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Grandmother: Crash victim 'didn't love herself'

Union Leader Correspondent

June 10. 2015 9:34PM
Jessica McCassie, 19, seen in a photo from Facebook. 

Two weeks before Jessica McCassie was fatally injured in a rollover crash with heroin in her system, her grandmother says she tried to get her back into rehab to fight her addiction.

Carole Heath said her 19-year-old granddaughter refused to go back because she wanted to stay with her at her home in Fremont.

“This is tragic and unfortunately she became one of the statistics ... She was very well-loved, but she didn’t love herself,” Heath said.

While state police continue to investigate the cause of the crash on Route 101 in Candia Sunday night, McCassie’s family said they believe her struggle with heroin played a role.

After she was ejected from the overturned car and rushed to Elliot Hospital in Manchester, family members said they were told by doctors that McCassie had heroin in her system.

Heath said her granddaughter died of massive head trauma in the hours after the accident, but she and other family members insist that it was McCassie’s heroin addiction that caused the former high honors student and salutatorian of Nute High School’s Class of 2014 to lose control of her life.

“I want her friends and family to remember her the way she was before. She was a bright, cheery, loving child. I want people to remember her as she was and not who she became,” said her mother, Joyce McCassie of Milton.

She called heroin the “devil’s drug.”

“She had the world in her hands,” she said. “Unfortunately, the stuff overpowered her.”

Drug charge dismissed

McCassie’s family said she was saved from overdoses nine times this year.

Just last week, a drug possession charge against the 19-year-old was dismissed in Strafford County Superior Court because there was no grand jury indictment by the end of May.

The charge resulted from her arrest in Rochester on Jan. 21 after she was found in a vehicle slouched over the steering wheel.

According to Rochester police, rescue personnel responded to the intersection of South Main Street and Columbus Avenue in Rochester to investigate a report of a car off the road, facing the wrong way with hazard lights flashing.

Police said McCassie was found unresponsive and at the time they believed that she had overdosed. She was removed from the vehicle and regained consciousness after being treated at the scene by emergency personnel.

McCassie was charged with driving under the influence and possession of a drug, which police said was heroin.

On March 25, McCassie was involved in a head-on crash on Beede Road in Epping. Police reported that she crossed the center line and struck another vehicle. However, a police report did not indicate that drugs were involved in the crash.

Took grandmother’s car

Heath said her granddaughter, who had been living with her since she left rehab seven months ago, took her white Mazda without her knowledge Sunday while she was napping.

McCassie’s mother said she talked to her daughter shortly before the accident and told her that she needed to return the car to her grandmother.

Heath said she notified Fremont police about the missing car and was eventually able to reach McCassie through text messages. She texted back saying she was on her way home. But she never made it.

McCassie struck a guardrail and rolled the car over.

Heath said she believes her granddaughter took the car to travel to Manchester to get heroin and likely used the drug before heading home.

At one point McCassie’s mother said she received information that her daughter still had a needle in her arm at the time of the accident, but she said she has since learned that was inaccurate and there was no needle.

Heath said no drugs or drug paraphernalia were found at the accident scene.

Family speaks out

In the wake of her death, McCassie’s family is speaking out in hopes their message will reach others struggling to beat heroin addictions.

“I liken the drug to a fish caught in a net and the net is wound so tight around the fish that they can’t get out and nobody else can get them out of the net in time so the fish dies,” Heath said.

McCassie’s aunt, Susan Logiudice of Milford, Maine, described her niece as a sweet, beautiful young woman with a bright future.

“There was a tremendous amount of people that loved her and there was a tremendous amount of people that wanted her to be clean. Unfortunately, we all felt helpless. There’s only so much people can do. Heroin got in and I don’t think Jessie could find her way out. She felt there was so much darkness,” she said.

Logiudice said that while nothing will bring her niece back, she hopes someone will listen to the family’s message.

“I just want the world to know that it’s not how many times you do heroin. Sometimes it’s once and your life changes forever and so does that of everyone around you. It’s a ripple effect,” she said.

Logiudice said she also hopes police find the person who sold heroin to her niece.

Change in senior year

McCassie’s struggles with heroin began during her senior year at Nute High School in Milton, where she grew up. Her mother said things began to change during the middle of her senior year.

“I started noticing the attitude change. I noticed the condition of her mentality changed,” she said.

Heath became worried when McCassie abandoned the sports she had loved to play in high school.

“When she didn’t pick up the sports again in her senior year I had bad feelings and people were telling me Jessica was on heroin. Being myself I like to have some evidence. I had no hard evidence. Finally I saw it,” Heath said, adding, “She became deceitful and at the last of it she got into my credit cards.”

McCassie was enrolled at New Hampshire Technical Institute, where she planned to pursue a career as a dental hygienist. But she dropped out several weeks after she started.

Scholarship fund

The family has established the Jessica McCassie Scholarship Fund to benefit students studying substance abuse prevention or other health professions. Donations can be made at any TD Bank.

“I hope that something good can come out of this in her memory,” her grandmother said.

Calling hours will be held today from 4 to 7 p.m. at Peaslee Funeral Home at 24 Central St. in Farmington. A vigil will be held at 8 p.m. at the town beach in Milton.

A funeral service is planned for Friday at 10 a.m. at the funeral home.

Health Public Safety Social issues Milton Candia Fremont

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