went to live with his dad. He was enrolled in school there and was doing okay, but still felt like he didn’t fit in. Eventually Taylor made friends with a group of kids that got picked on and bullied by other students. He always stood up for those kids because he could relate to them. Taylor was such a big kid that no one ever messed with him or his friends.

By the time he was 17, his friends changed. He was hanging around a group of kids that skipped school and would hang out. His dad noticed changes in his behaviors. He was argumentative and always tried picking fights. Taylor’s medications were missing and he was nodding off when he was suppose to be working. He complained his stomach hurt a lot. The arguments escalated and his dad sent him to live with me.

Taylor and I sat down to talk about what was going on in his life. He admitted to me that he had been using heroin. He wanted to change his life. He started hanging out with his other friends but found himself in trouble again because he stole a bottle of vodka from the store. He went to jail for 3 weeks and the judge sent him to rehab for 30 days. Taylor came out and was doing good for a few weeks. He met a new guy in rehab and was going to meetings with him. But then I noticed spoons missing and his attitude changing again. So from that point on I told him his car and room would be searched and this person (who I later found out was a dealer) was no longer allowed to hang out or call the house anymore. Otherwise he was on his own and he could explain that to the judge. Three weeks went by and Taylor seemed to be doing great. He signed up to get his GED and went job hunting. I called him the morning of Dec. 4th 2009. I reminded him he needed to get to his interview and get his other things done. The last words he spoke to me were “I love you momma”.

On Dec. 5th 2009 I woke up and saw Taylor’s car out front. For some reason I had this feeling that I needed to go to his room. I couldn’t shake that feeling, so I went into his room at 7:00a.m. I went over to him and he felt cold. I looked into his eyes. I knew that I was staring into the face of death. My son, my Taylor was dead! Dead from heroin! (I later learned that the dealer he met in rehab that was banned from my house had called the day before and needed a ride into the city for heroin. The heroin that killed my son.)

In Loving Memory,

Marilyn Smashey

 

Michael Thomas Heard: January 25, 1985 – October 1, 2010

Michael is the younger of our two children. He graduated with honors from Rockwood Summit High School, class of 2004. He loved high school and he dearly loved his many friends. He was a kind, generous young man who was bright with a quick and clever wit. He had a special love of music and was an accomplished guitarist and drummer. He played in the praise band at Jefferson Hills Church and was especially proud of his rock band’s performance at the Summit High School Summapalooza-Battle of the Bands his senior year.

He loved performance cars and motorcycles; Star Trek and symphonic movie soundtracks by Hans Zimmer and John Williams; Mike was a devoted fan of the Cardinals but dearly loved his St. Louis Blues. He enjoyed his personally autographed Cam Janssen jersey. He was also an employee of The Big Bang dueling piano bar on the Landing in St. Louis and was a proud member of the “Big Bang Gang”.

For much of his life, Michael experienced periods of anxiety and depression. Mental health issues can be very complex challenges not easily diagnosed or treated, even with professional help. Mike had received treatment for depression since he was in middle school. When he went away to college we later learned he began self medicating his anxiety with un-prescribed prescription drugs. In 2007, he had come to St. Louis for a family event and had the courage to ask us for help and treatment assistance in dealing with opiate addiction. It had started with abuse of prescription drugs like Xanax and OxyContin but it had evolved to become a heroin addiction.

We were shocked and knew nothing of opiates or addiction of any kind, but we sought to provide him the best possible help and support available. He ultimately attended 4 rehab programs, one of them for 9 months in New Mexico. He tried so very hard to overcome this challenge. He hated what it had done to him, to us, to his friends. He suffered so at times. He knew we loved him and we fought alongside him. He battled gallantly against this disease of addiction, but on October 1, 2010…on that particular day, it was stronger than he was and it stole his life.

