Tavia Driscoll knew the day would come when she would be told her drug-addicted youngest daughter was dead. But it still came as a shock when Kathleen Driscoll became the fifth woman found dead under mysterious circumstances in one of the neighborhoods along North Main Street in Dayton.
On Jan 12, a woman discovered the 31-year-old Dayton woman’s body lying in the bushes of a vacant lot at 39 Ernst Ave. She was wrapped in blue fabric and bound with black tape. She died of multiple drug intoxication, with toxicology results showing a deadly mix of Fentynal, morphine, cocaine, methamphetamine and alcohol, according to Montgomery County Coroner Dr. Kent Harshbarger.
“I told the detective, ‘I’ve been waiting on the call,”’ said Driscoll, 66, of Dayton, who has now lost two daughters to drug addiction.
Her middle child, Sarah Aufrance, overdosed in a Miamisburg motel in 2015.
“It was like living in hell, wondering day after day after day what they’re doing, if they are all right,” Driscoll said. “I used to love it when they would get arrested in Dayton because I knew where they were. I could pull them up in the computer and know, ‘She’s not out here using.’ As soon as they got out they were out there doing it.”
On Sept. 15, just three blocks from where Kathleen Driscoll was dumped, police found the nude body of Deanna Prendergast, 39, of Dayton. She lay under a discarded door in the back yard of a dilapidated vacant duplex at 15-17 E. Hudson Ave.
Harshbarger said her body bore the signs of strangulation but was too decomposed for him to determine a cause of death. She had the opiate fentanyl in her system.
Deanna Prendergast’s family believes she was murdered, based on the condition of her body and the circumstances of how she was found, said her sister, Rachael Prendergast, 33, of Enon.
“We’re very upset that it is just being treated as another overdose,” she said. “With all the information we’ve got it’s just not sounding like it is just another overdose.”
Driscoll also wonders if her daughter was killed, especially considering how she was found all bound up.
“How do we know that somebody didn’t just shoot her up?” she said. “And then they dump them in the alley, just like they are trash.”
Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said his detectives are investigating all five deaths, including the three that Harshbarger determined were homicides. Drugs were found in all of the womens’ bodies and each had long records of arrests and convictions. Biehl said he does not yet know whether the deaths are related.
Prendergast and Driscoll both began using drugs as teenagers.
“It slowly went from pain pills (and then) it was harder for her to get pain pills and she slowly switched to heroin,” Rachael Prendergast said of her sister, who she said began taking pills after a car accident when she was 16.
Deanna Prendergast had her three children taken away from her and put into foster care after she left them on the sidewalk while she went inside a drug house last year, Rachael said.
“From what I understand once they took the kids she just kind of gave up on life and took to the streets,” she said.
The Prendergasts grew up in Medway and Rachael remembers Deanna as artistic, smart and a member of color guard before she got hooked on drugs. She spent years trying to hide her addiction, though the family knew.
“I tried to just distance myself because it was just too hard,” Rachael said. “It really broke my heart. I saw all the potential in her, what she could have been.”
Tavia Driscoll raised her three girls in Huber Heights. She said they would go to Carriage Hill MetroPark, ride horses in Englewood, go to movies together and out to dinner.
“Kathleen was a hoot. She was funny. She could sing,” Driscoll said. “She was beautiful. She was daddy’s girl. She was pretty awesome. So was Sarah,”
Her oldest daughter, who now has custody of Kathleen Driscoll’s young son, did not follow the same path. But the two others — born five years apart — began drinking and using drugs in their early teens.
Marijuana and cocaine led to crack cocaine and then heroin for both.
Their mother tried talking to them, getting them counseling and even having her youngest arrested and put in juvenile detention.
“You are helpless,” she said. “You can talk until you are blue in the face. You can have them arrested. You can put them in treatment.”
What she couldn’t do was get them to quit.
Kathleen Driscoll was was barely an adult when she did her first stint in the Ohio Reformatory for Women. Her criminal record dates back to 2006 and includes convictions for soliciting and drug possession as well as felony convictions for robbery, escape and aggravated drug possession.
“I told her, Kathleen you are a beautiful girl. You have a lot to offer this world. You need to stop this and love yourself,” Driscoll said. “She said, ‘Mom, I don’t know why I do this stupid stuff. I don’t know why.’”
Driscoll said she had to watch her daughter “like a hawk” whenever she came to visit because she would steal money, clothes and shoes.
Her mother gave heroin a name — Lenny — and she would tell her daughter, “Do not bring Lenny to my house. I just don’t want to be around it.”
Both daughters tried drug treatment programs but only managed to stay sober while in rehab or when they were incarcerated. Kathleen went to Florida and was badly injured in a stabbing. But it didn’t stop her from using.
Sarah was out of jail for just six days when she died, just after her mother had bought her a bus pass and activated her cell phone in the hopes she would get a job and stay sober.
“Sarah was a shock. I mean, I couldn’t even believe it,” said Driscoll, who began suffering from severe anxiety after the death.
“It’s just a horrific thing that happens to your body. You think you’re having a heart attack. That’s when I lost my job.”
Just before Thanksgiving Kathleen called, checking in to say hello and see how her young son was doing. It was the last contact her mother had with her.
“I didn’t hear from her at Thanksgiving. I didn’t hear from her at Christmas,” Driscoll said. “Which told me point blank that she was out there visiting with Lenny again. She wouldn’t call me when she was high.”
A man told Driscoll he dropped her daughter off at an apartment on Ernst Avenue just days before she was found on that same street, lying dead in the bushes of a trash-strewn vacant lot.
She imagines what her daughter’s last days or hours were like, shooting up in a dingy abandoned apartment the junkies call “a spot.” She doesn’t know if she overdosed on her own or was given a lethal dose by someone else, but the blame, she says, lies squarely with her daughter’s addiction.
“She could not get away from Lenny,” Driscoll said. “Lenny takes everything. He takes their mind. He takes their thoughts. He’s in charge.”
Five women found dead since June in North Main Street area of Dayton
Kathleen Driscoll, 31, Dayton
• Found: Jan. 12, 2018 in vacant lot at 39 Ernst Ave., Dayton
• The cause of death: pending
Deanna Prendergast, 39, Kettering
• Found: Sept. 15, 2017 in back yard of vacant duplex at 15-17 E. Hudson Ave., Dayton
• The cause of death: undetermined
Krystal Garcia, 30, Dayton
• Found: Sept. 25, 2017 in back yard of vacant house at 22 W. Hudson Ave., Dayton
• The cause of death: homicide
Amanda Fella, 34, Miamisburg
• Found: July 27, 2017 in the alley beside an apartment building at 316 Superior Ave., Dayton
• The cause of death: homicide
Jasmine Wadsworth, 39, Huber Heights
• Found: June 21, 2017 in alley behind vacant house at 24 W. Norman Ave., Dayton
• The cause of death: homicide.
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