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Heroin nightmare: No more secrets

Prosecutor: We need families to get the problem out of the shadows

FALMOUTH, Maine – David's parents decided they had to tell it straight. They owed him that.

They wrote his obituary, published in the local papers: "David Paul McCarthy, 29, died of a drug overdose on Friday, Oct. 17, 2014, losing a long-fought battle with drug addiction — a challenge faced by many families today."

The dealers in the McCarthy case have not been arrested; investigations are ongoing. Prosecutors and police say they are not eager to imprison addicts who sell drugs — they'd rather get those people into treatment and enlist their help in going after dealers who bring heroin into the state.

HOW DAVID DIED

From the countryside of New England to the cities of the Midwest, the most deadly epidemic of heroin use in half a century is tearing at the fabric of American life.

Part 1: David McCarthy's story

Part 2: 'The angel of death'

Part 3: Starting with Oxys

Part 4: 'He decided not to be'

Part 5: Enabling and denial

Part 6: Michael's story

Part 7: No more secrets

"If you work overdose deaths, then you're not working the organization above that," said Dan Perry,the assistant U.S. attorney in Maine who is in charge of drug cases. "Overdose deaths are a priority because of the magnitude, the impact of a death, and because they'll lead us to the groups that are causing the devastation.

"This is not something we're going to arrest our way out of. We need families to get the problem out of the shadows."

On a glorious fall day, 400 people packed Episcopal Church of St. Mary. A hundred more stood outside, although the service was not broadcast outside the building. They were people the McCarthys hadn't expected to come. They were, David's mother said, "people with secrets, secrets like ours."

"The WASP-y Yankees of Falmouth, generations of blond, blue-eyed social x-rays, they all came," Ireland recalled. "These are the people I thought were so snooty. I mean, after we got divorced, I overheard a woman say they didn't want their daughter to go with David because we were divorced. But those same kind of people, after he died, came to my door with soup and just hugged me and said, 'You were a good mother.'

"It was a huge outpouring of love and sympathy and people saying, 'It was so brave and good of you to put that in the paper.' 'We're so glad you called it what it is.'"

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