A TRUE STORY: TRAGIC ALCOHOLIC LIFE ENDS WITH MURDER AND SUICIDE

(11/19/2022)
ADDICTION IS AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY DISEASE

By Bob Weaver 2013

(The names in this story have been fictionalized}

Sam Stevens was a health professional in Roane County in the 1960s, a well-educated man who suffered from alcoholism, who tried many times to stop drinking.

During that time funeral homes provided ambulance service, and the Sinnett-Weaver Funeral Home on more than once occasion transported Sam to the Emerson A. North Hospital in Cincinnati for treatment of his alcoholism.

He returned to Spencer and relapsed.

I remember finding him intoxicated in the lobby of the funeral home, walking there from his downtown office, not wanting to drive his car home. We provided the service.

Sam's drinking led to an estranged relationship with his wife Nancy and young daughter, Nancy often left their home to stay with her sister Mary on Ripley Road.

Time went by with the progressive nature of alcoholism taking its toll on Sam and the marriage.

In the 1960s, it would be fair to say that alcoholism, while often associated with people of a lower station in life, was rampant among the professional and business people of the community, doctors, dentists, lawyers and business people.

It is an equal opportunity problem.

During that time, my personal tolerance level for alcohol was rapidly increasing, self-assured that I had no problem.

It was about 3 a.m. when the phone rang, a shaky and nervous voice saying an ambulance was needed on Ripley Road, someone had been shot.

Dressing quickly, I responded to the scene with an ambulance by myself.

Arriving at the house, I parked the ambulance along US 33 and made my way down a steep, darkened driveway to stumble over what turned out to be a body.

The porch lights came on and I examined the man. He had been shot at close range, not breathing, his heart stopped.

Going to the house the two women, Sam's wife Nancy and her sister Mary were both weeping in terror, telling me that Sam was the likely shooter, having come to the house labored with the suspicion that his wife was having an affair, and that her lover was inside the dwelling.

Sam had waited patiently with a gun outside the dwelling until a man left. When he exited and started up the driveway, Sam shot him dead and quickly fled.

It was a case of mistaken identity.

The dead man was the boyfriend of his wife's sister Mary, the son of a Spencer professional.

During the next few hours, police caught up with Sam and charged him with the murder of the young man.

Some time went by and Sam was released from the Roane County Jail, posting bond.

His wife Nancy had moved to a second story apartment on Main Street with their daughter, and was now openly dating a man from the community.

Sam, who continued to drink, managed late at night to climb to the rooftops of several connected downtown buildings, walking across the roofs to his wife's apartment.

He was spotted and the police were called.

The officers managed to get on the rooftop and chase him down, with Sam being injured during his resistance.

Again, we dispatched an ambulance to the scene, taking Sam to the hospital to be checked out, before he was returned to jail.

It was never learned if he had a weapon.

A short time later, Sam hung himself in his Spencer jail cell, his alcoholism finally cured.

I'm sure I tipped some drinks over this terrible tragedy, again assured I still had control over my drinking, drinking which continued to progress until I got sober nearly 43 years ago.

Sam's alcoholism story ended with murder and suicide, majorly affecting his family and community victims, and is but one of hundreds that I recall.

Following my career as a mortician, I helped establish two centers for the treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction, a career I followed for 23 years, helping treat over 12,000 people afflicted with alcoholism and drug addiction.

While the stigma of alcoholism and drug addiction is connected to "low-class" people, over the years I have been constantly reminded that it is not an affliction of status - an equal opportunity disease.