Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – The father of a 17-year-old girl who died early Thursday in Santa Fe after shooting up heroin with a friend said he wants her remembered as a loving but troubled young woman rather than as a drug addict.
“She was battling demons, and she was in a treatment facility in Albuquerque and fled from there,” said Waldo Anaya, the father of Desiree Gonzales. “She kind of went off the grid and didn’t want to be institutionalized.”
He is aware that after she was taken to the hospital, Gonzales was transferred to the youth detention center, then sent back to the hospital, where she died.
But, he said in an interview Friday, “We want to get her put to rest and then deal with that part of it, because there is going to be something going on with that.”
He said that the amount of time that elapsed from when the ambulance was called to the apartment where Gonzales overdosed, at about 7:30 p.m., to when the hospital released her to go to jail was one hour, 41 minutes.
She was taken to the Youth Development Facility due to a probation violation. Later that night, she was found unresponsive at the jail and taken back to the hospital, where “they tried to revive her and all attempts failed,” Anaya said.
He said she was pronounced dead at 3:25 a.m.
Santa Fe County, which oversees the detention center, is conducting an internal investigation, according to county spokeswoman Kristine Mihelcic.
Police are also looking at the possibility of a bad batch of heroin being on the streets, since four overdoses were reported within a four-mile area in Santa Fe in past two days. Gonzales’ was the only fatal one.
Anaya said Gonzales’ drug addiction “probably started about two years ago with pot and progressed from there.” He said he last saw her about a month ago.
“The last time I heard from her, she had been clean for three months and this happened,” he said.
“The way we would like to remember Desiree was the way she was. She was a loving young woman who cared for everybody and had friends everywhere, and everybody adored her. She was a sweetheart.”
An autopsy was performed Friday to determine what killed Gonzales, but results won’t be known for six to eight weeks “because we will be waiting on toxicology results,” said Maj. Ken Johnson of the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, which is conducting the death investigation.
Two other non-fatal overdoses were reported on Wednesday night, police said. A third non-fatal overdose of a male occurred Thursday night about 10:45 p.m. on the same block where Gonzales overdosed. So far, police have no information linking the overdoses, said police spokeswoman Celina Westervelt.
“If people suspect they have tainted heroin, they can bring it to the police department with no questions asked, and we will make sure it’s destroyed,” she said.
Santa Fe police were called to an apartment in the 1400 block of Zepol Road on Wednesday when a friend called to report that Gonzales had overdosed.
Officers went to the bathroom and found Gonzales on the floor. “She was unconscious and barely breathing,” the report said. Officers notified dispatch “to have the medics expedite to our location.” The friend told police that she and Desiree had both been using heroin inside the apartment and this was the first time Desiree “had used in a while.”
Medics gave Gonzales the drug Narcan, to reverse the heroin effects, and she was taken by ambulance to Christus St. Vincent’s Regional Medical Center and “revived and cleared (for release),” police said. It was then discovered there was a warrant for her arrest. She was booked into the Youth Development Facility on Airport Road about 10:30 p.m.
But around 2 a.m. she was found to be unresponsive and taken back to St. Vincent’s, where she later died.
Police had notified Gonzales’ mother, Janel Gonzales, when she was first taken to the hospital. The mother came to the hospital, where she was allowed to speak with Desiree before she was jailed. Gonzales told police “that last time she had seen Desiree was about two months ago, before she had ran away from Desert Hills (Child Residential Treatment Center).”
Santa Fe County spokeswoman Mihelcic said Gonzales was medically released from the hospital to be booked, and she was “regularly checked” after she was incarcerated.
While he could not address this specific case, St. Vincent’s spokesman Arturo Delgado said, “when someone is released, that determination is made by the emergency room physician based on the patient’s disposition.”
A Web page fund at gofundme.com has been established to raise money for funeral expenses. A fund titled the Desiree Gonzales Memorial Account has been set up at the State Employees Credit Union, and the public can contribute at any bank, Anaya said.
Santa Fe police have recently established an anonymous tip line at (505) 428-3737, for the public to report suspicious drug activity.