Frank Allen Worster, 52
Frank Allen Worster joined the U.S. Army in 1978, when he was just 18 and living in Maine, says his brother, Danny Worster. He drove tanks and was stationed in Germany for two years. "When he got out of the service, I had moved to Cleveland, and I called him up and asked him to move here," Danny says. Frank obliged, working construction jobs and installing siding. "He was a good worker, a hard worker," Danny says. Frank, a 52-year-old father of two, died of a heroin overdose Jan. 14.
Michele Pauley, 33
At her mother's funeral in November 2012, then-32-year-old Michele Pauley left her seat and climbed into her father's lap. "She stayed there the whole service," says David Pauley. "She still wasn't afraid — no matter who was around — to sit on my lap." Just two months later, on Jan. 18, Michele was found dead by her landlord in a duplex she shared with her boyfriend. According to a medical examiner's report, she had hydrocodone, alcohol and heroin in her system. A vegetarian with bleached blonde hair and full lips, Michele worked as an exotic dancer in Cleveland. "She never used drugs until then," David says. "After that, she lost her spunkiness." Near the end, Michele began to worry about her drug use, he says. "Two weeks before she died, she told me, "Daddy, I think I'm in over my head,' " he recalls. David offered to take a leave of absence from work to help his daughter through the pain, nausea and chills of withdrawal, but she refused. "She told me she had never shot herself up, and that if the withdrawal got too bad, she wouldn't be able to [inject herself]," he says. For Michele's funeral, her father struggled to pay the bill, her grandfather, Gary Pauley, says. "But there were so many people who knew her and loved her," he says. "They all donated enough to pay almost half."
Dillon Sell, 37
Dillon Sell and Daniel P., a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, met at Absolute House, a drug and mental health treatment facility. Dillon reminded Daniel of Edward Norton's angry, self-destructive character in American History X. "He could be a goofy guy," recalls Daniel. "He used to tell me stories about what he was like. But it was hard to imagine him that way when you only saw the sober, beaten-down person." Although Dillon's struggle with heroin returned him to Absolute House nearly every three months, the 37-year-old became Daniel's house sponsor. "He saw me from Day One," says Daniel, who has been sober for more than a year. Dillon invited Daniel to share lunches on the facility's back stoop. At night, he would take the center's dog, Prada, into his room. "That dog followed him everywhere," Daniel says. On Jan. 21, Dillon attended two AA meetings, then used heroin to commit suicide, according to medical examiner's records. "This kid had no intention of killing himself," says his mother Gloria Sell. "I hate that the records say that." Nearly 900 people attended his wake. "You can't fix them," she says. "They have to want to fix themselves."
David Jason Wullschleger, 27
John Wullschleger was enjoying a beer in his Brooklyn living room with his 27-year-old son, David Jason, when the younger man excused himself to use the bathroom. John went into the kitchen for a sandwich and walked back to the living room to see that his son hadn't returned. "I went to go into the bathroom and I couldn't even get in," the father says. "I broke the door. He had a needle in his hand, and he was already blue." It was January, so John rushed outside and scooped up snow. "I tried to shock him. I gave him mouth-to-mouth," he says. "But I couldn't wake him." The father was there for his youngest son's death, just as he had witnessed his birth. "I didn't get to go into the delivery room for my first two children," John says, "but I saw David being born. The only thing I didn't do was cut the cord — I was too afraid I would hurt the little fella." David was a funny and strong-willed child, John says, prone to photo-bombing his elder siblings clad in sunglasses and wearing a goofy grin. Once, when his father was working with a hammer on a household project, he wanted to use one too. So his father took him into the basement and gave him a board and a hammer. "He was pounding away, and every time he didn't hit a nail, he would get frustrated," John recalls. A Brooklyn High School graduate, David worked installing heating and air-conditioning systems. But when he got frostbite on his toes one winter, he went into landscaping. "His boss loved him," John says. "We all loved him. I'm going through hell and back."
