Heroin nightmare: The 'angel of death's' story

Dealers connect with Dominican, Mexican gangs selling cheap heroin from Mexico


FALMOUTH, Maine – The day before David's funeral, one of his high school friends, a woman with whom he had a romantic relationship that lasted more than a year, wrote about him on Facebook.

"I think I lost the moon while I was counting the stars.… we ALWAYS found our [way] back to each other…. I will always love u and cherish what we had my first love. David McCarthy may angels lead u in."

The woman who wrote that tribute was one of two high school friends who supplied David with heroin, according to McCarthy's parents, friends and the police.


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

"We call her the angel of death," Famouth Police Chief Ed Tolan said. These were kids he'd watched grow up. The chief says he believes David's old friend sold drugs to at least three of the town's four overdose victims in the past year.

The woman was the love of David's life in high school, his mother said.

"He wanted a girlfriend so desperately," she said. "I hardly knew her; he didn't bring her home. He'd decided I was the enemy."

Two law enforcement individuals said the woman and another high school friend, a man who also grew up in Falmouth, supplied heroin to their old friends in Falmouth and Portland. The man sold the fatal heroin to David and, the next night, to his stepbrother, the individuals said.

The woman, who is not identified here because she has not been charged with a crime, was anguished by David's death. "I've been here in my bed since last Saturday," she wrote a week after the overdose. "It's safe here and I can cry as much as I want and re-read letters" from David.

The next day, she alerted her friends that she was leaving town: "I'm packin what will fit in my purse and im running away. I'm gettin in the car with the first stranger that picks me up whether they have candy or not."

"Candy," according to friends and police, was the code word for heroin that the woman used on social media to alert friends when a new shipment arrived in town.

Her Facebook page is a jarring collision of mundane domesticity, devotion to her young son, and chesty boasting about her erratic nightlife — drinking, drugs, sex and her night job as a stripper. Accounts of parent-teacher conferences bump up against invitations to get wasted. "Happy birthday to my little man" follows "Shout out to the ladies that keep their clothes on and make money. I'm not one of them but good for y'all."

The woman, in a brief meeting at her apartment in a subsidized building in an artsy, gentrifying section of Portland, initially agreed to talk about David and drugs. But she never came through on that promise and later ignored requests for comment.

Her grandmother, whose house she often visits, said the woman rarely responds to calls and mostly sleeps her days away.

The woman has lived in a succession of subsidized apartments; there's no sign of big profits from her drug sales. Police and prosecutors say that's not unusual: The heroin trade bears little resemblance to the street corner traffic associated with crack or PCP.

In Falmouth and Portland, heroin is often sold by addicts operating out of their own homes. They drive south on Interstate 95 to depressed cities in Massachusetts, to Lowell, Lynn or Lawrence, where they connect with Dominican and Mexican gang members selling cheap heroin from Mexico, now the source of most heroin in the United States.

HOW DAVID DIED: Read part 3 of the series

The dealers from Maine bring back just enough to sell to friends, using their narrow profit to satisfy their own cravings. Sometimes, gang members from Boston, New York or Pennsylvania drive north to Maine and set up in an addict's apartment, selling for a day or two until the package is gone, paying their hosts with free or discounted heroin.

Then, a few days later, they get on the road and do it all over again.


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