Mother of woman who overdosed explains why she forgave dealer in court
It's the first time that Lillie Camille Harvey's mother has been to North City Park Boulevard in Alexandria since her daughter overdosed nearby in February 2017.
"Sometimes when we see where it all happened, that part can go to rest," said her mother, also named Lilly.
The mother and daughter share the same name. She called her daughter "Camille" or "Millie" for short. Camille was 28-years-old when she died.
"She had a smile that could stop a room," said Harvey.
The two shared a lot over those 28 short years.
"She and I just had that close-knit relationship," she said. "It was a special love. I can't begin to tell you. It was a bond between a mother and a daughter that I would hope that every mother could have."
But, Harvey said, as close as the two were, she had no clue until she got that February phone call that her daughter had overdosed that she ever touched heroin.
"That to me was a shock," said Harvey. "I can't explain why, but I know she made a bad choice that day."
Camille's death led to a somewhat unusual move by the Alexandria Police Department and the Rapides Parish District Attorney's Office. They charged her dealer, Kendrick Davis, 38, with murder. It's a clear-cut charge according to Louisiana law, but one not too often seen.
"If we can prove that the dope that any individual distributed on our streets contributed to the death of another human being, we're going after them with murder charges," said former Alexandria Police Department Chief of Police Loren Lampert in 2017.
This was happening as Camille's family was making a decision to pull her off life support and donate her organs.
"The investigator came and said we are going to charge him and we want to use her as an example, possible landmark case," said Harvey. "I think I was still in shock that my daughter wasn't going to make it through this."
Harvey herself is no stranger to the path her daughter went down. She too was once a heroin addict. She said it started with an addiction to Vicodin following a tumultuous divorce in 2009.
"I ended up on the streets. Homeless," she said. "I lived out of my car for almost a year. From there I got a temporary residence in Terrebonne Parish called Ashland Jail. I ended up doing almost a year."
Harvey got clean in 2013. But, 2016 the urge to use heroin came back after she was prescribed pain pills. Her family staged an intervention. She ended up at Fresh Start Ministry in Winnsboro, an extensive, in-patient rehab facility. Her daughter cut off communication with her.
"She was so mad at me, she didn't speak to me the whole seven months that I was in the program," said Harvey. "The day I finished, she called and told me she would be there to see me graduate."
In a twist, Harvey has been employed at that same facility for three years now. She said she's angry at herself for her daughter's fateful decision.
"Maybe she wanted to know what it was really like, what enticed her mother so much that she loved it," she said.
In May, Harvey signed off on a plea deal that gave Davis 20 years of a concurrent sentence for pleading guilty to negligent homicide, distribution of CDS IIi/Fentanyl, possession with the intent to distribute CDS I/heroin, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Then she did something out of the ordinary in court. She forgave Davis and asked Rapides Parish Judge Harry Randow to make a recommendation to the Department of Corrections to allow Davis to spend his last year of prison at the rehab facility where she works.
"I thought about how many times I had been forgiven for all the things that I had done, this man would have to do a lot of years in jail, but what about when he got out? Was he going to go sell to someone again?" said Harvey as to why she forgave him and made the request. "I got rehabilitated and God did a work on my life. I wanted that for him. If he has to be out in this world, I'd rather him be working for the positive than the negative."
She said in that moment in court, she saw Davis shed a tear.
"I felt like God spoke through me to him," she said.
Harvey has six speaking engagements coming up, sharing her and her daughter's story. If you would like to contact her, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like more information on Fresh Start Ministry, you can visit their website at www.freshstartministry.com.
Harvey also told us she hopes to one day get a bench with Camille's name on it near the walking trail by City Park.