By Patrick Sullivan
Aubrey Checks and Konrad Winston Pressley partied in Traverse City on New
Years Eve and stayed with friends.
The next day they returned home to Gaylord and headed to a trailer on
Arrowhead Trail, a gravel road in the woods about five miles southeast of
Gaylord. The couple hoped to score some heroin there.
Maybe they hoped it would take the edge off the suffering they felt from
the night before.
Thats not what happened.
At the trailer they met Anthony Jerome Beaty who sold them seven bindles
of heroin, police said.
Each package contained a single dose, or an amount equivalent to about
one-tenth of whats in a typical packet of sugar. Bindles of heroin are
typically wrapped in a scrap of a Club Keno lottery ticket and cost around
$20 to $25 in Northern Michigan, about $10 more than what they cost
downstate, Gaylord Police Det./Sgt. Doug Kussrow said.
Someone elses money was funding this purchase, the detective said.
Twenty-one-year-old Pressley and 18-year-old Checks planned to take two of
the packets for themselves and skim a little off the top from the other
five packets, Pressley later told police.
When they got to the home they shared in Gaylord, they loaded some of
their share of the heroin into a syringe. Pressley shot up first, and he
quickly realized they had some potent stuff.
It is strong, after he booted it, he tells her, Dont use all of it,
this is strong shit, Kussrow said.
Pressley soon passed out, he told police. When he regained consciousness,
Checks was on top of him, dead.
Pressley called 911 and an operator attempted to walk him through CPR but
it was too late.
There was nothing that could be done for Aubrey Checks.
On her Facebook page, Checks looks like any other, pretty young adult with
a promising future.
Checks described herself as in a relationship with Pressley. She wrote:
Im Aubrey 18, just graduated and in college. I have a 8 month old
beautiful baby girl, and she is the light of my life
The death of the young mother prompted police and prosecutors to act
quickly to hold someone responsible.
Beaty, 31, was arrested Jan. 28 and charged with multiple drug charges.
He pleaded guilty in a plea bargain and was scheduled to be sentenced June
6 on charges of delivery of a controlled substance causing death and
maintaining a drug house. Beaty had also faced an habitual offender charge
due to a 2008 conviction for third-degree child abuse.
Beatys attorney, Colin Hunter, said he had no comment prior to sentencing.
Pressley, 21, also pleaded guilty to drug charges. He awaits sentencing
June 7 after he pleaded guilty to a charge of delivery of less than 50
grams of a controlled substance in a case unrelated to Checks death.
Pressleys attorney, Kevin Hesselink, said his client was devastated by
the death of his girlfriend and he has been on suicide watch in jail.
This is the mother of his child, Hesselink said. Hes not only lost
her, but his parental rights have been terminated.
Beaty and Pressley are just small characters in a much larger world of
Northern Michigan heroin trade and overdoses.
In Gaylord alone, police blame heroin for the overdose deaths of five
people including Checks in the past year.
Three more are suspected of dying of heroin or opiate overdoses in Benzie
County recently and police investigated another case in Manistee.
In other areas, overdose deaths may have gone unreported, said Benzie
County Sheriff Rory Heckman.
Dr. Matthew Houghton, medical examiner for Benzie, Grand Traverse, and
Leelanau counties, said there was one heroin overdose this year and one
last year in Grand Traverse, but that his office has recently seen far
more methadone overdoses.
Methadone is our number one overdose substance, Houghton said. Heroin
is coming into the area, but its not resulting in a lot of overdoses at
A look into the size and scope of the local heroin scene could be glimpsed
when police raided Beatys rural home in January.
When police arrived after dark to serve a search warrant, inside the
trailer they found 200 bindles of heroin packaged and ready to go, Kussrow
Police also found a couple from Traverse City who had come to Beatys
place with their infant child, allegedly to purchase heroin. Also in the
house were Beatys two toddler-aged children.
Kussrow believes heroin, once a fairly rare drug, has seen a resurgence in
the past couple of years in Northern Michigan as Oxycontin, methadone and
other pharmaceuticals have become more scarce and expensive.
Prosecutions and public awareness campaigns have made doctors more
cautious about prescribing Oxycontin and other powerful painkillers.
Kussrow wonders how many non-fatal heroin overdoses are treated at
hospitals but go unreported.
