- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A man’s death last week at his Mechanicsville area home has triggered a police investigation, a teenage visitor’s arrest on misdemeanor theft and drug charges and the anguish of the dead man’s mother over the continuing toll from prescription drug abuse.
An autopsy has not yet determined the cause and manner of Harrell Thomas Morgan’s death, a spokesperson for the state medical examiner’s office said Monday. Morgan, 37, was living in a mobile home at a parking lot in Oraville, near the intersection of Route 235 and Morganza Turner Road. Police and ambulance crews went there at about 1:30 p.m. Thursday, and Morgan was pronounced dead at the scene.
Dorothy Miller, Morgan’s mother, said Monday at her Loveville home that her son had prescriptions from two doctors — one for oxycodone to ease the pain from a series of back surgeries, and one for an anti-anxiety medication issued when he recently was in a drug rehabilitation program on the Eastern Shore.
“I think it’s an accidental overdose, because he’d been clean. He’d been clean the last six weeks,” Miller said. She got a phone call on Thursday afternoon that her son was unconscious.
Donnie Miller, Morgan’s half-brother, said he and another brother rushed to the trailer home, and found Morgan in the company of two visitors.
“He was laying on the kitchen floor,” Donnie Miller said. “The other two boys were standing around. One of them was trying to talk to him. We got them out of the way, and we started doing CPR.”
St. Mary’s sheriff’s narcotics detectives report that they joined patrol deputies who responded to the scene, and encountered possible witnesses, including 19-year-old Lawrence Alvin Hoffman Jr. of Hollywood.
The law officers eventually took Hoffman into custody on charging papers alleging that they found the teenager had Morgan’s prescription bottle for alprazolam, containing 33 tablets of the anti-anxiety drug. Hoffman’s vehicle was parked outside, with its engine running, according to charging papers alleging the vehicle contained a straw with suspected oxycodone, along with a scale with suspected marijuana.
Hoffman was released Friday on 10 percent of $3,500 bond to await a court hearing on charges of the possession of drug paraphernalia, the possession of alprazolam and stealing the property of Morgan.
“I found him. I didn’t know he was dead. It looked like he had fallen,” Hoffman said Monday at his home, declining to discuss the matter further.
Donnie Miller said he saw no other drugs or drug containers at the scene, other than the alprazolam.
“I’m sure too much of any one thing is not good for you,” he said.
Dorothy Miller said that Morgan was born with hydrocephalus. “Water on the brain is what they called it back then,” she said, but he survived the seven brain surgeries he underwent as an infant, and went on to graduate from Leonardtown High School, briefly serve in the U.S. Army and do masonry work with his father. “He struggled all his life,” she said, but “he was kind. He had a big heart.”
The painkillers prescription for her son accompanied three back surgeries in a four-year period, she said, and he was getting ready for a fourth operation.
“He got involved with too many doctors. They weren’t following up on his medical history,” she said. “The lovely doctors got him on that oxycodone.”
Morgan recently visited with his father, who is terminally ill, Miller said. “They made their peace and said their good-byes,” she added, also recalling her last conversation with her son, on Thursday.
“I don’t know if [his death] was a crime, but I know he didn’t intend to do it,” she said. “He just left my house two hours before it happened. He was going to catch the bus and go home. He’d see me later. He always comes back in the evening.”
Parents’ drug summit set for March 7
A drug summit for parents will be held in March at the Hollywood firehouse in response to overdoses occurring in St. Mary’s County, as prescription pill addiction continues to increase locally, along with heroin use, and deaths from both.
The drug summit, titled “An Open Discussion about Pills and Heroin in St. Mary’s County” and “Parents — The Anti-Drug,” will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, March 7, at the firehouse’s social hall.
The St. Mary’s County Department of Aging and Human Services recently established an opioid overdose prevention workgroup, tasked with developing and implementing a local plan to reduce fatal and non-fatal opioid-related overdoses. The workgroup includes representatives from the St. Mary’s County Health Department, MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital, Walden, the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office, St. Mary’s County Detention Center and local pharmacies, including St. John’s Pharmacy in Hollywood.
To review the Maryland Opioid Overdose Prevention Plan, go online to http://adaa.dhmh.maryland.gov/Documents/content_documents/OverdosePrevention/MarylandOpioidOverdosePreventionPlan2013.pdf.