“My brother tried it for the first time:” ME identifies 13 who died as a result of probable overdoses over Labor Day weekend

MILWAUKEE COUNTY -- Officials with the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office on Tuesday, September 6th identified 13 people who lost their lives as a result of suspected drug overdoses over the Labor Day holiday weekend -- and the family of one of those victims is speaking out.

The victims range in age from 26 to 55.

Officials with the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office told FOX6 News they're seeking an uptick as it relates to the addiction epidemic with their being quite an increase in heroin use and fentanyl-related deaths.

Many times, users don't always know how potent the drug is, or what it's been mixed with, officials said.

Elliot Sandahl

Elliot Sandahl

The sister of 26-year-old Elliot Sandahl of Oak Creek, one of the victims who died over the Labor Day holiday weekend said all it takes is one time.

"Unfortunately, my little brother tried it for the first time Friday night and that was his last day here. It's killing a lot more people than I can even imagine," Lindsey Sandahl said.

Sandahl on Tuesday, September 6th remembered the good times with her younger brother.

"Elliot was one of the most funniest, most charismatic people I've ever met. Really good heart. He was an Air Force veteran. He will be sorely missed," Sandahl said.

Elliot Sandahl

Elliot Sandahl

Sandahl said her brother wasn't a drug user, but on Friday night, September 2nd, he made a fatal mistake after a night of drinking. The medical examiner's report said Sandahl used heroin and immediately began to "act funny" and "breathe funny."

 Sara Schreiber

Sara Schreiber

"The unknown potency and the unknown concentration of the drug and even the identity of the drug they are using can be a real unknown to the user and a giant risk factor," Sara Schreiber, forensic technical director with the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office said.

Schreiber said the office was stressed over the holiday weekend.

"There has been quite an increase in heroin use and fentanyl-related deaths that have come through this office in particular," Schreiber said.

As you can imagine, these deaths are devastating for the family members left behind.

Lindsey Sandahl

Lindsey Sandahl

"Don`t ever try it because you might not come back and the pain that I feel today from losing him hurts more than anything I can describe. I feel like a piece of my heart is gone," Lindsey Sandahl said.

Services will be held for Elliot Sandahl Wednesday, September 7th with full military honors at the Oak Creek Community Center.

As for the other 12 victims, autopsies were done, and the final causes of death are pending toxicology testing.

52-year-old Ernesto Rodriguez of Milwaukee passed away on September 1st, around 1:30 p.m. The medical examiner's report indicates he was found slumped over the edge of his bathtub. The report states Rodriguez was a known heroin and Xanax abuser.

33-year-old Andrew Gorenc of Milwaukee died on September 1st around 4:30 p.m., after being admitted to the hospital on August 30th. The medical examiner's report states he is suspected to have overdosed on an unknown substance. He was found unresponsive in his bed, according to the medical examiner. His drug screen at the hospital was negative, the medical examiner said.

26-year-old Elliot Sandahl of Oak Creek passed away on September 2nd, shortly after 3:30 a.m. The medical examiner's report indicates he died at a friend's home after using heroin.

50-year-old Marylou Boettge of South Milwaukee died on September 2nd around 10:30 a.m. The medical examiner's report states Boettge was found unresponsive in her home after her ex-husband requested a welfare check.

31-year-old Zachariah Gottfried of Milwaukee passed away on September 2nd, shortly before 4:00 p.m. The medical examiner's report states Gottfried had a history of heroin use and was found on his bathroom floor on September 1st with a needle and syringe next to him. He was pronounced brain dead on September 2nd.

46-year-old Sharla Cephus of Milwaukee passed away on September 3rd around 6:30 a.m. The medical examiner's report states Cepuhus was found unresponsive in her home with drug paraphernalia nearby.

28-year-old Steven Windt of Cudahy died on September 3rd around 11:30 a.m. According to the medical examiner's report, Windt had a history of substance abuse and was on house arrest. He was found unresponsive in his walk-in closet by his father. The report states there was drug paraphernalia located nearby.

38-year-old Joshua Nichols of Milwaukee died on September 3rd around 3:30 p.m. The medical examiner's report states Nichols had a history of substance abuse and was found unresponsive in a hallway at a home in Greenfield by his father. The report states that police found drug paraphernalia and loose pills in the basement.

