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Night at Mystic hotel ends in fatal heroin overdose for 18-year-old Sean Madec

By Karen Florin

Publication: The Day

Published April 27. 2014 4:00AM
Tim Cook/The Day
Julia Kenny of New London, center, hugs her nephew Kevin Banta while other family and friends watch balloons along Pequot Avenue in New London in memory of Kenny's son Sean Madec on Feb. 4, his birthday. Madec died in January 2012 of a heroin overdose. Kenny is working to raise awareness of the devastating effects of heroin addiction on a family.

Eighteen-year-old Sean Michael Madec, a brown-eyed, baby-faced guitar player with a growing appetite for hard drugs, checked into a Mystic hotel suite two years ago to party with friends and talk about opening a car and motorcycle restoration business.

He snorted line after line of cocaine and heroin. When he left the Residence Inn the next morning he was unconscious and on a stretcher.

He was dead on arrival at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital.

Madec would never again jam with his rock band, Torn Veil. He wouldn't be around to see his infant niece, Bianca, take her first steps. There would be no autobody business.

Hoping to put a face on the scourge of fatal drug overdoses in southeastern Connecticut and throughout the country, Madec's mother, Julia Kenny, and his grandmother, Sandra Kenny, provided The Day with police and medical reports from the Jan. 14, 2012, incident.

Madec, who lived in New London, was one of 23 people who died of an overdose of heroin or heroin mixed with other substances, such as alcohol and cocaine, in New London County in 2012, according to statistics provided by the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Last year, the number jumped to 34.

"I've seen too much of what happens to people with the drugs," said Madec's grandmother, a 71-year-old retired correction officer. "I've seen the whole thing that evolves. It's a blackhead, then a pimple and it's a boil."

A teen who started with marijuana and moved on to pills, heroin and cocaine, Madec didn't think he was going to die when he went out that night, his grandmother said. But drugs and death do not discriminate, she said.

"Wait until it knocks on your door," Sandra Kenny said. "You're not going to like it."

Hearing "cough" noises from Madec and finding him unresponsive in bed sometime between 3:30 and 4 a.m., Madec's friends yelled his name to rouse him. They put him in the shower, where they said he appeared to be vomiting in his sleep. They took turns giving him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation before calling 911 at 5 a.m.

The Mystic River ambulance crew that treated Madec reported he had no pulse, no heartbeat. His mouth and airway were full of vomit. He was cool to the touch. His pupils were fixed and dilated. His fingertips were cyanotic, or blue, due to a lack of oxygen.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation and oxygen treatments did not revive him. Nor did repeated doses of epinephrine or Narcan, a drug that can reverse the effects of opiate overdose if administered in time.

Madec had no vital signs when he arrived in the L+M emergency room at 5:41 a.m., according to a report by Dr. Laura D. Rau. CPR was continued for about five minutes, but Madec was in "cardiac standstill."

"The patient was expired," the report says.

He was pronounced dead at 5:46 a.m. His family members were allowed to see his body before it was placed in a body bag to await transport to the medical examiner's office for an autopsy.

"I was the last one to hold his cold body and brush his hair and kiss him and asked him questions like how and why and who," said his grandmother.

Her Groton apartment is like a shrine to Sean, she said.

"He was so beautiful," Kenny said. "He just shined. He was the most loving kid. He never raised his voice to me."

No one charged

The toxicology results would take several weeks to confirm what Madec's friend Rory Dole told Stonington police at the hotel that morning. Madec had snorted at least 10 lines of heroin and cocaine, sometimes doing lines of the two drugs combined. The state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner eventually notified the family that the official cause of death was cocaine and heroin toxicity and the manner of death was accidental.

Madec had gone to the Residence Inn that night with Dole, of Waterford; Benjamin Gale and Juan Luis Rodriguez-Rodriguez, both of New London, and an older man, Joseph Lavigne, 39, of Thompson, who had paid for the room and who, Madec's mother said, was going to provide startup money for the autobody business. Madec had graduated six months earlier from Ella T. Grasso Southeastern Technical High School, where he completed the automotive technology program.

When police interviewed Lavigne in a hotel conference room the next morning, Lavigne admitted he had driven Madec to Rhode Island two days earlier and introduced him to a girl named "Blue," a dealer who sold Madec 6 grams of heroin, for $120 a gram. Madec's family members think he may have also purchased drugs in New London.

In the hotel room bathroom, police recovered from a garbage can a plastic bag containing about 2.4 grams of heroin and another plastic bag containing what appeared to be cocaine residue. In the room where Madec and Lavigne had slept, they found what appeared to be a marijuana blunt on the floor near the nightstand. There was half a pill, its type not identified, on the kitchen floor. In the other bedroom, they found an empty mini-keg of Heineken beer and a paper fold containing a small amount of powder residue. There was vomit on the floor between the bedroom where Madec had slept and the bathroom where his friends had tried to resuscitate him.

The police found on the floor a cellphone containing several text messages between Madec and Lavigne involving drugs and drug transactions. They later determined it was Lavigne's phone.

None of the men who were with him on the last night of his life has responded to interview requests.

Madec's family members consulted with police and the state's attorney's office to see if anybody would be criminally charged. The authorities determined no crimes could be proved.

"We went back and forth with the state's attorney's office, and we just didn't have enough," said Sgt. David Knowles, a detective with the Stonington Police Department. "There was nobody holding the proverbial gun to his head forcing him to use it. He was responsible for his own death in that aspect."

Knowles said he feels for Madec's family.

Fearing withdrawal, he tried heroin

Madec's mother, 48-year-old Julia Kenny, has struggled with her own addiction demons. She said alcohol had been her drug of choice in recent years, and in February 2014, following the second anniversary of her son's death, she found herself in a hotel room alone, crying and chugging vodka.

"I really got crazy yesterday," she said the morning after the binge. "I drank. I lost my best friend."

She had achieved 10 weeks of sobriety as of April 23.

She says when her son was younger, he knew she smoked crack cocaine and begged her to stop. Then, Kenny said, he became just like her.

She said her son started smoking marijuana in high school and faked a back injury to obtain pain pills.

One day he couldn't get pain pills and, fearing withdrawal, he tried heroin. "He went from weed to pills to 'I ain't got no pills' to heroin," Julia Kenny said. "He's like me, in search of the eternal buzz. I can never get high enough on anything. He would smoke bowl after bowl after bowl and I would say, 'Sean, you can't get any higher.'''

Madec's sister, Cassandra Kenny, 24, also shares in the family curse. She said she is a pain-pill addict who is taking Suboxone, a doctor-supervised maintenance drug, to stay clean.

She admitted she used heroin, even after her brother's overdose death. "I have an addiction, and I couldn't get any pills, so I had to use what I could get," she said. "When you have an addiction, you don't think about the consequences or what could happen. You're just like 'just let me get a fix.'"

Four days after Sean Madec died, 450 people, still in shock, attended the wake at the Thomas Neilan & Sons Funeral Home in New London. He loved the Monster energy drink theme colors, so his male friends wore black jeans with lime green T-shirts under their dress shirts.

Girls were lined up, crying, his mother said. "It was horrible," she said. "He touched everybody's heart. He was always happy, always bubbly, always bouncing around."

Madec was cremated, and his mother gave some of the ashes to his friends.

k.florin@theday.com

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