BATESVILLE — “I will never have the opportunity to hear my baby’s voice again ... I can’t hug her or tell her I love her,” says Karen Adams of her daughter, Cierra, who died on her 18th birthday July 16.
Instead of only grieving, her relatives have become activists. They want to make area families aware of just how prevalent drug use is here and what can be done to curb it.
The Cierra Adams Memorial Walk will begin Saturday, July 30, at 7 p.m. at Liberty Park.
The walk “is for anybody who lost a neighbor, friend, loved one or anyone to drugs or alcohol … or anyone in the community who is concerned” about the issue. “We want to show dealers ... we want them out of our community. We don’t want the drugs here. We don’t want them in the hands of our kids,” she explained July 26.
Mayor Rick Fledderman approved the rain-or-shine event July 22 after meeting with the Batesville family, who will plan the short route through downtown on city streets with the help of the Batesville Police Department.
Afterwards, there will be a candlelight vigil and speakers at the park bandstand.
Adams hopes parents of young kids show up. “All of your children will face this problem (of being offered illegal drugs) someday,” points out Adams’ sister, Diana Fugate, Morris, who has a daughter 10 hours younger than Cierra was.
Both want to see young faces in the crowd, too. “We need to get the message out to these children ... the next time you’re offered something ... at a party, ask yourself this question: ‘Is it worth my life?’ If Cierra could come back … she would say, ‘Don’t do it.’”
Sister-in-law Rosie Jones notes, “This tragedy has severely affected our family and also other families.” During the walk, “we come together to fight this war that has taken over our community. It\'s time we pull together and try to put an end to this ...”
Of Saturday’s gathering, Adams reflects, “Nothing will ever make this any easier for our family. If I thought … it could maybe save another child, it could give me a little peace.”
Cierra Adams told her mom she was spending the night at a girlfriend’s house Friday, July 15. Karen tried calling her cellphone Saturday morning, but her daughter didn’t answer. “My mom wanted to tell her ‘Happy Birthday’” and the two women wanted to take Cierra out to lunch. For her big day, the Batesville High School incoming senior had talked about either going to Kings Island or shopping with the friend.
“When her little friend called me and said, ‘Have you heard from Cierra? I haven’t heard from her,’” Karen Adams knew something was wrong.
She and husband Tony started driving to the home of one of Cierra’s male friends. “At the stoplight, I heard a siren, then an ambulance went flying through. We got there (370 Curtis Court, Batesville) just a few minutes after the EMTs.”
While the autopsy and toxicology reports have not been released by the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office, Cincinnati, yet, “we know there was heroin use going on that night,” according to her.
As the family was consoled at their home, Karen Adams was shown a cellphone text message from a teen who had partied with Cierra that Friday. “He was looking for marijuana. That devastated me that my daughter’s life meant so little to him he was still looking to get high.”
At the funeral home, the family met many of Cierra Adams’ classmates and younger BHS students for the first time. She told each one, “The next time somebody walks up to you and says, ‘Hey, do you want to do this?’” imagine seeing Cierra in a casket. Pointing at her daughter’s body, she said, “‘That could be you.’’
For the past two years, Fugate’s daughter has told her, “‘Mom, you would not believe the drugs that are in Batesville High School.”
Adams believes, “It’s not a rich kid problem, a poor kid problem or troubled kid problem … they were good kids at one time. Things happened and they get turned. That drug takes over and is the most important thing in their lives.”
“My daughter was not a drug addict,” she emphasizes. Recently the family had her tested and the report said the animal lover was clean in 17 drug categories. “That just shows you how quickly your kids can fall into something.”
The parent says her daughter’s behavior didn’t change in the last few months and she showed no signs of drug use.
But some of Cierra’s friends did change. She reports, “I talked to her every day about drugs, about heroin.” Adams thought about forbidding her daughter from seeing certain teens, but worried she would move out now that she was on the verge of legal adulthood.
The mother learned Cierra had tried marijuana and drank alcohol a few times. “She knew I didn’t approve of either one.” The Batesville woman continued to worry, knowing that teens can start using one illicit substance, then switch to more serious ones.
When Karen Adams warned her daughter about heroin’s effects, Cierra responded, “‘Mom, I told you. I don’t do that stuff.’”
Now the Adamses wonder if their child used heroin for the first time during her last weekend. “Kids want to fit in. Kids want to impress …. They want to try it. It is so easily accessible.”
Adams has a theory about why teen drug use may be rising in Batesville. “We have made things so easy for our children. They don’t have to work. We handle the (cost of) cellphones, computers, cars. These kids don’t have anything to do so they’re bored. They find things to do. What they find are drugs.”
The days of Batesville being compared to Mayberry may be over. “We’re in a little community, but we’re not safe.”
Her message to parents? “Get involved. Watch your kids like a watchdog.” Fugate notes, “Parents just give kids money. Ask what they want that money for. Make them show you what they’re buying.”
When Cierra Adams told her mother where she was going to be, many times “I stopped in” to make sure she was telling the truth, Adams recalls.
Both mothers want residents to tell police who and where the drug suppliers are. Adams says, “If these drug dealers see people around here are mad,” they might think twice about selling in this area. Fugate knows the entire drug trade will never be stopped. “If we can stop just some of it, it may save some kids.”
When the Batesville teen died, her family had no money for the funeral and cemetery headstone. Citizens stepped forward and are still making contributions to the Cierra Adams Memorial Fund at Fifth Third Bank. Her mom says, “That outpouring of support and concern and money donations has been amazing.”
When asked to describe her daughter, Karen Adams began, “Cierra was a person who loved everybody. That kid was never ever purposefully mean to anybody. She had been bullied in school. Cierra was an easy target. She was timid. So many times my child came home from school crying.”
Batesville police Lt. Gandy Browning told her parents the late senior was “genuinely kind.”
“I want her to be remembered for the beautiful soul that she was. The person who was a friend to everybody, always had a smile for you. The person who took up for the underdog and mentally challenged and physically handicapped kids. That kid had a good heart.”