Freddie Fordyce, 44
The mother of his two autistic sons established a Facebook page in his honor, "Heroin Kills — RIP Freddie Fordyce," days after his Jan. 23 death. Freddie, who was found on his couch, according to the county medical examiner's records, also took cocaine and drank alcohol the night he died. Within weeks, law enforcement had ruled Freddie's death manslaughter. By May, Donald Lanum pleaded guilty to injecting heroin into 44-year-old Freddie's arm while the pair was inside the victim's Lakewood home. For that — and charges of corrupting another with a drug, tampering with evidence and drug possession — Lanum, 29 at the time, was sentenced to four years in prison. He was eligible to apply for judicial release six months later with good behavior. Friends and family celebrated Freddie's life at Tina's Nite Club three weeks after his death. For the party, they prepared a white sheet cake decorated with a tombstone.
William Reichle, 50
He was an outdoorsman, but not in the strictest sense. After all, William Reichle was a "catch-and-release kind of guy," says his older brother, Victor Reichle. He fished throughout Northeast Ohio, hooking bass and panfish, and tossing them back. "He was adventurous," Victor says. "He liked hiking and camping too." William worked as a dry cleaning technician, tinkering with and fixing equipment for Northeast Ohio laundries, for more than 20 years. When he died Feb. 13, of heroin and alcohol intoxication, he left behind his wife and two children.
Andrea Maria Rinicella, 33
Andrea Maria Rinicella and Thomas Cole were engaged for nearly 10 years. The South Dakota man waited for his fiancee to get clean and move out West. But "as much as she would tell you she could wear her high-heels in the cornfields, she was a city girl," says Lenore Rinicella, her sister. "She didn't want to hang out with the cows." Andrea jumped from hotel front desk jobs to convenience store clerk jobs, in between bouts of alcohol binges. They began when she was just a child. When she was 12 years old, her family moved from their West 102nd Street home to Kamm's Corners, where she and Lenore met a gaggle of teenagers. "We met them in this open field and they had some beer, and I remember saying, "Mom's going to kick our asses — let's go home,' " says Lenore. "But she didn't." That was her first experience with alcohol, or what her family would later deem the devil's juice. Andrea met Thomas in 2003 as he traveled through Cleveland on a cross-country drive to New York City. "I stayed with her for weeks," he says. "I never did make it to where I was going." That same year, Thomas watched as Andrea went on the first of at least four stints in area rehab centers. "My exposure to drugs was about zero until I wound up stopping that night in Cleveland," he says. "I think that I struck a balance for Andrea. She had me to fall back on — I had my head on straight, I go to church every Sunday, and I tried to instill those qualities in her." He bought her clothes and a Camaro. He paid for flights for her to visit him in South Dakota, where he works in manufacturing. Then she'd return to rehab, and for a while, Thomas would hold on to the hope that they could finally be together. "After two weeks, she'd convince herself she could do it on her own," he says. "I heard 'I promise' at least 1,000 times, and each time I wanted to believe her." She died Feb. 18, after taking heroin, cocaine and fentanyl, a pain reliever, near West 130th Street and Bellaire Road, in a house where she didn't live. "The party didn't get started until she got there, and I don't mean it in a drunken way," Lenore says. "She was just a vivacious person." She was also giving. Andrea had a teenage daughter, who now lives with Lenore. To try to shield her from the cause of her mother's death, Andrea's mother burned her death certificate, Lenore says. They'd prefer to remember Andrea's kindness and friendly nature. "She could talk to anyone anywhere," Lenore says.
