From Bad to Worse, Part One

By James Tsacoyeanes 05/07/15

A father details his son's descent into the nightmare of synthetic drugs. 

Chris Tsacoyeanes


All my future fears rushed into the present. Chris is dead. Chris is dead. These three words ricocheted in my head. Although I heard the words, although I expected it, I still couldn’t comprehend what was going on. It felt like all the air had been sucked out of the room. I just stared at Cathy in disbelief. For some reason, tears just would not come.

Saturday, the 23rd of June started off like any beautiful, early summer day in Connecticut. It began with bright sunshine and temperatures expected to reach into the 80s. It was the day that our lives were shattered, merely six days after I had spoken to Chris, our son, dismissing everything he said. Going back to my dead father’s house that morning, the only thought I had was to clean it out and get rid of all the junk that had accumulated for nearly 60 years. Minutes later when I entered the kitchen, I found my wife Cathy sitting at the table with her head buried in her hands, sobbing.

She looked up at me and could only utter: “Chris died.”

From bad to worse, his descent had accelerated, culminating in his death. For 12 years, it was coming to this conclusion brought about by Chris’s insistence on selling “research chemicals.”

For years, Cathy and I had struggled with his addiction issues. We had already reached the limit of what we could tolerate. Perhaps, he was right when he once told me that we “gave up on him years before.” Talking to him had become impossible and his unwillingness to change his behavior had become cemented. His insistence on the legitimacy of his research chemical work was something we could not understand nor tolerate, knowing he was an addict.

It was about a year earlier that Chris had started Visresearch, a company that sold barely legal “research chemicals” through his website. Pictures of his office in East Hartford were plastered all over his Facebook page including equipment he had bought for his business—all kinds of sophisticated technology from computers to fancy scales and mass spectrometers.  For a time, he didn’t have a place to live and would crash at his office at night. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing and hearing. Despite all the shit that had gone down in his life, from his multiple suicide attempts to numerous ER visits, he seemed more focused that ever on his drug habit. He lacked insight into his issues. Perhaps he was delusional, as one psychologist had said years before.

His legal problems, which included a felony charge for selling steroids, were still in limbo in the Connecticut judicial system. It seemed like he was going to court every month. They would just extend the cases into the future. We became painfully aware how poorly our legal system is set up to handle cases like our son’s. During this period, his living arrangements changed on a weekly basis and his visits were infrequent. Our only real contact was when Cathy called him, or when we managed to message him through Facebook. He would tell us that he was being robbed by his business partner, who was not only stealing money from him but also stealing the chemicals and selling them on the side. With Chris, it was always difficult to separate truth from fiction.

By August, Chris was looking to leave Connecticut because as he wrote: “Restarting. Better laws, etc. This place is fucked. I’m running this myself from now on. This is what happens when young immature fucks are given responsibilities they can’t handle.”

He and his girlfriend, Jen, ended up in Vermont, which had more lenient laws regarding his business. Unfortunately, he had reached the point where trouble found him wherever he went. By October, he was already on the DEA and Vermont State Police radar. As he told it, the DEA called him a “low life piece of shit and that he’d better get the fuck out of Dodge” because they suspected that he was running a meth lab out of the Roof Inn in Rutland. It was the first of a number of incidents with the Vermont police, the last being an investigation of his death.

After his death, in our attempt to more clearly understand Chris’s last months, we obtained all the police reports from both the Rutland and Vermont State police. The police report for this initial incident provided significantly more information than what we were told. Apparently, a housekeeping staff member entered the room where Chris and Jen were staying to clean, because they had missed the checkout time. She found what she believed to be drug paraphernalia and the police were notified. Chris and Jen showed up late because of a doctor’s appointment in Connecticut. When confronted by the police, Jen bolted in Chris’s car claiming that she had a medical emergency leaving Chris alone to deal with the situation. He claimed he was doing nothing illegal, which was probably the case since “research chemicals'” laws are very murky at best. Chris admitted to being a former heroin addict but clean for three years. His heroin addiction was something we were totally unaware of. The police did find some fresh bruises on his arms. Surprisingly from our standpoint, Chris was cooperative with the police, telling them about Visresearch and that the chemicals he was synthesizing were DOC and DOI, which are used for cancer research. However, these chemicals, along with the others that Chris was selling through his online website, were unscheduled chemicals that produce intense and vivid hallucinations similar to LSD. Distributors of “research chemicals” cover themselves legally by including the disclaimer: “Not for human consumption.”

The room that Chris and Jen were renting was in complete disarray with clothing and trash littered everywhere. The room was searched. Burners, vials and glass containers containing unknown liquids were scattered about, leading the police to suspect that this was a meth lab. The Vermont Fusion Center, which is associated with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Albany, NY, was contacted to determine if Chris was the target of any active investigations. These along with other agencies were contacted to determine if there was any danger associated with his activities. From this time on, the police kept a close watch over his business including the monitoring of his bank accounts. They tracked postal deliveries, particularly from China and India, the sources of many of these chemicals.

