Pubdate: Mon, 24 Apr 2000
Source: Kansas City Star (MO)
Copyright: 2000 The Kansas City Star
Contact:  1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108
Author: Mike Hendricks
Note: To reach Mike Hendricks, call (816) 234-7708 or send e-mail to  


Stephen L. Marler died of a drug overdose. That drug was not cocaine,
not heroin, not crystal meth.

It was alcohol.

Marler drank a fifth of whiskey in a matter of 10 minutes. Then he

He was 16.

"I made eight of his friends carry his casket," Marler's mother,
Dorothy Enright, said. "I wanted them to feel the burden of it."

We all feel that burden when death claims the young. We parents do,
more than most.

A police officer knocks, tells you he's sorry but your child is gone
forever. The dread lives with you always. We know kids take risks.
Whatever it is you do, be careful, we tell them. Come home safe.

Sometimes they don't come home at all.

Marler was a junior at Olathe North High School. He wasn't perfect,
but he had a good heart and was well liked.

Last month, while on spring break, he was invited to a party. He and
another co-worker finished their shifts at an Olathe pizza restaurant
and drove to an apartment complex north of the river.

Their 21-year-old boss was host.

Kansas City police say about a dozen persons, most of them teen-agers,
were drinking when Marler arrived at the apartment around 11:45 p.m.
March 14.

Around midnight, a fresh bottle of booze was produced. And on a dare,
witnesses told police, Marler vowed he could drink it all.

"He just poured the Southern Comfort in a big plastic cup," said
Detective Andrew Dorothy. "He drank the whole fifth."

That's an awful lot of alcohol for someone who's 5 feet 10 inches tall
and 137 pounds. Marler passed out and never woke up. He was dead when
police were called the next morning. The autopsy put his blood alcohol
level at .47, which is nearly five times the legal limit for
intoxication in Missouri, six times the Kansas definition.

Last week, the Clay County attorney's office filed charges. John M.
Miller, 21, is accused of furnishing liquor to a minor, a

"What's sad is it was so preventable," Assistant Prosecutor Janet
Sutton said of Marler's death.

Certainly it was that. And that's what Marler's mother would like
parents and their children to know at this time of year, when
teen-agers tend to drink to excess even as some parents dismiss it as
a rite of passage.

So Enright assigned her son's friends to be pallbearers so they would
never forget what can happen when you drink too much. And then she
told me about Marler and how he died so the rest of us won't forget,

"I just think people need a better education," she said. "According to
the autopsy, he ingested ethanol. It's a poison.

"With alcohol, I don't think they realize it kills."

Teens should know that if one of their friends passes out from
drinking, they should call for help immediately. Marler was tossed on
a bed so he could sleep it off, which meant he had no chance at all.

Her advice to parents: Ask many questions before your children go out
for the night. Enright knew her son was going to that party. She knew
he planned to sleep over.

What she didn't know was that the party's host was an adult. Had she
only asked more questions, she said, that might have become clearer
and Marler would not have been granted permission to go out that night.

That terrible night. The night Marler drank too much. And

To reach Mike Hendricks, call (816) 234-7708 or send e-mail  
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