Chelsea Rowe Vinton, 23
After her family moved from Denver to Shaker Heights, Chelsea Rowe Vinton took up gymnastics and equestrian sports. She had a passion for music and dance. The 23-year-old also had a hard-headed personality, says her former roommate, Allison Feketik, who often admired her for it but knows some people found her hard to get along with. "If someone said something about her that she didn't like, she would just stop talking to them," Allison says. "That was it." On March 2, Chelsea, a former cashier in Cleveland's Little Italy, overdosed on heroin. Her family found her alone inside her Cleveland Heights apartment. Afterward, Chelsea's mother posted on her Facebook page, asking her friends to share memories of her. Allison says some friends didn't post, angry that she'd taken heroin. But others responded with stories of carefree times with Chelsea, her kindness toward animals and her willingness to take in a friend who needed a place to stay. "She was one of my closest friends," says Allison. "I don't have a lot of girlfriends, but I could just call her up and she would come over."
Gregory Cerne, 57
Gregory Cerne was the baby of his six-sibling family. He moved from Cleveland to Canton in time for the math whiz to attend Oakwood High School, before it merged with Glenwood High School in 1975. When he graduated from Stark State College of Technology with a degree in engineering, General Motors Co. hired him as a mechanical engineer. But Gregory also battled depression and succumbed to an offer to smoke crack cocaine at a party nearly 14 years ago, his brother recalls. "That was his downfall," says Tom Cerne. "His wife divorced him, he lost his house, he was fired from General Motors." Gregory died March 17. "He had been straight for six months when it happened," Tom says. "He was so bright when he was straight, but he would always relapse."
Noel Romero, 51
Noel Romero never went into space, but he made sure others could go safely. As a welder and research lab mechanic for Sierra Lobo, Noel worked on projects at NASA Glenn Research Center. Over 20 years, he won several awards for his designs, including a structure he built for NASA's Ares I-X Rocket, which successfully launched in 2009. "He was a very, very, very good welder," says Sharon Gilestra, a friend and co-worker. The Berea resident had two grown daughters - the center of his life after work, Sharon says. "Most of our conversations were about his girls," she says. "His life literally revolved around them. He talked about them so much that when I went to the funeral, I felt like I already knew them." Noel died April 15 after taking heroin, alcohol and an antihistamine. He was 51.
Anthony Frank Insana, 34
When his father sold the family's landscaping business in 2000, Anthony Frank Insana tried to put his Ohio State University degree to work at area businesses. But cutting lawns and planting hedges wasn't as lucrative as when he'd worked for family. So five years ago, against his mother's advice, Anthony took a security job at a local strip club. "I didn't think that was the atmosphere for him. But if it was cool, you could convince him to do it," his mother Denise Insana, says. "I would tell him, •Anthony, you're a follower. You need to learn to say no.' " He moved to another club in 2012, Denise says. Soon, "he was struggling paying bills, and work was a little slow and he was a little lost," his mother says. He sold his motorcycle to make a little extra dough, and he began experimenting with heroin. "I was seeing him every week and had no clue," Denise says. "When I would ask him why he seemed so tired, he would tell me it was because of the hours he worked." At 10 p.m. April 15, Denise awoke to a phone call. Anthony had been coughing up blood. A friend had taken him to an urgent care clinic, then an emergency room. After suffering two respiratory arrests and three cardiac arrests, and living on life support for five days, Anthony died. "When people ask how he died, I don't sugarcoat it; I tell them," Denise says. "Heroin is like candy out there. It's so easy to get. It's so cheap. But he was 34, and he made a choice."
Adam Levi Foster, 31
Sheri Gittinger found her son's hypodermic needle in a trash can inside her home in 2009. Before his addiction, he was the kind of guy who often went out of his way to help others. His mother recalls him discovering a stray cat near his apartment and being adamant about finding it a home. He was a co-owner of Phoenix Manufacturing alongside his father. He was fascinated with biology, read books on the subject and was a member of the Herpetological Society of Cleveland, a group of reptile enthusiasts. "He changed," his mother says, "in the way most addicts do, constantly looking for the next time they can use." In the months after she found the needle, Adam Levi lost most of his right hand in a car accident. He was kicked out of the house after stealing from his stepfather. He spent the next few years couch-surfing with friends and in and out of rehabilitation programs, such as the Cleveland Treatment Center, a methadone clinic on Carnegie Avenue. "It's a hard thing to do, to try not to be an enabler, but to still be a supportive person," says Sheri. "I would go and meet him different places, because I was concerned when he didn't have a place to stay and I was afraid he didn't have food. Everybody says you've got to let them hit bottom and all that, but I didn't want to give up on him."