As a family, we didn’t share our circumstances with very many people, especially early on. We’ve come to learn, though, that everyone has been touched by alcohol or drug dependency in some manner. We had shared our story with only a few friends and family, in part because of the social stigma attached to it. We were embarrassed because people don’t understand it as the illness that it is. You can say “my son has cancer” and everyone is sympathetic. That is not the case with addiction. But more importantly, we wanted to protect Michael’s reputation, his good name, in full expectation that he would recover and resume the life of a normal person…a non-addict.

We remember the time we had together, and hurt for the life that could have been for him, and for us…and we desperately miss him.

With love and compassion to all who are hurting, but drugs aren’t the answer.

Tom and Carmen Heard

 

William “Billy” Cabral: October 22, 1990 – July 3, 2010

Billy was a fun-loving young man. He was loved by his family, and well liked by his friends, teachers, coaches and teammates. Always quick with a smile…a grin that made you think he knew something you didn’t. Growing up I would say Bill was a very normal well-adjusted young man. He excelled in youth sports…he played football, but baseball was his true passion. He led the team in “Home Runs” and…”Strike Outs”…and in my view that was Bill: swing for the fence, forget about the consequences. It was that final year of youth baseball just before his freshmen year in high school when he started to lose interest in sports from time to time. His performance on the field and behavior off the field became erratic.

We soon learned that he was using marijuana and alcohol with some regularity which started a downhill slide. Trouble at home, school and the St. Louis County police landed him in youth detention. Bill was placed in several rehab programs which he completed, but never on schedule. In my view, all of these programs provided Bill with the knowledge and the tools he needed only if he would apply them into his life…which he only did in some short spurts. Further trouble with law enforcement…possession of a controlled substance, a single vehicle accident, leaving the scene, assault and a DWI charge, landed him in a very big hole.

There was much contention in the home, but we never stopped loving him and trying to help him recover. We had many heart-to-heart talks which I often thought were breakthroughs, however, always short lived. He worked at trying to change his life but his addiction to drugs was something that he just could not control.

We were able to get Bill into the drug court program which provided a light at the end of the tunnel. This was his last and best chance to clear up the last few years of his life which had been full of chaos and uncertainty. He had to get and maintain a job, attend regular meetings, and both group and one-on-one counseling. Random drug tests, weekly visits with a probation officer, regular court appearances, and stiff consequences, should any of these requirements not be met.

We learned that Bill’s drug of choice had been opiate pain pills. I never thought that heroin was in play until he tested positive after one of the random drug test. He was placed in yet another rehab program, his fifth.

Bill was discharged from his last Rehab June 26th 2010, a bright sunny Saturday morning. We were all filled with hope for the future. The staff had all loved him and were confident that he would be one of the successes they all work and hope for. He was able to get his job back. We had a great weekend. I left for a business trip on Monday and Bill went off to work. The last thing I said to him was that I loved him and asked him to do what he needed to do to comply with the drug court rules. He spent Monday and Tuesday evening at home with his sister and girlfriend. Tuesday he cooked dinner for them and everything was looking good.

But at 1:16 AM Wednesday, he made a call to a drug dealer, took my car and drove to the city. Bill, a West County boy, headed to North St. Louis where he did not belong. He met another boy there from our neighborhood. Bill told him that this was the last time he would ever use heroin…it was.

On Friday evening, I activated the Sprint Family Locator on his cell phone. His phone had been off for several days but was now on. I arrived at the airport at 9:00am and found him dead in my car an hour later. He was placed there while he was alive…laid in the back seat covered with a black sheet locked in the car, keys and wallet gone. Left to die alone rather than bring him to or call for help…that act can only be done by the kind of person who has no regard for life, looking out only for their own well being. Somehow, they thought it was better for Bill to die than to deal with his overdose.

In Loving Memory,

Mike Cabral

 

Vincent (Vinny) Nicholas LoRusso: April 30, 1988 – November 7, 2007

Vinny lived life to the fullest. He had a drive to succeed, a mind smarter than his age and muscles to flaunt. His accomplishments came on and off the field. He played soccer, football and wrestling – all of which resulted in MVP awards. He excelled in school with additional awards in the Science Fair, Student of the Month and Honor Roll status.

