ASHEBORO, N.C. -- Nobody ever wins against the devil, not without help.
Those are the words of a North Carolina mother who is speaking out about heroin addiction after her daughter was found dead of an apparent overdose in a Taco Bell restaurant Thursday.
Twenty-two years ago, Claudia Marini said she chose strong names for her daughter, Madison Bailey Marini. Madison means “gift of God,” or, “strong fighter,” and Bailey is derived from “bailiff.”
“She had so much compassion deep in her. She loved to read, and sing and she was brilliant,” Marini told WGHP-TV .
Madison was a straight-A student, a soccer goalie and a singer among other things. Around high school graduation time, however, Claudia says her daughter went down a different path, “and stopped going to school and those things weren’t important anymore.”
Madison denied it, said she didn’t have a problem and she had it under control, Claudia said. But, it was undeniable. Madison had become an addict.
“I had to say my name, ‘I’m Claudia Marini and I have a daughter who’s an addict,’” Claudia said, of a group treatment session she attended with Madison.
At that point, Claudia realized Madison would always be an addict. It was her hope that she would become an addict who no longer used.
“She wasn’t a criminal. They’re not criminals, they’re sick, it’s an illness, they’re sick,” Claudia said.
Madison began getting in legal trouble, for things such as shoplifting and possession. That legal trouble led her to court, which led her to brief stints in jail.
“We’d convince her to go into treatment and she’d be fine, and she was just wonderful, wasn’t she?” Claudia said, looking in the direction of her mother – Madison’s grandmother – Rose. “She was wonderful and it was like the old [Madison].”
Yet, after treatment, Claudia says the same friends which fed Madison’s addiction would pull her back in. Before they knew she was using again, she would be in court on a new charge.
“It’s a stupid powder and it’s stronger than me,” Claudia said. “It’s stronger than her own mom.”
Last month, Claudia said she begged the judge not to give Madison jail time. Instead, she asked for him to give her daughter mandatory rehab.
“I said, ‘If you don’t do this today, we won’t be back on [Jan. 3], because she’ll be dead,’ and I was right,” Claudia said, referring to Tuesday, which would have been Madison’s next court date.
Christmas was the last time Claudia saw her daughter in person.
“Even though she was 22, every time she opened a gift it was like she was five,” Claudia said.
Before Madison left, Claudia told her, “I love you, be safe.”
“I wish I’d hugged her a little bit tighter, a little bit tighter and told her how much I really loved her and how proud I am of her despite the addiction,” Claudia said, unable to hold back her tears.
Days later, on Thursday, Madison posted a video and message to Claudia’s Facebook page.
“About how much she loved me and that she was sorry,” Claudia said.
Yet, around 7:40 that night, police were called to the Taco Bell, in King, North Carolina. It was there where they found Madison, in the bathroom, dead after an apparent overdose.
“I heard my mom scream out, ‘No,’” Claudia said, after the first phone call. “No.”
Madison had overdosed before. Claudia began to change clothes and prepared to go to the hospital to be with her daughter.
“The second phone call came, that they had worked on her all they could and that she is gone,” she recalled.
King police say Madison’s preliminary autopsy revealed no natural cause of death. However, they’re still waiting on the toxicology report.
“She was alone,” Claudia said. “She had died alone, in the bathroom in a Taco Bell.”
Tuesday, Claudia sat in a chair in her living room in Asheboro, speaking to WGHP in the hope of raising awareness about addiction.
“It’s devastating that, as a mom, that what I hang on to every day of my 22-year-old daughter is a piece of her hair,” Claudia said, sobbing, holding a sandwich bag holding Madison’s hair. “Because I can’t hold her, and I can’t touch her and I can’t brush her hair.”
The day after Madison’s death, King police Chief Paula May told WGHP it’s going to take more than educating the public about drug abuse to fix the problem. May believes it will take an effort by prosecutors, courts and judges. Like Claudia, May believes there needs to be alternatives in sentencing, like rehabilitation and better programs in correctional facilities.
“I just don’t want any other moms to have to sit on their couch and hold a piece of their child’s hair in a baggy, because it’s all they have,” Claudia said.
May says the drug problem in King is worse than it’s ever been; a similar sentiment to that of law enforcement officers in cities and towns all across the United States.
“Heroin, heroin is the devil,” Claudia said. “If anybody ever asks me what the devil looks like, that’s what the devil looks like, and that’s why these kids need help, because nobody ever wins against the devil. Not without help.”
A memorial will be held for Madison on Wednesday.