26-year-old Arif Weiss of Milwaukee died on September 4th, shortly before noon. The medical examiner's report states Weiss had a history of heroin abuse. He was found dead in his home with drug paraphernalia nearby.

44-year-old Duane Jaraczewski of West Allis passed away on September 4th around 1:45 p.m. The medical examiner's report states Jaraczewski had a history of substance abuse was found unresponsive by his girlfriend. An empty prescription bottle of Alprazolam was found in his bedroom.

28-year-old Terrence Chadwick of West Allis died on September 4th around 4:45 p.m. The medical examiner's report indicates Chadwick had a history of drug abuse and was found dead in his home by his roommate. The report states he was a patient at the VA Hospital, and became addicted to heroin after several tours of duty.

55-year-old Dawn Palms of Milwaukee died on September 4th around 8:00 p.m. The medical examiner's report states she was found dead in her home by a friend. The report states drug paraphernalia was found on scene.

41-year-old Matthew Huber of West Allis passed away on September 5th around 9:30 p.m. The medical examiner's report states he was found dead in his apartment, with a corner cut of a baggie nearby. The report states Huber had a history of heroin and other drug abuse.

Heroin

Heroin

prescription drugs confiscated

Through July of 2016, the medical examiner says 161 people have died as a result of drug overdoses -- up 10 percent so far this year.

There is help out there for those struggling with addiction.

You can call the IMPACT call center by dialing 211. There, substance abuse experts take calls every day.

When you call 211, there will be a screening with questions about the individual's situation. IMPACT will then refer the caller to matching resources, regardless of whether they have insurance. The line is open 24/7.

Dose of Reality

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Wisconsin Department of Justice's "Dose of Reality" campaign.

18 comments

  • Rayce James

    Oh, I can see how THIS article was formed: “We’ll lead with the GOOD drug addict! He just tried it once, and everyone knows it only counts if you do it twice! His sister even confirmed it, and as we all know, drug users never lie!” People who use heroin are not simply alarmingly unaware that what they’re trying is dangerous – THEY’RE ADDICTED! And you’ll use the same scare tactics with weed and spice, so no one under the age of 70 will take you seriously. Get it together, Fox – you’re supposed to be a local NEWS outlet, not TMZ for poor Midwesterners.

  • Liberal Lies

    addiction is NOT a disease, it is a choice. Nobody forces you to stick a needle in your arm. Life is a series of choices, and using heroine is a poor, poor choice with deadly consequences. Calling it a disease is disrespectful and insulting to those who have died from real diseases. People who lived normal lives and made good choices that died from diseases.

    I’m pretty sure the president of the Philippines is laughing at us right now and saying “I told you so!”

    • Derrick

      Wow, this is news to me! All these doctors who have studied this for decades must just be idiots! Thankfully you set us straight, what would we do without you? So, have any evidence to support this?

    • Angry Dad

      You are correct, it is a choice, not a disease. And a very bad decision to make at that. Only an ignorant liberal would call it a disease, but we all know that would be an absolute Lie.

    • Henry

      Strange this is coming from you and angry dad, especially how you two supported the idea that addiction is a disease a few months back

    • Derrick

      The odds are actually much better than you think. A lot of these people are pill abusers. They know how much is in each pill, but heroin is often different strengths and cut with nasty stuff. They go to heroine because it’s cheaper and easier to get.

  • DJN

    Horrible does anyone see the connection with Customs stopping and seizing $1million worth of Meth coming across the border last week…… If you don’t your either blind or a democrat!!! Build the “WALL”

  • Had ENOUGH!

    Lol drugs. People are dumb.

    Got my house cheap on a foreclosure because the previous owner is/was a heroin junky. Thank you, heroin!

  • Lamont Bobo

    First time user my ass. He was hanging out with someone who had a supply of heroin on hand. Why would you hang out with someone who abuses illegal drugs if you were clean?? His sister is delusional and was she present when he took his “first ever” dose of heroin? She was sure able to describe his difficulty breathing!! Charge her under the Len Bias law the skank she is!!!

Comments are closed.