Vinny especially loved video games and Dance Dance Revolution, where he spent hours competing for his personal best or “whipping” up on others. Vinny had a big heart, an infectious laugh and a quick wit. His love and compassion for people was evidenced by the many friends he had and the lives he touched on his summer mission trips to Mexico with his youth group at Rivers of Life Church.

Always on the go, his mind seemed to run faster than his physical body. As a young child, he was diagnosed as hyperkinetic and we made dietary changes to balance his activity. It was not easy, but for us an option to medication. In the middle of his 5th grade school year, we moved to Salt Lake City, Utah. After a difficult transition, he adjusted to life out West, disciplining himself in football while enjoying the thrill of snowboarding with friends.

After three and one-half years in Utah, we relocated back to St. Louis – a move Vinny relished. Shortly before we moved back, a friend of Vinny’s committed suicide. Shortly after, Vinny’s uncle John died from a long term illness of ALS. It was an emotional time as he started his high school years at Rockwood Summit. He threw himself into football and studies. By the end of the first semester he was a scholar athlete and named offensive MVP on the football team. He then took up wrestling and set school records his first year. Track followed shortly thereafter, but his desire to compete started to wane. His personality began to change.

When he didn’t try out for football the following year, we knew something was seriously wrong. His grades started to slip. After seeing a counselor, we were told he was not able to multi-task, comprehend or formulate rational behavior like most people, especially after traumatic events. With proper medication, this imbalance could be adjusted. However, by this time, he had already started “self medicating.”

The next few years were painful, not only for the family but also for Vinny himself. He started drinking and experimenting with marijuana. He stole from his siblings and from others. We became all too familiar with the juvenile system as well as the in-school suspension program. The roller coaster of emotion followed as Vinny dropped out of high school, got his G.E.D. and then enrolled at St. Louis Community College.

During the summer of 2007, Vinny reached out on his own, sought medical attention and was diagnosed with bi-polar disease. Within weeks, we had the old Vinny back. What a relief. Then two months after Vinny started college, a policeman and county coroner delivered the news of Vinny’s death – overdose. We learned too late that he never took the last prescription of medication. It was sitting in the bag unopened. I’m sure he thought I’m better, I’m stronger; I can do this on my own.

When digesting the news of an overdose, I remember thinking “just how much marijuana can someone have in their system to cause an overdose?” Four weeks later, to our surprise, the death certificate listed cause of death as overdose of heroin and oxycontin. We later learned Vinny had done heroin to prove he could kick it.

We ache for the pain he suffered and grieve for what could have been.

Vince and Nancy LoRusso

 

Travis Henry: November 28, 1984 – August 31, 2010

Travis was a handsome man with a big heart, a great personality and an extraordinary gift of communication. He had a very normal childhood – cub scouts, sports and the usual school activities. He completed the DARE program in elementary school, and his certificate/pledge to stay drug free was prominently displayed in his room until it got so old it was thrown away one spring cleaning day. He was a very good baseball player and even took MVP honors on his little league team.

At about age 14, Travis lost interest in baseball and other sports. I suspected and later confirmed he was smoking pot and drinking. I wasn’t too alarmed by these things, except that I thought he was experimenting a little too young. Most, if not all of his friends were doing the same thing. We later noticed prescription medications disappearing, and started hiding them. Then we had to start locking them up.

When he was 16, his mother found psilocybin mushrooms in his and his brother’s room. I took them both outside for a talk about drugs, and told them a story about a girl I knew in high school who got addicted to heroin. I can still see Travis’ young face telling me “We’re not going to take heroin, Dad!” He meant it. But I warned him if he could get the mushrooms, he was also going to be exposed to all the other drugs that person could supply.

