"The thought of my daughter lying alone and dying for between 25-27 hours is almost unbearable" - Sharon LeGore

In the cold, dark morning of February 11, 1998, our precious daughter, Angela, was found thrown against a tree with her jeans down around her knees, her underwear torn and stones embedded in her back from being dragged down a muddy embankment.  
My husband and I lay comfortably sleeping in our warm bed, unaware that our only daughter's body was being disposed of like unwanted trash long the Yellow Breeches Creek near New Cumberland.

Angela's battle with heroin was over, but mine was just beginning.  If you were to ask me to close my eyes and remember something about my daughter, my mind goes back to a little girl with a beautiful smile calling, "Mom, come wash my hair."  I remember sitting down by the tub and looking at the blue veins running through her porcelain skin and thinking to myself how fragile she was.  I never dreamed that one day those tiny veins would carry the liquid poison called heroin that would end her life.

At about age 14, Angela began to explore new friendships.  She wanted desperately to fit in, and going with the crowd was easy for her - smoking cigarettes at first, then using inhalants, then pot, acid, crack and finally just three months before her death...heroin.
As the level of drug use progressed, so did the problems.  Angie had been admitted to eleven different rehabilitation programs and had been arrested a few times.  We watched her be released, we watched her run again, we watched her attempt suicide, recover, go back to rehab, run away, shoplift, steal a car, steal a truck, get caught, be let go.

Through all this, we never stopped seeking help and, most importantly, we never stopped loving her.  The thought of our daughter lying alone and dying for between 25 and 27 hours is almost unbearable.  After receiving a lethal dose of heroin from Michael J. Greenfield on a Monday night, Angie was left unconscious in his home until early Wednesday morning, when he found her dead and disposed of her body.

Medical attention could have saved her life.  Greenfield pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter, delivery of heroin and abuse of a corpse.  As we sat in a Cumberland County courtroom for his sentencing, I could not believe what I was hearing. Judge Edgar B. Bayley gave Greenfield concurrent sentences of just one to two years for all of the charges. I left the courtroom that day angry at the system and feeling void of justice, but with a determination to change the law to prevent this from happening again. My first call was to Agent Gregory Borland at the US Drug Enforcement Administration in Harrisburg, who was surprised to hear me ask, "What can a parent do to help in the drug war?"

Our talk sent my life in a new direction. At his suggestion, I immediately made an appointment with state Rep. Jerry L. Nailor.  We talked for nearly two hours about my situation, what could be done to strengthen the drug laws and how I could help. I also was alerted to state Rep. Ronald S. Marsico's introduction of HB-28, a heroin drug-trafficking bill.  Soon I was meeting with him and beginning my journey through the halls of the legislature.  I wrote a letter about my daughter's death and the drug dealers sentence with a plea for support of HB-28, intended to crack down on drug-dealing by increasing the mandatory minimum sentencing for heroin possession, beginning with two years in jail and a $5,000 fine for a first conviction for possession of one gram of heroin an amount considered greater than what individuals would have for their own use.

Currently, sentencing for less than two grams is up to the judge.  Traveling door to door for months, I gave letters to every representative.  Some sat down with me and discussed the heroin problem at length.  I met wonderful, dedicated, hardworking people, and was privileged to testify before the House and Senate judiciary committees. HB-28 is expected to be passed into law this spring, and we are at work on others.  But there is more to be done.

Angie's case is not an isolated incident.  A rapidly increasing number of families throughout Central PA are suffering with a child's addiction, as the waiting game for effective treatment becomes a matter of life and death.  
In order to address the drug problem, we need funding to provide effective treatment.  Heroin addiction is extremely difficult to kick because it changes brain chemistry.  Without long-term treatment by trained counselors, recovery is almost impossible.  Insurance companies do not cover long-term care for addiction, and the state is considering slashing its budget for drug and alcohol treatment by $10 million.  I can't understand why we need multi- million-dollar stadiums to entertain people while our children are dying.  We need education programs that show us the realities of drug use. After a recent presentation in Luzerne County by Heroin Alert of Delaware, there were five admissions for drug treatment within five hours.

Uneducated about addiction, my husband and I just went along with whatever we were told was best for Angie. I have since worked with the Cumberland-Perry Drug and Alcohol Commission to create a program that helps parents identify signs of drug use in an effort to prevent addiction.  We need task forces of community leaders and parents.  Taking the lead, state representatives recently formed a Drug Task Force. Parents are frustrated as they desperately fight for their children's lives.  I have listened to their anger at the police for not doing their jobs, but how can they when their hands have been tied by state Supreme Court rulings?  In most cases police cannot seize firearms or drugs even after suspects have dropped them and fled.  And in many instances, police are restricted from using drug dogs.  Pennsylvania is now a distribution center for illegal drugs.  Legislators cannot do it all alone.  They need help from citizens.

It took the tragedy of my daughter's death to get me involved.  Greenfield is already out of jail.  The judge released him for good behavior after just 10 months and three and a half weeks.  With tougher laws and mandatory sentencing, no judge could make that decision again.  And my darling Angela's memory will not be left down a muddy embankment, but in the minds of our legislators in the halls of the Capitol. 

(This Article first appeared in the May  2000 Issue of Central Pennsylvania Magazine )    

UPDATE                                               

The heroin drug trafficking bill House Bill 28 that Sharon Smith LeGore traveled the halls of the Pennsylvania Capitol promoting, was signed into law in June of 2000 and Ms. Legore continues the work today she started over 16 years ago.  

Parents, loved ones and others continue to find support, encouragement and educational information at MOMSTELL and we will continue to strive to provide resources and support services to all who seek it.