Ronald E. Rush, 26
Nineteen-year-old Kaitlin Rush was on her way to bed when she stopped to check on her older brother. She saw him asleep again, slumped over in a weird position in his chair. She woke him and warned he'd get a crink in his neck if he slept like that. "I'm OK," he said and lay down to sleep. Kaitlin and Ronald E. "Ronnie" Rush were exceptionally close. They'd grown up in a family of four kids, where pranks were common: Vaseline-covered door knobs and sink handles, a bucket of water tossed from the roof onto their unsuspecting little brother. The last year had been difficult. Ronnie had overdosed on heroin twice - including just a month and a half before, soon after his return from an in-patient rehabilitation program at Glenbeigh Hospital. While waiting for the ambulance, Kaitlin had cried in her brother's lap and begged him to go with the paramedics. Since that night, he'd picked up a new landscaping job and had spent a lot of time with his 10-year-old son, who he'd dropped out of high school to support, and 4-year-old daughter. "For the most part, he was his normal self," says Kaitlin. "It was hard to tell that anything was going on." Kaitlin was the last to see Ronnie alive. The next morning, his mother found he had died in his bed. "We always thought he was tired or laying down because he had been working all day," Kaitlin says. "Until it came to the point where he overdosed, you don't really notice it, because they're so good at hiding things like that."
Alexander Lee Martin, 25
Alexander Lee Martin was found dead in his apartment on a Saturday afternoon, a day he usually reserved for basketball. Alexander had played since he was 8, devoting Saturdays to shooting hoops and pushing himself ever harder in the hopes of becoming one of the best. He took to calling himself "The Unknown Hooper." His dedication landed him a spot on Lakewood High School's junior varsity team, until he got into trouble alongside his friends, who fought constantly and vandalized school property. He was kicked off the team. "That broke his heart," says his mother, Dina Jones. "He had grown up with a lot of those kids. If you became his friend, he was your friend for life." After high school, Alexander fell in and out of jobs, struggled with bouts of homelessness, fathered a son and considered a degree in culinary arts. He also experimented with opiates. His mother says a friend of his used heroin daily, leading him to do the same. "His career should have been LeBron's career," Dina says. "That's how good my son was."
Lanny David Gullion III, 19
A child found Lanny David Gullion III slumped behind hedges at the Triskett Rapid Station, a syringe resting in his lap. The 19-year-old met a dealer near the West 139th Street and Triskett Road station because he planned to travel later by Rapid, says Cuyahoga County assistant prosecuting attorney Mahmoud Awadallah. "As soon as he got the drug, he wanted to use it," says Awadallah. "So he hid behind the bushes and used it there." Lanny died within minutes. His Oct. 10 death was the first Cuyahoga County heroin overdose in 2013 to result in criminal charges. In all, four people - a friend, a drug dealer, a driver and the dealer's girlfriend - were sent to prison in connection with Lanny's overdose. Although Lanny had overdosed on the drug and survived just one week before, the Grafton teen called a friend and fellow addict to score him the drug, according to Awadallah. The friend called his dealer, who sent a driver and his girlfriend to deliver it. Michael Karkoska, 24, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, drug trafficking, drug possession and corrupting another with drugs and was sentenced to four years in prison. The others received yearlong sentences after pleading to the lesser charge of reckless homicide. "Our office is actively pursuing drug dealers," Awadallah says. "[Heroin] is a devastating thing that not only hurts the person using but hurts everyone around that person."