When Travis came to me in October 2007 and asked if we could talk, I was ready for him to tell me he got a girl pregnant. I never expected him to tell me he had been using heroin and thought he was addicted. He told me he and two friends were turned on to it at a party. He said the guy told him as long as he didn’t shoot it up or use every day, he wouldn’t get addicted. But Travis started using it more and more often until he was using it every day. I got on the phone and within an hour we were driving to a treatment center. We enrolled him in an out-patient rehab program that lasted two weeks.

He stayed off the drug for about nine months (I think). I searched his room regularly and watched his money. Work had been sketchy, and when he wasn’t working I started noticing things like his Xbox and TV disappear. He was too “sick” to work a couple times, and had left the job early a couple more. He was using again.

Travis sold or pawned his possesions and spent every dime he earned to support his habit. He had sometimes worked for me, but I told him I wasn’t going to employ him and watch him spend the money on heroin. I told his brothers everything and we got together and tried to have an intervention. He denied being addicted.

He didn’t find a job for months. During that time he detoxed, and it wasn’t pretty. He stayed clean for several months. He finally got a job cooking in a restaurant and it didn’t pay much. He asked me if he could fill in for me on his days off, to earn a little extra money for Christmas. He promised he’d spend it on gifts, but he used the money for heroin.

In June 2010, Travis went missing for a few days, and finally called his mother and asked for help. He went to the emergency room, indigent and suicidal. They told him if he ever put another drug up his nose that his sinuses were likely to collapse. They gave him medication to get through the initial withdrawals, and he came home with me. His detox this time was severe and I got some suboxone from another addict’s father to help him through it. It took nearly two weeks to get him a bed at a treatment center.

He made it through the 29 day in-patient program, and he looked and felt like a new man. He learned about his disease and had a fresh, new attitude on life. He told me he would never use again and that he could never drink either, as that was his “trigger”. He moved back in with his mom, and landed a great job. He was about 3 1/2 months clean, and I was worried that as soon as he finally got money he would use again. I should have been.

He had his friend pick him up during his lunch break, and take him to cash his check. They went to a barbeque and he drank a few beers. Shortly after midnight he called his dealer multiple times. Someone else injected him in his right arm, as he had never done it before, and he was right handed. He passed out with a girl in bed, but she got up in the middle of the night and left him “because he was making too much noise.” It was hours before his friend discovered him in the morning. The paramedics got his heart beating and they put a ventilator in his throat, but after four days in a coma, he had no significant signs of brain activity and all of his organs were failing. His mother, his siblings and I made the hardest decision of our lives. We took him off the machines.

We had him cremated at the local funeral home, and had a service for him there. There must have been a hundred kids there.

Robert Henry

 

 Kevin Mullane: March 20, 1988 – November 29, 2009

Our son Kevin was born March 20, 1988. He was our only child and truly our blessing. He loved life, his family, his friends, skate boarding, school and music. He did well in school until about 6th grade, when he became distracted, did not take school seriously and grew more isolated. His dad and I got divorced when Kevin was 13 years old. This seemed to depress him very much. He slept more, didn’t finish his school work and found it hard to follow through with tasks. We took him to counselors and found out he needed medication to help deal with his depression.

Kevin had many friends, and good ones I might say. If you would ask his friends the best thing they remembered about Kevin, they would say “he made us laugh.” Kevin was so happy on the outside but very sad on the inside.

When he became a junior at Rockwood Summit High School, he also chose to go to South County Tech High School. He studied Horticultural and LOVED it! In his senior year (2006) he was student of the year. Kevin was very proud of this accomplishment, as we all were. We saw a light at the end of this depression tunnel.

As the years went on, we learned so much about Kevin that we didn’t know. At age 13 he started self medicating just so he could feel better. We also learned that he would smash different pills and snort them. This led to bloody noses and many confessions. We worked with Kevin, counselors, outpatient rehab and inpatient rehab. He would confide in us that he wanted to get clean and lead a “normal” life.

