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Six weeks after Maddie died, Claudia sits in her living room in Randolph County, the flames of several candles flicker, creating a funereal aura. Childhood pictures of Maddie blowing out a birthday cake, unwrapping presents, sitting with grandpa, adorn the walls and shelves.

Though outsiders in close-knit Stokes County, they integrated themselves into the community. By high school, Claudia missed the bustle and familiarity of Chicago and convinced her parents to let her live with her grandparents until she graduated.

Maddie skipped happily through early childhood, excelling and exuding a radiance that led to some acting jobs and modeling for print advertisements. She sang, danced, played soccer, devoured Lemony Snicket books, helped her mom rescue dogs and cats and loved boy bands, ‘N Sync and the Backstreet Boys.


You know in middle school you have to filter what’s cool or not cool?” Miriam asks, sitting in the Starbucks in Kernersville during a lunch break from her job in a computer store. “With her, it was never that. We never filtered around each other. We did the first thing that came to mind.”

“When you get on that shit, you stop worrying about the good people who are trying to make you quit, your friends, your family. All you worry about is where to get the drugs and hanging out with people who are doing the drugs; then when you quit, it’s hard to stay quit because all the people you know now are the people who do drugs. So to quit, you have to change everything.”

Maddie broke up with her boyfriend after he beat her up. Shortly after, she began dating Cory Wiles of King. He was into drugs, too. At some point, most likely after she graduated from West Stokes High School in 2013, Maddie started snorting then shooting heroin.

Heroin is pretty easy to find, she says. Find someone who deals any kind of drug and most likely that person knows someone who knows someone willing to deal. In Stokes County, the drugs flow in from Forsyth County, a small segment in a pipeline with origins in either Mexico or Afghanistan, according to Stokes County Sheriff Mike Marshall.

With Claudia taking the tough love approach, Rose became Maddie’s protector and helicopter parent, tracking her whereabouts, encouraging her to go to school. In the process, she became something of a surrogate grandmother to Maddie’s circle of friends in King, many of whom drank excessively or used hard drugs. Rose pushed them to straighten up.

The family threw everything at her — compassion, tough love, therapy. They kept her in jail; they bailed her out of jail. Neither Stokes nor Forsyth counties had drug courts, so run-ins with the law typically resulted in suspended sentences and probation, rather than the court-ordered drug treatment that Claudia begged judges to consider.

Sometimes, Maddie hit bottom and agreed to detoxify at a facility in Winston-Salem. But this, too, became part of the pattern. Rose and Claudia would see the spark, tell each other “the old Maddie’s back,” then watch her fall back in with the same friends and habits.

Maddie got off to a rough start in 2016. She was picked up for possession of drug paraphernalia in January and, with her boyfriend, Wiles, was charged with larceny for stealing $700 in equipment from her uncle Adrian. He later dropped those charges against her.

To this day, Rose has not given up. Several times a week, she emails a few of Maddie’s friends. She makes sure they are OK, encourages them to go to rehab, tells them to come by for a sandwich. When they don’t write back, she worries. King is a small town; she hears stuff.

“This timeline is going to be all about my new independent life and my timeline of me achieving all that I have set my heart on. I have a pending charge, no license or car. I’m not in school and still living at home. I work at Taco Bell. But my goal is, by the end of this journal, all of that will change. I am done being a screw up. It is my time to shine.”