SAN TAN VALLEY, Ariz. — A social media site designed to connect friends and family connected one Valley teen with the pills that would end his life.
Alexander Neville's family said that he was a naturally curious kid. He fell in love with egyptology from a single book and made his first dream to be a director at the Smithsonian.
“Alexander was a very curious kid," Amy Neville, Alexander's mom, said. "I'd say he was brilliant."
Unfortunately, that curiosity also included drugs. Neville remembers how her son came home after going through a drug prevention week at school.
"He saw this as a curiosity, not as a danger," Amy said.
The family knew drugs may be in their son's future. They monitored him and tried to make sure he got the help he needed.
During the pandemic, Amy said they let their son Snapchat to help connect with friends during a time of isolation. It was on the social media app that Alexander would get connected with a drug dealer.
“He said he connected with a drug dealer on Snapchat. He talked about how cool he thought it was and how cool he thought this guy was but how stupid he felt since now he's hooked on these pills,” Amy said.
Amy learned the truth after her son came forward asking for help. Alexander said he was experimenting with oxycodone.
He was 14 years old.
“He said, 'I feel so stupid,' and I told him 'you are far from stupid. Look you know something’s wrong and we are going to take care of it,'” Neville said.
The family called a treatment center. While waiting for a call back about admission, Alexander spent the day as he normally would.
But the following morning, Neville experienced any parent's worst nightmare.
“He was on his floor. It looked like he just went to sleep on his bean bag chair, except he was blue and cold,” Neville said. "They pronounced he was dead at 9:59 a.m. The call at the treatment place was at 10:03. I still haven't listened to that voicemail.”
Neville and her family were left wondering why.
"How can this kid be dead after the conversation we just had? We are doing what we are supposed to be doing. We are getting him help. He’s going to go into treatment. How is it happening like this?" Neville said.
A blood test revealed the Oxycodone was laced with fentanyl. Neville said there was enough in his system to kill four people.
“He did not stand a chance. Once that pill touched his mouth it was over for him,” Neville said.
She has since devoted her life to trying to raise awareness. Her warnings are two-fold.
First, the dangers of fentanyl, a powerful drug that has killed thousands of teens nationwide in recent years when it's laced with other drugs.
Second, the dark side of apps like Snapchat.
"If you can think of an illegal activity, it’s happening on Snapchat," Neville said.
Jeff Hynes, a former Phoenix Police Commander, and current Glendale Community College professor said he is not surprised.
He said criminals will use whatever avenues are available to them to help grow their business. He said law enforcement is getting better at tracking these criminals, but they face an uphill climb.
“Law enforcement is behind the curve," Hynes said. "Slower than what the social media advances are occurring.”
Neville wants an independent board to be formed to have oversight on Snapchat. She hopes the board will help cut down on illegal activity and save lives.
She also wants increased penalties for those dealing fentanyl.
“Alexander's death cannot be for nothing. It has to mean something. And this is one way of bringing meaning to it,” Neville said.
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