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Jeremy Lahay: The face of a modern-day heroin addict

November 13, 2018

Lisa Mynatt remembers her late son, Jeremy Lahay, as the nicest kid who would give the shirt off his back to even a stranger.

He had a smile that lit up the room.

He always wanted to fit in with the crowd.

His life started off with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. He spent time in a children’s hospital for the first year of his life.

He battled a learning disability.

He was the father of a daughter, Cambria, who he cherished.

He was a heroin user who died at the age of 26 on Nov. 18, 2016, from an overdose of heroin, fentanyl, aecetyl fentanyl and cocaine in the Bradley home of the parents of his fiancée, Kaitlyn Berry.

The heroin was bought by Lahay and Berry in Pembroke Township hours before his death. She testified they were regular users, buying several times a week, more on the weekends after they got paid, for at least two years.

In October, the Kankakee County State’s Attorney’s office tried Javonta L. Davis, of Hopkins Park, for allegedly being the person who sold sold fentanyl-laced heroin.

A jury found the 26-year-old Davis not guilty.

Davis still has an open drug case in Kankakee County pending from his arrest in April 2017 in Pembroke Township, for delivery of a controlled substance.

During his closing arguments in the trial, Kankakee County First State’s Attorney Joe Kosman said Jeremy was a “modern-day addict” not like the junkies of the 1970s and 1980s. Just an average, everyday person.

Prosecutors had warned them these cases are difficult to prosecute and get a conviction.

“We knew it would be rough,” Mynatt said of the trial. “One day, he will get his (jail) time.”

The last drug-induced homicide case in Kankakee County was against a 23-year-old woman who allegedly gave her date too much methadone. A jury acquitted her in 2007.

The previous case, dating back to 2004, involved a man accused of giving a woman a fatal amount of cocaine. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2006.

The face of opioid users

A look among the 56 people whose primary cause of death was an accidental drug overdose between Dec. 1, 2016 and Nov. 30, 2017, in Kankakee County finds the victims to be a waitress, mechanic, carpenter, dog groomer, housekeeper, a supervisor, an administrative assistant and a correctional officer.

They ranged in age from an unborn baby to 66 years old.

According to a brochure from Riverside Medical Center, there were 638 cases of opioid drug overdose in 2017.

During Davis’ trial, Kaitlyn Berry testified that on the day Lahay died, they stopped their vehicle along the side of the road not far from the trailer where they bought the fentanyl-laced heroin.

She described the rush as immediate and strong, like nothing she has experienced before.

The couple would do more heroin twice that day before Berry left for work around 2 p.m.

She found him about 5:30 p.m. when she called off work because she was ill. Lahay was slumped over on the bed. He was blue. and motionless.

Moving back to Illinois

Mynatt said she and her family moved from Indiana to the Bradley-Bourbonnais area in 1992-93.

Jeremy was the second of Mynatt’s four children. He has an older brother, Donnie, a younger brother, Jordan, and a sister, Angel.

In 2007-08, the family moved back to Indiana, to Lafayette for Mynatt’s job.

After he turned 18, Lahay went to work at Wabash National in Lafayette.

He injured his back at work. Mynatt said an MRI showed a bulging disc.

A pain management doctor prescribed hydrocodone as well as methadone.

That is how Lahay started on his journey as a drug user.

“I thought it was dangerous mixing the two,” Mynatt said. “I just think there is some way better, like a drip, so you don’t give them a lot.”

Mynatt said she and Angel recently were going through some things and found an unused bottle of hydrocodone prescribed to Jeremy. There were 168 pills in the bottle.

Lahay was able to ween himself off of them before coming back to Kankakee County and living with his friend Caleb Berry, Kaitlyn’s older brother.

A few months later, Lahay moved in with Kaitlyn and her parents.

She testified that Lahay started using heroin in 2015. She tried to get him to stop. So as to not lose him, she testified she started using with him.

Besides smoking marijuana, Lahay also used cocaine. It showed up in his toxicology report from the autopsy.

Last two months

Mynatt said she would help out her son financially. He called for money for gas for the vehicle, groceries, small items they needed.

She said she figured out the money was going for drugs, that her son was using it to buy hydrocodone.

Mynatt said she stopped sending money.

“You know, tough love. We didn’t talk the last two months he was alive,” Mynatt said. “It’s kind of hard.

“I wish he would have got help. I think he was embarrassed. It’s not. There are people who can help. At least he is at peace. There are not any more devils.”

The second anniversary of Lahay’s death is Nov. 18.

Mynatt said they will be together with her son in spirit as they are on his birthday to remember him and celebrate a life that ended too soon.

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