“Dead from an overdose”

When you think about people who use heroin, who do you picture?

It might not be the people whose lives are shared here. They were parents and athletes and pillars of the community. Like so many among the 216 people who died in Palm Beach County in 2015 from heroin or fentanyl-related overdoses, the people here lived vibrant lives until the overdose took it all away.

Read on and meet the new face of a brutal epidemic.


Some were once star athletes.

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Joseph.

a young mom who died for the first using heroin.

One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin. He lay on his armour-like back, and if he lifted his head a little he could see his brown belly, slightly domed and divided by arches into stiff sections. The bedding was hardly able to cover it and seemed ready to slide off ↺ REPLAY

_Joseph

a New York native have a reputation for helping others

Joseph Schreck was a star high school pitcher and Little League volunteer. But he got hooked on painkillers before he was old enough to drive. Always the entrepreneur, he put his friends from the recovery community to work at a construction business he started. The night he overdosed, he spoke to his parents from a laundromat, telling them he had been kicked out of his sober home. His parents were on a flight the next morning. It was too late. He was found on the ground outside the laundromat.
He was 25.

LaRae

a young sporty Ohio woman raising her sister

LaRae Dorsten was an athlete at her high school, earning varsity letters and recognition for swimming and track. Her father had committed suicide when she was young and her mother struggled with cocaine, forcing LaRae to raise her sister. By the time she was a senior in high school, LaRae was struggling with addiction. One day, after she finished her shift as a waitress, she was found unconscious in a bathroom stall.
She was 23.

Scott

a talented athlete from New Jersey

Scott Gillen played high school football, was captain of the basketball team and played college lacrosse. But Scott got hooked on heroin and overdosed in Boynton Beach. "When I tell our story,” his mother said.”I want to be sure people understand just how ordinary of a family we are. And be sure that they understand this can happen to anyone. They should not envision people addicted to heroin as bums hanging out in alleyways.”
He was 27.

Some fought for others.

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Gregory.

a young mom who died for the first using heroin.

One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin. He lay on his armour-like back, and if he lifted his head a little he could see his brown belly, slightly domed and divided by arches into stiff sections. The bedding was hardly able to cover it and seemed ready to slide off ↺ REPLAY

Gregory

an Army veteran who served in Iraq

Gregory "Doc" Chapman struggled with the memories of what he had seen during Operation Iraqi Freedom. A dog lover, Gregory spent hours volunteering at a local animal rescue shelter. Two days before he died, he posted an uncharacteristically dark message on Facebook: “Pray for the sick and suffering. I’m sick and damned suffering.” Police discovered his body during a drug raid on a heroin dealer’s Delray Beach home.
He was 26.

Cassandra

a Jersey Shore native who helped hundreds of Hurricane Sandy victims

Cassandra Vitale rushed north from Florida after Hurricane Sandy to establish Bucket Brigade NJ, which helped residents clean and restore their homes. She was so immersed in her relief efforts that when her program ended more than a year later, it left a void, which she filled with heroin, her brother said. Back in Florida, she went to rehab, found a loving boyfriend and a good job, yet died in her bedroom in a neighborhood on West Palm Beach’s north end.
She was 29.

Terry

a veteran former police officer who helped addicted first responders

Terry Marvin had struggled with alcohol before he became program director of a North Palm Beach treatment center. Wrote one friend, "I sent a lot of first responders to Terry for help and he got them sober and gave them their lives back." Terry, who had relapsed and overdosed in previous months, died in his Chevy Camaro in front of a drug store.
He was 56.

Some won’t see their kids grow up.

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Casey.

a young mom who died for the first using heroin.

One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin. He lay on his armour-like back, and if he lifted his head a little he could see his brown belly, slightly domed and divided by arches into stiff sections. The bedding was hardly able to cover it and seemed ready to slide off ↺ REPLAY

Casey

a young mother of a 4-year-old girl

Casey McRae was “an old soul” who loved The Beatles and enjoyed holding bake sales to raise money for people in need in her hometown in Texas, said her father, Rick. Sexually assaulted as a teenager, Casey was taking antidepressants, but wasn’t addicted to drugs, he said. Her boyfriend, who said he took heroin with her, told police it was the first time she had ever used the drug.
She was 20.

_Jim

a mixed-martial arts fan dad with dreams of competing professionally

A native of Philadelphia, Jim Masciantonio had been in and out of at least 25 treatment programs, his mother said. A father of a young boy, he had a green belt with four stripes and dreams of competing in mixed-martial arts professionally. He started a training program in Boynton Beach. He conducted interviews for websites such as cagejunkies.com. After his death, his mother made a video tribute to her son, a montage of photos set to John Lennon’s "Beautiful Boy."
He was 30.

Brian

a versatile young father from West Palm Beach

The father of a young child, Brian Garcia made films, enjoyed skateboarding and appeared in plays at Palm Beach Community College. He also suffered from severe depression and had a learning disability, which his father thinks led Brian to use marijuana, then pain pills and heroin. Sid Garcia, a West Palm Beach attorney, decided to mention heroin addiction in his child’s obituary to erase the stigma of addiction.
He was 27.


Roughly every other day in 2015, at least one person died of a heroin-related overdose in Palm Beach County.

The faces above represent 5 percent of the lives shattered by heroin and the related drugs fentanyl and illicit morphine. In an unprecedented investigation, The Palm Beach Post tells the story of each of those 216 people.

Among The Post’s findings: