HIDDEN KILLER

Mom seeks justice after unseen drug kills daughter

By RUDY COGGINS
Of the Record staff
Posted 8/16/22

A Benson woman still awaits closure after losing her youngest daughter to a drug-induced homicide 19 months ago.

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HIDDEN KILLER

Mom seeks justice after unseen drug kills daughter

Posted

A Benson woman still awaits closure after losing her youngest daughter to a drug-induced homicide 19 months ago.

Her pain now fuels a mission.

Three days a week, she and a family member stand at exit 79 off of Interstate 95 on Benson’s Main Street near Burger King. They hold signs that memorialize 23-year-old Michiko La’Deja Duff and hope to grab the attention of passers-by.

Truck drivers honk their horns.

Police officers give a thumbs up.

Some folks wave.

“A sheriff stopped and asked about her,” Mitchiko Duff said as she choked back tears. “People want to know about her. They’re concerned and they talk to us. I want them to know who my daughter was. She didn’t ask to have her life taken away from her.”

Jan. 26, 2021

Sitting in a Selma hotel room, Michiko ingested cocaine laced with fentanyl and immediately died.

Her body was found 24 hours later.

Within a matter of seconds, the 23-year-old left behind a 5-year-old daughter and a family that has struggled to find answers.

That same day, two hours north in Virginia, Kamaya Duff received a gut-wrenching and life-changing phone call.

“Words can’t explain how I feel,” she said. “You get torn from the inside out. It’s a wreck every day and it doesn’t get better. You cope with it. It hasn’t been the same since [and] that’s why I moved back. All I could think was ‘not us, not my sister.’

“She’s not coming back.”

Law enforcement initially ruled Michiko’s death as an accidental overdose.

An autopsy report revealed her body had 29 milligrams of fentanyl, enough to kill an entire baseball stadium full of fans.

The family considers it murder.

A pandemic

More than 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the CDC, fentanyl doesn’t discriminate against age, race or gender.

The synthetic opiate is the new “cancer” and can be found in counterfeit prescription pills like oxycodone, Percocet, Vicodin, Xanax, Adderall and the once-popular club drug, ecstasy.

Kids and adults who either vape or smoke marijuana are not immune.

Seventy-two people died from opioid overdoses in Johnston County last year, according to the state’s Opioid and Substance Use Action Plan Data Dashboard.

“They’re killing our babies,” she said. “[Drug dealers] are giving our kids this stuff without their knowledge and thinking that they’re going to hook them more. That’s their sick mind because their greed has took over.

“There’s no respect for humanity any more.”

Mother and daughter each said Narcan vending machines should be placed in all Johnston County schools. A nasal spray, the medicine takes two to four minutes to react, and it’s recommended that CPR is given until emergency medical help arrives.

Kamaya Duff said parents need Narcan in their homes, just like they’re required to have a fire extinguisher.

Education and support

Mitchiko Duff works with the JoCo Angels, a support group promoting opioid awareness.

The group speaks with students in the Johnston County School system and explains the dangers associated with drug use.

“We have to stand for the next generation,” she said. “Kids left behind [from overdose deaths], are anyone talking to them? Are they telling them the truth about what is going on?

“It’s not a time to be silent. It’s a time for all man to come together and stand against this thing.”

A teacher in Johnston County reached out to Mitchiko Duff and thanked her for standing up and speaking out.

People on Facebook have contacted the Duffs and shared their stories. They’ve said that Mitchiko Duff’s crusade has ignited a spark within other communities.

Later this summer, she is flying out to Denver with a mother who lost her daughter to a fentanyl overdose. Her accused distributor is facing five drug charges and they’re eager to learn his fate.

Mitchiko Duff said the Angels have planned a rally for late August.

Case not closed

Stained with sweat from the early-morning humidity, Mitchiko Duff’s purple shirt sums up her cause.

“Fentanyl changes everything. Never say, ‘not my child.’ Justice for Michiko La’Deja Duff,” it says.

It’s been 19 months since that fateful day.

Michiko Duff’s case has been shuffled among detectives at the Selma Police Department, but her mother refuses to let it slip into the cold-case file drawer.

Detectives said they had suspects and encouraged the family to aid in their search. Mitchiko Duff said she found the people involved, but was told they couldn’t be arrested without a warrant.

The killers remain at large.

“I’ve put these [signs] in front of their building and I go up there every week,” Mitchiko Duff said. “I tell them I’m not making it harder for you. I’m coming for justice for my daughter.”

Rudy Coggins can be reached at rcoggins@mydailyrecord.com.

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