Heroin is so dangerous because on the black market its potency is unknown
and it does not come packaged with dosing instructions.
Its a bad idea for people to be shooting themselves up, the detective
said. Nobodys a phlebotomist out there.
MIDDLE AGED ADDICT
Misty Heidman hopes the day comes when someone faces consequences for
supplying her husband the heroin that took his life.
David Heidman, 47, a father of eight children, ages seven to 17, died in a
Gaylord motel room of a heroin overdose last October. Neither of the men
who were with him when he died have been charged, though the case remains
under investigation by the Gaylord Police Department.
Misty Heidman said her husband turned to drugs after he crushed his knee
in an accident in 2001. David Heidman was a truck driver but spent the
last years of his life living on disability.
Before all the drugs, he was amazing, a great father, a great friend,
husband, Im going to cry, he was the type of person that would give the
shirt off his back for anybody, she said.
The injury led to operations and constant pain until he was diagnosed with
a nerve condition and was told he could expect to live with pain for the
rest of his life. He was prescribed methadone.
Heidman said her husband at first refused to take Oxycontin because he was
afraid of what that drug could do to people after hed watched a family
member abuse the prescription painkiller.
Heidman believes her husband crossed into the world of illicit drugs
When I started to realize something wasnt right was when he started to
get all of these odd phone calls, he would walk into the other room to
talk on the phone, which was something he never did before, she said.
Strange friends also started dropping by, people he had supposedly known
for years but who Misty Heidman didnt know. These people gave her a bad
feeling. Among them was Anthony Beaty, Heidman said, though police said
Beaty is not a suspect in Heidmans death.
DESPERATE LAST DAYS
Toward the end David Heidman was prone to vanishing for a couple of days
at a time. Money and property disappeared. Lies were told. Misty Heidman
said she pleaded with the police.
She wanted her husband arrested so he might get some help through the
courts. One time, around a year before Davids death, Misty said she told
a police officer that if something didnt happen, her husband was going to
I was pretty much begging him to pull him over, to follow him, she said.
She said she wanted to get her husband into treatment but what the family
could afford was not enough.
And yet, even in the end, there still existed something of the decent man
Misty had married.
On that last night, David saw two of his daughters off to a homecoming
dance. He had borrowed money and used it to buy dresses.
The girls will never forget that night because he actually went out and
bought them dresses, she said.
It was later that night that he died at the Downtown Motel in Gaylord.
I want it to be out there, to let people know, I want it to stop, I dont
want another family to go through what we have been through, Misty
Heidman said. I think its important that the community is aware of what
is going on around them.
BENZIE COUNTY TOLL
In Beulah, authorities are investigating a spate of recent deaths
linked to heroin or opiates.
In separate cases last month, Noah Thomas Maxwell, 25, of Ann Arbor, was
found dead at his familys second home in Benzonia of an apparent heroin
overdose. Two days earlier, Nikita Cheyanne Wheeler, 20, of Onekema, was
found dead of an apparent overdose at a Blaine Township home, according to
the Benzie County Sheriffs Department.
Wheeler was several months pregnant at the time of her death.
In early March, Michael Lee Everett, 21, Beulah, died at his home of what
authorities called acute heroin toxicity.
A family member of Everett said the family is shaken up and not ready to
discuss his death.
The first one is confirmed heroin, the other two could be heroin but
were still not sure, Sheriff Heckman said.
Wheeler had a prescription for Vicodin. Heckman said investigators suspect
she used Vicodin to trade for harder drugs.
Heckman said investigators are focused on where the drugs are coming from
and they hope to pursue cases against whoever supplied the drugs that led
to the overdoses.
I dont think they realize theyre going to pay for it with their lives,
Heckman said. They all think theyre smarter than that and its not going
to happen to them, but it does.
SEEKING RELIEF, NOT HELP
At Dakoske Hall, a treatment facility run by Addiction Treatment Services
in Traverse City, staff have seen more heroin users come through their
doors, but that doesnt mean those people have been seeking
Admitted heroin use is always a small number coming into treatment,
said Wendy Croze, residential program director. Heroin users will come
into detox when the supply runs out, but they dont come into
treatment. ... They dont really necessarily want treatment, they want
A detox like the one at Dakoske is a place for an addict to go for a
break, to get some relief from the pain of withdrawal until they can
find more heroin, or to hide.
