The families of Michelle Avila and Christian Kent are mourning the apparent overdose deaths of the two, putting a spotlight on the ever-present scourge of addiction in the United States.
Michelle, 23, and Christian, 20, were found dead from a drug overdose in her childhood bed, said her parents, according to the Orange County Register.
“What blows my mind was a lack of any warning lights,” Paulo Avila, Michelle’s father, told the Coast Report Online. “She was normal. It’s not something that they were planning. No planning on this one. This was just an accident.”
The two went to a party on Oct. 13, according to Adriana Avila, her mother, and they came home at about 12:30 a.m.
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Hello everyone. This is Michelle’s sister Nicole. I am shaken and heartbroken to announce that as of Sunday morning, Michelle and her boyfriend Christian have passed away. My family and I are sticking together through this difficult time and we are awaiting the official news of how everything happened. We are seeing everyone’s messages and we appreciate all the love and prayers. If anyone wants to contact me about anything, my handle is @nikkayyayy. If we don’t get back to you right away please understand we are taking things one step at a time and dealing with this immense loss. My baby sister is gone and Christian who I also loved. There are no words that can describe how I feel. But rest assured my family and I are feeling the love and it’s helping. This whole thing is awful and tragic. But we will all stick together and get through it and remember these beautiful souls. Please pray for us and for Michelle. She is resting in peace with her coffee, her music and with Christian. I’ll always love you my sister.
The next morning, Adriana said her daughter’s bedroom door was closed. When she got home from work at 4 p.m., she discovered the two unresponsive in the bedroom.
“Two beautiful kids,” Paulo Avila told the outlet. “It was like Romeo and Juliet. They both died and they were hugging each other, that was crazy, you know.”
“There was nothing there. There was nothing that would make me make a move, or strip search or go do a drug test. Nothing. She was just a sweetheart,” Paulo Avila told the news website. “She used to help a lot of kids. That was her … always looking out for somebody.”
The Register suggested that the pair overdosed on opioids, but it’s not clear they did, in fact, overdose on drugs. A toxicology report is pending in the pair’s death. In Orange County, it noted, there were 7,457 opioid overdose or abuse cases treated between 2011 and 2015. And overdose deaths have risen by 88 percent between 2000 and 2015.
Avila’s parents also said she overdosed. “I’d rather have an addicted person where I could see and try to fix it,” Paulo Avila told the Register. “Other than to have trust in someone and never expect … that’s why we’re so devastated, there were no signs. Zero signs.”
Avila told the Register that he hopes to use funds from a GoFundMe to educate young people about drug abuse.
“This is the proof that what looks perfect, is not perfect,” Avila said. “My mission, at least on my coast from Seal Beach to San Clemente, is to send a message. To show how beautiful people can go through something like that.”
Both Kent and Avila were social figures in Orange County, namely in the surfing communities, Avila’s parents stated. “Michelle as a community member and social community member was very, very public and important,” Austin Smith, a friend, said. “Because of that, there will be a deep feeling of loss. Her friend group was very big in the social structure of Costa Mesa and Newport Beach.”
“It’s an absolute game of Russian roulette when you’re dealing with drugs. There’s only two outcomes—death or rehab,” said surf coach Andy Verdone in the Register report.
Fentanyl has been blamed for a rash over overdose deaths in the United States in recent years, and it’s gotten so bad that it’s drawn the attention of President Donald Trump and the Department of Justice.
“It is outrageous that Poisonous Synthetic Heroin Fentanyl comes pouring into the U.S. Postal System from China,” Trump said on Twitter on Aug. 20.
The shipment of fentanyl from China to the United States is “almost a form of warfare,” Trump said in August. “In China, you have some pretty big companies sending that garbage and killing our people,” Trump added.
More than 71,500 Americans died of a drug overdose in 2017, according to data released the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority—or least 68 percent—of those deaths could be attributed to opioids such as fentanyl.