Lance Dyer recalls the Friday night, last March, before his son Dakota died. The two of them watched “Shark Tank” on television in their Breman, Ga. home. They later ate Chips Ahoy cookies and drank milk together while sitting on the kitchen counter talking.
On Saturday after errands with his wife, Deanna, Lance had planned to come back and take Dakota to the sporting goods store to pick up gear for the spring football team. He named his son, Dakota Blaze with dreams of him becoming a college football player one day.
Dakota shot himself the next day after taking synthetic marijuana.
Federal prosecutors consider Dakota a victim in their case against Thomas Malone Jr. of Roswell. Last week, his wife Jeannine Malone, a recently appointed assistant solicitor in Sandy Springs, was let go from her position as a result of her husband’s federal drug trafficking case.
Malone pleaded guilty, last fall, to “Conspiracy to Distribute a Schedule 1 Controlled Dangerous Substance.” According to a federal indictment from the Western District of Louisiana, Malone co-operated a business called NutraGenomics in Alpharetta and distributed the synthetic compound used to make the synthetic marijuana known as “Mr. Miyagi” to businesses across the country.
A Rising Concern
Last March, Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill that outlaws synthetic marijuana in Georgia. The bill, "Chase's Law" is named after Chase Burnett, a 16-year-old Fayette County honor student who died after smoking synthetic marijuana.
Leaders of an agency that works to reduce substance abuse and mental illness - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, (SAMHSA) - say parents should be alerted to the dangerous effects of synthetic marijuana.
In a December statement from SAMHSA, Gil Kerlikowske said, “Make no mistake – the use of synthetic cannabinoids can cause serious, lasting damage, particularly in young people. Parents have a responsibility to learn what these drugs can do and to educate their families about the negative impact they cause.”
According to a SAMHSA report, 11,406 emergency room cases in 2010 were related to synthetic marijuana.
Seventy-five percent of the emergency room cases involved youth between the ages of 12 and 29. Seventy-eight percent of that group were males.
A Tragedy in Breman
Lance Dyer says his life mission now is to make parents aware of synthetic marijuana and to prevent them from going through what he and Deanna have experienced. Lance believes that March day was the only time Dakota used the substance and that he had a psychotic break from reality after taking it.
"If I can prevent one other father from ever having to tell you that their son of 14 years literally died in his arms, then man, it's a day well spent," Lance said.
There’s a twist to the gun that Dakota used to shoot himself, Lance said. Four months before his suicide Deanna walked in on burglars. After the incident Lance’s mother, unbeknownst to him, gave Deanna a pistol for peace of mind, he said. She kept it in her nightstand and apparently Dakota learned it was there.
“The bullets were kept in a separate place,” Lance said.
He recalls that Friday night when he and Dakota chatted in the kitchen. “That night at about 12:30 a.m., he jumped up and hugged my neck and said, ‘Dad, I love ya,’ “ Lance said. “The next morning me and my wife got up and did our running around.”
They returned at 12:10 p.m. Deanna went to open the front and hit Dakota’s legs. She saw them on the floor covered with blood, Lance said.
He remembers diving through the door.
They thought their home had been broken into again but that was not the case.
“To tell you how far gone my son’s mind was…The evidence that was found on the floor and the shells that were ejected when he was trying to load the clip; he was having a difficult time trying to load the thing,” Lance said.
But he did load the clip.
According to Lance, forensic psychologists said that, “Dakota had to be mentally out there because he stood and looked in the mirror when he shot himself.”
Lance said, Dakota sent a part coherent and part incoherent text at 11:46 a.m.
“I can only imagine the war that my son was fighting inside because of the influence of the chemicals on him,” Lance said.
Dakota became an organ donor
Dakota was life-flighted from his Breman home to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, where he died at 5:10 p.m., that Saturday, Lance said. He recalls a feeling a cold chill run through his body, the instant his son was gone. "I knew my son was no longer in that room," Lance said.
Lance and Deanna decided to donate his heart valves and eyes. Lance says his eyes went to a 15-year-old girl.
"I know he is not behind them but one of these days I sure would like to look into those again," Lance said. "He wasn’t a saint but he did things that 14-year-old boys do. He didn't derserve to make one mistake and die from it."
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