This story is courtesy of Orlando Sentinel
On a crisp spring morning, Mike Belisle dives down the purple slide in his yard, pieces of his graying ponytail standing up on end. Three little boys watch and giggle. There’s a lot of laughter inside Belisle’s small farmhouse on an acre lot about 2 miles south of the Florida-Georgia line.
There are also toddler tantrums and sleepless nights with a crying baby.
It’s not the way Belisle, a 58-year-old truck driver, and his wife, Lynne, 56, planned to ease into retirement.
That was before his daughter and her husband were found dead of an opioid overdose on the side of I-4 near DeLand, their three sons still buckled into their maroon car with its engine running.
Now, the Belisles are raising Joey, 5, Aiden, 2 ½ , and Nicholas, 1 ½.
“I’m going to be 75 when the youngest one is 18,” Mike Belisle said. “We’re going to spend the rest of our lives raising kids because of drugs. Me and Lynne, in a perfect world, we’d love to just be grandparents. But we’re not the only ones out there having to do this. This is an epidemic.”
What killed Daniel Kelsey, 32, and Heather Kelsey, 30, on a December night last year wouldn’t become clear for another six months. But from early on, family members and police suspected they were two of the thousands of opioid overdoses sweeping the nation and muscling through Florida’s suburbs, beach towns and big cities.
Autopsy reports released in June confirmed that the two died from lethal doses of fentanyl, a drug often used for pain relief in terminally ill patients that is at least 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine.
“This is a poster case for what’s going on in America today,” said Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood, who investigated the case. “[Heather and Daniel] were not criminals. … they weren’t street urchins out there doing robberies and burglaries. They were people who had a disease and the disease killed them.”
Opioids killed a record 33,000 people across the country in 2015, the most recent year available. Florida saw drug overdose deaths increase by nearly 23 percent from 2014 to 2015, higher than every other state except for Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and Connecticut, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. After addiction wins. After the funerals. After people start — or at least try — to go back to their everyday lives.“People like Daniel and Heather … people like them need to be made aware of the damage and carnage left behind when they make foolish choices,” Mike Belisle said. “They are not in this all by themselves.”
It was about 1:40 a.m. on Dec. 31 when Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Richard Gelsey noticed the 2005 Ford Freestyle pulled off to the side of I-4 with its flashers on. A woman appeared to be slumped against the outside of the car. A man was lying in the grass a few feet away.
Thinking they might be asleep, Gelsey sounded his horn several times. They didn’t move. He called for backup.
When Road Ranger Tyron Nichols arrived, video from the trooper’s dash cam shows they walked toward the pair, shouting, “Hello!” and shaking the couple’s legs.
“That’s when we noticed there were three little kids in the backseat,” Nichols says.
It was cold, with the temperature dropping to 33 degrees in those early-morning hours. The children were dressed in jackets and sweaters, but the front passenger door was wide open. Music from what sounded like a Looney Tunes cartoon was blaring on the car’s DVD system.
“How’s it going, buddy? You OK?” Gelsey asked Joey, the oldest boy.
One of the boys cried, “Daddy” over and over again as the strangers unbuckled them from their car seats and carried them to the road ranger’s truck as their parents lay motionless on the ground.
“What’s your name? How old are you?” a paramedic asked as the boy continued to wail. “I know. I know you’re scared.”
Police think the boys may have been alone in the car for as long as three and a half hours.
Paramedics, who arrived by 2:16 a.m., signaled to Gelsey, who was with the boys in the truck, that the children’s parents were dead.
The trooper began to sing “Jesus is the answer,” a refrain from the chorus of the hymn with the same name, as the boys quieted.
“OK, let’s go find Daddy,” one of the children said as he played with the trooper’s flashlight.
Back to today…
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They have a host of great personal photos. Its a well written story with a tragic beginning to a good ending.
I love Mike Chitwood. He’s great at his job. BUT I don’t think drug addiction is a disease. Its a CHOICE. We make decisions to use drugs and alcohol.
It wasn’t a disease when blacks were dying in the streets on crack. But now that its Caucasian people, all of a sudden its an epidemic and a disease. That’s bullshit.
We didn’t get DISABILITY for being an alcoholic. But today, they’ve found a way to make it socially acceptable to be a junkie. That’s why I don’t like those fuckers. You’re not helping them by giving them a check. Its obvious that they are embarrassed by their own so they give them money to keep them from stealing and robbing. But all you’re doing is enabling them. You’re giving them a hand out, not a hand up.
Who is they? Whoever is in charge of determining who is disabled, or who is mentally ill, or whoever funds these programs to assist in alleged drug rehabilitation. Call it the government, whatever you want. Its wrong and its not fair.
There are so many Caucasian folks on food stamps and disability.
All of their children have ADHD or BIPOLAR, or some other disability. Yeah right.
Adhd and Bipolar are real things. I’ve met adults with it. They didn’t get a check. They worked. But if your child had it, you can get a check every month if you can get a doctor to agree with it. A story just ran where the ENTIRE FUCKING FAMILY, all white, two or three generations were getting disability. Lol get the fuck outta here with that.
That’s why I will never help those fuckers. If you’re disabled, then go get your check. Don’t ask me for anything.
And don’t complain about blacks getting food stamps.
I used to get upset with the Section 8 chicks who paid $8.00 a month for rent and got food stamps. I hated those lazy bitches. Now I’m like, it is what it is. There are those who are truly disabled who go through hell to be approved but drug addicts and repeat offenders get it automatically?
Nobody is being accountable for their actions. And when we keep sweeping it under the rug and throwing money at it, we are teaching people that there are no consequences for their behavior.
I’ve shared my personal story on the blog of my disability. Its been almost two years. Lol nothing yet. Not one dime from the government.
I’m with my children and the burden isn’t upon somebody else. Drug addiction is selfish. This man has to raise your children because you are too stupid to just say no. You’re too dumb to deal with your own problems instead of trying to drown your sorrows. How am I to feel sorrow for you when I’ve seen CHILDREN say no? But you’re an adult with absolutely no self control. But because somebody told you that you’re the victim and you have a disease, that’s permission for you to toss out your responsibility to others. To you I say, shame on you.