At the same time, we were being pestered by his probation officer in Connecticut who was trying unsuccessfully to locate Chris. He would come to our house and ask all kinds of questions:

“Where does he keep his chemicals?"

"Does he sell his chemicals online?"

"Does he have a mentor?”  

Chris was getting aggravated with Cathy for discussing anything with the PO as he believed she was giving him information about his business which she knew nothing about.

“I need to know exactly what you told my PO. They are bluffing, and making up a whoooole bunch of shit. Furthermore, he told me that he was going to raid your house to 'show me he is serious.'  They are claiming that I sell narcotics to four-year-old children, and he is trying to make it sound like you corroborated that story. If you spoke of what I do for work to him, I am going to be infinitely pissed as you have made a direct point to not learn about what I do. So anything you said was speculation, and now he is more or less insinuating that while you 'do care,' everybody agrees its best that I’m behind bars. So you understand a few things: one, I do not do anything all. Two, I have never sold any chemical whatsoever to a minor, as we only take credit cards…and minors can’t have credit cards. If they purchase using an adult’s card, then the onus falls on the adult. Three, each chemical I have ever carried has been chosen specifically for use in research. Real research.”

February 2012 marked the last time we saw him for any length of time after he came back from Vermont to pick up his things that had been cluttering up his sister’s old bedroom and our basement. The weather was unusually mild without any snow cover for February, making the trip from Vermont easy. It was the second time that we met Jen, who was now supposedly his fiancée, the first being at Thanksgiving. That Saturday night, Cathy made chicken parmesan, his favorite meal, and we spent an enjoyable evening with them. Chris was quieter than usual, something that I commented on. Jen responded that he was always quiet. We really didn’t know if she was lying, or if Chris had suddenly learned to keep his mouth shut.

They were so pleasant that I felt bad knowing that they were trying to find a hotel room in Southbury rather than staying at our house. I started thumbing through the phonebook at the kitchen counter to find the number to the Crowne Plaza Hotel, trying to motion to Cathy that we should let them stay here. He was our son and it just felt wrong making him stay at a hotel. Cathy didn’t want to have to deal with a potential blow-up situation if things started to heat up, which they frequently did when dealing with Chris, so she really didn’t want them to stay. However, when they left, she did feel bad about forcing her son to leave our home (his home, too). Sunday, we ate breakfast together. By the time they moved everything out of our house, it was pretty late, forcing them to stay another night at the hotel.

The next day, both Cathy and I went to work. As an elementary school vice principal, her day ended earlier than mine. That afternoon, I got a hysterical call from Cathy. She had just found out that Chris was in the hospital after suffering a seizure. I rushed out from work and headed to the Waterbury Hospital Emergency Room where Chris was being treated, an hour and a half away from my job. When I arrived, Cathy was just outside of the enclosed curtain area where Chris lay. She was very upset. The curtained off area presented a dismal scene, with Jen crying by his side. He was in critical condition and remained unconscious.

Cathy explained what had happened.

That afternoon, Chris and Jen came by to pick up some recording equipment before heading back to Vermont. She had come home early, talked with them for 15 minutes or so, and they left.  A bit later, she drove to the Kmart Plaza to buy some groceries and heard an ambulance coming into the parking lot. Shortly thereafter, she received a call from Jen saying that they had stopped off at Kmart to buy a lock for the truck when Chris passed out and had seizures. After calling 911, the ambulance came and transported him to Waterbury Hospital. The ambulance that Cathy heard was for Chris so she was nearby when all this was transpiring.

According to Cathy, he had been perfectly fine, talkative and had even grabbed some leftover food before he left our house. He said that he was tired and Cathy suggested that he stop and rest instead of driving nonstop. In a span of less than 20 minutes, he had gone from perfectly fine to having seizures and ending up in the emergency room. Every time Chris had been in the hospital, it was drug related so this was my assumption. For once, Cathy didn’t believe that drugs were involved. Since we had a lot of experience with his physical changes when under the influence of drugs and she was the last to see him, I thought maybe she was right and grew quite concerned. How the hell could he be having seizures? As far as we could remember, he never had seizures. Did he have some kind of neurological problem that we were unaware of? The whole situation just didn’t make sense.

Continue reading.

James Tsacoyeanes is a physicist working in the semiconductor industry. He has set up a blog dedicated to his son Chris who died nearly three years ago. James is working on a book about his son's life that will feature information about synthetic drugs. He will add chapters of the book to his blog. James' philosophy: "If I can save even a single life, my efforts will be worthwhile."

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