In April of 2007, his dad died of a heart attack. This, I believe sent him swirling down in his black hole of depression. In June of 2009, he admitted he had used heroin and was addicted to it. As parents, my husband and I were very freaked out. Not knowing what to do, we sent Kevin to Florida for a 30 day in house rehab program. We joined Al-ANON and began seeing a private counselor. Not sure what we were up against or knowing what Kevin had been dealing with, we were very overwhelmed.

We did not realize that addiction was an illness that had to be managed every day. We learned a lot and Kevin would tell us every time we spoke to him that “he wanted to be clean and sober.” His grandparents, aunts and uncles were all behind him 100%. Kevin had the best support system.

Kevin had been in and out of rehab and halfway houses. He decided to move back home with us. Our last few days with him were very peaceful. We watched movies, ate together as a family and laughed a lot!

On November 28, Kevin told us he was going to go out with some friends. Instead, he chose differently, he went back to his “drug using friend.” On November 29, 2009 we got the call that every parent fears, our son was found dead in the basement of his drug using friend at the age of 21.

Kevin had so many wonderful talents; he was a great skateboarder, he loved to help elderly people, gardening, music, he loved to laugh, he loved little kids, and most of all Kevin loved his own baby. We have been blessed that Kevin has left us a beautiful grandson, who is now 2 years old.

This terribly addictive drug heroin has killed our son and shattered our lives.

Kevin’s parents –

Dan & Kathi Arbini and the late Bryan Mullane

 

Natalie Burke: May 1989 – November 5, 2011

I feel as if I am writing Natalie’s Death Resume, Well I guess that I am. – Stacey Burke, mother

I always said Natalie was born standing up and talking (back). Well almost, she was an extremely early walker and talker. She did not know a stranger. She was full of life as a baby, toddler, child and young lady. Natalie was on the honor roll all through elementary and middle school. Her D.A.R.E. essay won in the 5th grade and she was given an award and medal. How ironic? When you are in the 5th grade you believe you will never use drugs. You are proud to know how bad they are. Natalie was so proud of her essay winning. Little did anyone know she would succumb to one of the most evil drugs available to mankind, and here we go.

I believe Natalie tried alcohol and experimented with drugs by age 15. Most of what I will tell you is what Natalie shared with me.

She and some friends were looking for ecstasy; they had tried it before and wanted to do it again. They could not get it, but someone said they had some CHINA. She asked what it was and he told her it was like ecstasy and she would like it. Well I guess she did. Natalie was able to hide her addiction for two or more years as she finished high school. I had no idea, never did I think my daughter would be on heroin.

I had talked to Natalie about the evils of heroin. I told her about her Uncle who has been fighting it all of his life and to this day has not conquered his addiction. I also knew that my daughter would never put a needle in her arm, so I never considered this to be the source of the problems that were going on at home and school. Little did I know that NO NEEDLE WAS REQUIRED with heroin anymore. How appealing it was to feel so good and only have to SNORT it.

Well it was all downhill for her from the day she started. 1 medical detox, 1 attempted family detox, 1 attempted in rehab detox, 2 failed rehab facilities. 1 failed sober living house. Lost jobs, wrecked cars. An eviction from her apartment, lost touch with family, lost touch with reality. She needed the drug as much as she did not want that life. She struggled so much, it’s unbearable to think about, much less write about. I can tell you that Natalie did not want to live that life. She had told me many times she would rather be dead than back on heroin.

I thought that our love could save her along with her family’s support and her commitment to being sober. Heroin does not allow you to be committed to anything other than heroin. My daughter decided to end her life on Saturday November 5, 2011 with heroin and other means. She wanted to make sure she did not survive her attempted overdose.

She has left a hole in our lives that can never be filled. I hope the not-even-once program will help save lives in the future. I hope that one person who reads my daughter’s memorial will understand the outcome of heroin. It’s hardly ever a good ending.

Stacey Burke

 

Johnny Matthew Kiegel, Jr.: June 25, 1980 – October 5, 2009

Though born in Florida, Johnny was a military “brat” and traveled the world with us, living in Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom. With no brothers or sisters, he collected a group of friends, which became like family to him…and now to me. He loved history, philosophy, debating, animals and his family…which included kids from Japan to England.

