The Hess family lost two loved ones to heroin on the same day — one directly, the other indirectly.
On Sept. 2, Jason Hess, 35, died of an overdose. Barbara Fultz, his mother, committed suicide a few hours later after getting the news. It was her 60th birthday.
“Life is no longer enjoyable; I have been like Samson holding up the pillars too long,” Fultz wrote in one of three suicide letters she left behind. “Today, Delilah cut my hair.”
John Hess, Jason’s father and Fultz’s ex-husband, found his son’s body in the home they shared in the Richland County, Ohio, portion of Crestline.
It was the end of a long road. John said Jason had been addicted to heroin for most of the last 15 years.
Hess had tried to revive Jason from an overdose a couple of weeks earlier. The incident was among the worst experiences of Hess’ life. In some ways, it was harder than finding Jason dead.
“I did two tours in Vietnam; I’ve seen a lot of stuff,” said John Hess. “You can’t describe it (finding his son in that state). I literally had to breathe life into him. I told him not to do that to me no more.”
Jason seemed to want to comply with his father’s request. His next overdose happened at a hotel a couple of days before his death.
“We had him for two days,” his father said.
The last night
The father said he thinks his son’s fatal overdose wasn’t an accident.
“I think he was just tired,” Hess said.
Hess said he believes Jason hinted at suicide.
“He said, ‘I’m going to make it right tonight,’ ” Hess said. “I almost knew what he was going to do.”
Jason asked his father to borrow his car, but Hess said no because he knew his son wanted to make a drug run. But Jason took the car anyway. When Hess confronted his son, Jason said he went to get soda. Hess knew it was a lie.
The next morning, he found Jason.
“As soon as I looked at him, I knew he was gone,” Hess said. “I sat back in the chair and said my goodbyes.”
Mother’s suicide a shock
Eleven hours later, Fultz was gone, too.
She left suicide notes for her daughters and grandchildren, as well as a more general letter.
Fultz’s suicide shocked her family. She and Hess were married for about 15 years and remained on good terms.
“She was the last person on this Earth that I thought would kill herself,” Hess said. “She was so strong.”
Amy Hess, one of her daughters, is still trying to make sense of the loss.
Amy Hess said her mom took a pillow and blanket out to a cemetery behind her home, lay down behind a headstone and took a bottle of Valium.
“Please don’t weep for me,” Fultz wrote in one of her suicide notes. “I am ready for this rest.”
The end of that note was chilling.
“Thanks, heroin, another victim,” she wrote.
Hess said a college classmate introduced Jason to heroin when he was 20. His son was in and out of court and the hospital over the next 15 years. Jason never stayed clean for long.
“I tried for 15 years; I begged him,” Hess said. “It just wasn’t working.”
Most recently, Jason worked a factory job and had a side job as a disc jockey.
“He worked all his life, but the drug dealer got all his money,” he said.
Before he got addicted to heroin, Jason was a talented musician. His father said he played guitar and drums.
Even though they lived together, they didn’t communicate much.
“He liked his dealer better than he liked me,” Hess said.
Jason wasn’t that way when he wasn’t using, his sister said.
“He was one of the funniest people. He wanted everybody to be happy,” Amy Hess said. “He couldn’t stand to see any conflict.”
Amy hopes her brother is at peace.
“He was just so tired,” she said.
Hess said he is satisfied he did what he could to help his son.
“I don’t think anyone could have saved him,” Hess said. “He was on a mission.”
Hess thinks there should be more of a focus on imprisoning dealers rather than addicts.
He said Jason was in and out of court and on probation a number of times.
“Instead of probation rotation, offer some help,” Hess said. “In order to make a heroin addict quit, you’d have to put them in prison for life. They already have a life sentence because they’re dealing with heroin.
“I don’t have an answer, but let’s find one.”