It’s the worst news a parent can get, and Maria Chouinard got it in a photograph on social media.The photo was of her son, 17-year-old Josh Chouinard, lying on a floor, turning purple, dead or dying of an apparent drug overdose.Josh died early Monday morning at a friend’s relative’s home in Windsor. It’s believed he had been smoking deadly carfentanyl.Photos of him overdosing were posted on Snapchat and then Facebook and sent to his mother and his best friend. His grandmother saw it online. The photo was followed by unimaginably cruel comments. People called him names. They made fun of him. They said he was just a drug addict, and Windsor was better without him. The material has since been deleted.“We’re all just beside ourselves,” said Josh’s aunt, Tasha Coxen, who said she won’t let herself read the comments. “It’s tough no matter what. But to be circulating on social media…. Instead of putting it on social media, shouldn’t someone have been calling for help?”Kevin Ouellette learned of his best friend’s death from the photo.“He’ll never get that out of his head. Neither will I,” said Ouellette’s mother, Natalie Gordon.“It’s disgusting this stuff was posted. It makes me sick. It shouldn’t be allowed. He’s a child, and there’s a family involved,” she said.“What’s wrong with people? I’ve almost lost my faith in humanity. It’s not right. There’s a young life,” said Lisa Valente, who met Josh two years ago when she sold his mother a computer for him.“Josh struggled, but he was a wonderful soul,” said his mother, Maria Chouinard.Gordon remembered when Josh and her son met. Josh was seven. Ouellette was two years older. They went on to do everything together — basketball, skateboarding, BMX bikes and especially video games. There were sleepovers, camping and a trip to Canada’s Wonderland. Josh made the best Kraft Dinner for the two of them and came to all of Ouellette’s family get-togethers.“They were stuck together like glue,” Gordon said through tears. “He looked up to my son, and my son looked out for him.“He was sweet, respectful, kind, like a son to me and like a brother to my son.”His downward spiral started in 2016, when he began experimenting with drugs, Chouinard said. He posted photos of himself taking drugs and was then tormented relentlessly online. He dropped out of St. Thomas of Villanova Catholic High School.Two years ago, according to his family, he was diagnosed with an unknown psychosis with symptoms of schizophrenia. He was prescribed medication, but quit taking it.His family was torn apart when his mother was charged with attempted murder after allegedly running him down in an SUV last December, critically injuring him. Witnesses said she got out of her car screaming and crying, saying she didn’t mean to hit him, that she was trying to catch him to bring him home.She was ordered not to contact him and faces a preliminary hearing in June.
Josh Chouinard died of a suspected drug overdose on May 27, 2019.
After that, Josh bounced around, sleeping at his aunt’s, his grandmother’s or friends’ houses. The hate online toward his family became horrific.Numerous community services were involved. But, said Chouinard, “I feel like he was failed.”“Even though it was some of his choices that led up to what happened, his choices could have been guided in a different direction,” she said.“This boy was very lost and needed guidance,” she said. “I don’t know if he always felt he fit in. He tried hard to fit in. He struggled with so many things. He seemed down quite a bit. But deep down he was a sweet boy.”Coxen remembers him as shy, down-to-earth and well-mannered.Related
Gordon saw the nasty social media about Josh.“I don’t want him to be remembered for that,” she said. “I want him to be remembered for the good things because he was a good kid.”She messaged him several weeks ago.“I was going to take him out for lunch. I wanted to see how he was doing,” she said. “I just wanted to reach out to him. Sometimes people need that.”“I’d really like that,” she said he replied. “What day are you going to be free?” he asked.But Gordon was busy, working full time. She never got the chance.“I wish I did,” she said.“I never would have thought this is how it would be,” she said. “Never in a million years. He could have had more, done more. He was a kid. He was young. It’s really sad, devastating.”The last time Chouinard saw her son, he was walking along a street three weeks ago. She still wasn’t supposed to contact him. But she pulled over. He wasn’t high. He seemed like the son she knew.“I got out and gave him a big hug,” she said.The Windsor Overdose Prevention Society says it opened an unsanctioned supervised injection site for drug users Monday night after hearing about Josh’s death.“We were on the fence about doing unsanctioned sites,” said Brandon Bailey. “But with this kid dead…. It’s great that people are filling out paperwork to get a site. But people are continuing to die while people are filling out the paperwork. We just want to make sure people have a place to go.”The site will be staged on undisclosed days in undisclosed places to avoid police, he said.“If the police shut it down, more people will die,” he said. firstname.lastname@example.org