'Don't sugarcoat this,' mom says of heroin death

Posted at 6:03 AM, Dec 16, 2015

ROSS TWP., Ohio -- If dying in a porta-potty while shooting up heroin sounds like a dirty, terrible way to die, well, then that's the impression Colleen Perry hopes you get.

It's how she lost her son, Aaron, who was found dead inside a portable toilet outside Paul Brown Stadium before Sunday's Bengals-Steelers game. Aaron Perry is believed to be the second overdose death in a porta-potty outside the stadium; the first was discovered Oct. 8.

"Just share it," Colleen Perry said Tuesday night. "Show the porta-potties, show -- because that is real, that's reality. Don't sugarcoat this, there's no sugarcoating this."

At age 26, Aaron Perry was homeless -- his mother called it "tough love." He told her that he and other people experiencing homelessness would sometimes spend the night inside porta-potties -- because they were safer when locked, and warmer than the outdoors.

Deep down, Colleen Perry said she knew it was her son when she heard a body had been found.

"I had the dream for years," she said. "Every night, I'd go to sleep and close my eyes and go, 'Is this the night that I wake up to the phone call or the knock at the door that's he's been found passed away?'"

Police told Colleen Perry that Aaron still had his belt wrapped on his arm as a tourniquet and some needles inside.

She admits she was enabler. But eventually, Colleen Perry said she set Aaron up to be arrested and placed at River City Correction Center because he failed out of two other treatment programs.

Although Aaron Perry was most recently homeless, his mother said he had a job -- he even got paid Friday. Colleen Perry spoke with him that day and said she told him to be smart with his money.

It was the last time they spoke.

"I got to see him today, see his body today, and I told him 'I'm fighting this battle for you,'" she said.

Colleen Perry is planning a celebration of life, set for Saturday at Ross Community United Methodist Church in Ross Township. She said she's grateful to the jail staff and police officers for doing what they could to save her son's life. And she wants anyone to come and see the photos and confront the grim, awful reality of drug addiction.

"I'd encourage everybody, even if I don't know you, come see the pictures. Talk to your kids -- and I'm not talking about teenagers, I'm talking about younger, before they hit it," she said.

The Ohio Department of Health reports heroin overdose deaths rose from 697 in 2012 to 983 in 2013. Unintentional drug overdoses caused 2,110 deaths of Ohio residents in 2013 -- 196 more deaths compared to 2012’s total. Opiates, including heroin, were culpable in more than 70 percent of those deaths.

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