Johnny was a musician, songwriter and talented acoustic and electric guitar player. In high school, they asked him not to take senior guitar lessons–he was better than the teacher! Johnny graduated from Lakenheath RAF High School in England. He had a love for life and a smile that everyone misses.

Johnny came back to the United States when we relocated to O’Fallon 3 years ago. He worked at Subway and Plaza Wine & Liquor, and was a huge fan of soccer, especially Great Britain’s Manchester United Football Club. No matter what time ManU played…he was up and cheering.

I found out Johnny started smoking marijuana when we were living in England. We talked, and I thought it stopped at that. We moved to the US and all the drugs in the world became available. Johnny would go through times of depression and times of euphoria. I tried so hard to get him help, knowing that this greatly contributed to his use of drugs and alcohol…and then heroin.

My husband and I found Johnny on the floor of his bathroom….not breathing. And I never heard his voice again, or saw that smile…or his laughing eyes. He left us, he was all alone, in a cold bathroom….and the only child I had was gone. This drug has to stop killing our kids. Every week I hear of another young man or woman gone because of this killer that has infiltrated our towns.

Johnny’s presence is immensely missed by everyone he touched. I hope there is just one kid who reads this and stops to realize the grief and heartbreak it leaves behind….something that cannot be fixed.

It was very hard to write this, and I still don’t understand the stupidity of what he did…although I know he did not do it on purpose. I will never forget the sight of him lying on the floor, near his room, with his father trying to give him CPR. My head knew, but my heart had hope as they took him to the hospital.

Janice Hembree, mother

 

Jeffrey Cox: September 16, 1975 – May 14, 2011

I can still hear and see Jeff coming down the hallway saying “Hi, Momma” or “Love you, Momma” as he headed outside. I had told him a story about his younger sister and why she called me momma, and ever since, he called me Momma, too, which always made me smile inside.

Jeff enjoyed photography and had learned the best time to take pictures of sunrises and sunsets. His hands were seldom idle. He would pick up a twisted tree branch and sit on the porch making a snake stick out of it. He was also a whiz at the computer. Jeff was a loner much of his life, but after the death of his older sister in 2008, he became closer to his family.

Jeff admitted what a terrible teenager he had been. He had moved out when he was fifteen, because he didn’t like my rules. But after losing his place in December 2010, he moved back in with me. He told me he didn’t know if it would work because he didn’t know if we could get along, but we quickly rebuilt our relationship. Those five months were the best months of my life with him, and such good memories to hang onto.

Jeff slept a lot at home and didn’t feel good quite often, and there would be days at a time where he didn’t eat at all. Then, he would feel better, and eat everything that I made. I remember that he wore long sleeve shirts most of the time, but then again, it was January through May when he lived with me. I never thought anything about it, but am not sure I would have anyway.

I sat in the living room most of the afternoon, and thought it strange that Jeff hadn’t been out of his room at all. Finally by evening I texted my daughter to see if she had seen or heard from him. She had not. She came home and started down the hallway toward Jeff’s room. Within a matter of minutes, I heard a loud scream and her yelling “No, no, no,” as she came running down the hallway and started outside. I asked what was wrong and she mumbled in between sobs that Jeff was dead. I went running down the hallway to his room, and there he lay, on his knees, and his face lying on the carpet. I grabbed my cell phone and called 911.

We believe the young lady who had moved in with him for a while started him using drugs. After Jeff’s death, one of his friends went into rehab and one gave up the heroin, or so I am told.

During the visitation at the funeral home, there was a steady stream of people, many of them Jeff’s friends from now and the past, and friends of the whole family. He was buried down in the country by his grandmother and his sister. We miss him dearly every day and even though it has been almost a year now, I still expect to see him walking down the hallway and saying “Hi, Momma!”

Peggy Cox, mother