Editor’s Note: This story by WLWT News 5 originally aired Monday.
WAYNE TWP., CLINTON COUNTY — For a Greater Cincinnati family, the notion that heroin takes no holiday has been magnified in the past few days with the overdose death of a second loved one.
The Winemiller family, of Wayne Township, lost a daughter to heroin addiction earlier this year, and has now lost a son to the same thing.
When Roger Winemiller’s daughter, Heather, died of an overdose this past Easter weekend, he told his son, Gene, looking on in a stunned, devastated fashion, that it could be him one day if he didn’t shake his addiction.
Barry Eugene Winemiller, a 37-year-old father of three, died of a heroin overdose five days before Christmas.
His father told WLWT that peer pressure started his son on drugs when he was around 20 years old.
“You know, here, try this, you get started on the pills, the pills lead to heroin. Heroin’s easier to get ahold of, cheaper to buy,” recounted Winemiller at his farmhouse.
Close to where he sat, a framed picture of his son on graduation day at Blanchester High School looked back at him from a side table.
The young man’s desires were rooted in the simplicity of rural Ohio.
He liked to hunt and fish, had an abiding affinity for the family farm, loved nature and loved life, according to his dad.
“He loved his Beatles and classic rock and roll,” Wimemiller said, while chuckling at the memory.
As he spoke, he wore a bright “Hope Over Heroin” T-shirt, saying his son got clean several times.
But the addiction had too powerful a pull to overcome.
He said that with dealers lacing heroin with Fentanyl and Carfentanyl to increase potency, it’s a narcotic version of Russian roulette.
“Buy you some heroin to shoot up just to get that little high, you don’t know if it’s going to be the empty chamber, or the loaded chamber,” he said.
Tuesday’s funeral for Winemiller’s son at Blanchester’s Church of Christ (was to be) followed the next day by a funeral for another heroin victim.
The pastor at that church said that the rural region is getting ravaged by heroin, and that in the New Year, more must be done at every level of society to reduce the destructive impact of the heroin problem.
On the verge of burying a second child, Winemiller said he leans on his faith, his family, his friends and on the truth of what must be done.
“I can’t emphasize enough, no one, no one is immune from this epidemic,” he stated.
Winemiller wants to see tougher penalties for dealers, mental health support for addicts and a shift in attitude by society at large.
“They have the attitude is, ‘It’s not my problem, so I don’t care,’” he said. “That’s a problem.”
Winemiller acknowledged that the legal system is playing catch-up with an epidemic that’s outpaced solutions so far.
He wants people to know his son and daughter were not low-lifes, but once vibrant and life-loving, succumbing to poor decisions.
Heather had an 8-year-old son, loved to garden and cheer for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Her father recalled how she had been struggling with the daily stresses of life when she came to talk with him on the night of March 26.
She excused herself and closed the door to the bathroom. He found her lying on the floor, overdosed on heroin.
After three years of sobriety, she was dead of the addiction she could not kick.
Gene’s oldest of three children will turn 18 next month.
Winemiller wants the legislative and justice system to employ out-of-the-box thinking to battle the heroin problem.
“It’s not happening fast enough,” he said.
There is no room to question the words of a man who has lost two children to heroin in nine months.
Story used by permission of WLWT News 5.