Because of the confidentiality laws people can come in and hide -- they
owe a dealer money, maybe theyre afraid someone is looking for them,
Chris Hindbaugh, executive director of Addiction Treatment Services, said
the number of heroin addicts seen at the facility has increased recently.
In the last 18 months our number of admissions in our detox program ...
the heroin admissions have doubled, Hindbaugh said.
At the same time, treatment for users of other opiates has declined
Maybe a third of the people who go into detox -- for any substance -- move
on to residential treatment, Hindbaugh said.
HELP IS OUT THERE
There is funding available for someone looking to get into treatment even
if an addict has lost everything.
There are three funding sources for someone who seeks treatment who is
unable to afford treatment on their own, Hindbaugh said. It is all federal
money administered by the state through Medicaid, block grants, or
something called adult benefits waivers.
There is another source of funding for someone ordered into treatment
through criminal court proceedings.
For people who are struggling to deal with a loved one who is addicted,
the best thing to do might be to get educated about drug addiction and
If they are willing, go to an open Narcotics Anonymous meeting and
listen, Croze said. Thats always a great resource. Or get counselling
for themselves and see where they go from there.
Open NA meetings are open to anyone curious about addiction. Closed
meetings are open only to addicts.
An addiction counselors path to the
brink and back
By Patrick Sullivan
Wendy Croze started abusing heroin and alcohol in her teens. She used the
substances so much, in fact, that substance abuse came to define her life
-- first as a user and later as a counselor who helps others kick the
Croze grew up in a comfortable family in the Lansing area and she hopes
people understand that children of affluent families are just as
susceptible to drug abuse as anyone else.
What is less well known, but its pretty well documented, is more middle
class and upper middle class people early on get into heroin than you
would think, said Croze, the residential program director for Addiction
Treatment Services in Traverse City.
Croze plunged into drugs one year when her father, an upper level manager
who had a good year, was invited with his family for a Florida vacation
with his boss. It was the executives daughter who introduced
then-15-year-old Crose to heroin in the early 1970s.
And that was it, Croze said. It was enjoyable for a very long time.
She loved the way heroin made her feel.
It releases dopamine in your brain and dopamine is the feel good
chemical, she said.
Croze eventually got on a methadone program and shifted her addiction to
I used heroin any opportunity I got, Croze said. What that meant for me
is I pretty much stopped developing social skills. I tried school and that
didnt work for me.
Croze finally reached her limit.
I hit and stayed on it for quite a few years, really, Croze said.
It became harder and harder to keep bar-tending jobs, she said, because
she liked to drink while she worked and she was prone to disappear for a
few days at a time.
It just got harder and harder to maintain myself and I was blacking out
when I was drinking and I was acting poorly, she said.
She got pulled over a lot in the early 1980s, but cops would often just
let her go.
Finally Croze was pulled over, arrested and jailed.
Alcohol is a depressant and opiates are a depressant and the fact that
youre ruining your life is a depressant ... and when my friend came to
bail me out of jail and she said, Oh, youre so crazy, I really felt
like I was crazy.
That was the first part of the turning point that would eventually lead to
sobriety for Croze.
She attempted to drink herself into oblivion after she was released but
found she couldnt get drunk enough.
For the next few days I could not drink or drug away the crazy, Croze said.
What she at first thought was craziness, though, she later realized was
caused by drugs and alcohol.
Croze decided her only way out was to take her own life.
She made a plan and she thought about it for a few days. She would inject
herself with ammonia.
Fate intervened, however.
She woke up one morning to a television. A rerun of the 1970s television
show Marcus Welby, M.D., about a kindly family doctor, was on. The doctor
was talking to a patient about getting treatment for alcohol abuse.
I called a hotline, Croze said. I dont even know what I said,
honestly, and they said you can come in two weeks and luckily they asked
if I was suicidal and luckily I said yes.
Croze was enrolled into a six-month to one-year stint at a treatment
center. Within several years, she was studying to become an addiction
Since then Croze has worked at Eric Claptons Crossroads Centre Antigua
and the Betty Ford Center and other places before she came to Northern