Pubdate: Wed, 29 Aug 2001
Source: The Post and Courier (SC)
Copyright: 2001 Evening Post Publishing Co.
Author: Glenn Smith


John Reeves Jr. died in a shooting Saturday night, but it was the ravages 
of drug use that truly claimed his life, his wife said Tuesday. After a 
lengthy period of sobriety, the 48-year-old carpenter had turned to crack 
cocaine three years ago to dull the pain of life's disappointments. 
Gradually, the drug took control of his body and his life, said his wife, 
Mary Jo Reeves. John Reeves recognized a problem and struggled to kick the 
drug on his own. He couldn't. And he fought to keep his addiction hidden 
from friends and co-workers, embarrassed and fearful of the stigma attached 
to drug users, his wife said. "He was just running on pure fear that 
someone would find out," she said. "He felt extremely inadequate that he 
could not control his own life, but that's what drugs and alcohol do." 
Saturday morning, Reeves left his Moncks Corner home while his wife was at 
the doctor's office.

She assumed he'd run out to get a newspaper.

But the hours dragged by, and still he didn't return. Reeves ended up in 
the Ferndale neighborhood of North Charleston, one of his regular haunts 
when searching for crack.

Police found him slumped over the driver's seat of his Dodge Caravan after 
it crashed into a tree shortly after 9 p.m. There was a bullet wound to his 
left side and a small amount of crack on the seat. He died about three 
hours later. "That gun took the life out of him, but it was the drugs that 
killed him," his wife said. "They killed his heart and they killed his 
soul, and without that, you feel hopeless." North Charleston police so far 
have no suspects in the slaying, said Lt. George Tetanich. Investigators 
have tried to trace Reeves' whereabouts before the shooting.

Detectives are looking into the possibility the shooting was drug-related, 
he said. Mary Jo Reeves has no doubt drugs were involved.

She suspects the same dealers who exploited his weakness for crack shot 
Reeves in a drug dispute. "The person who shot him and all the ones in that 
area dealing, they are parasites," she said. "They feed off the sickness of 
another human being.

My husband's life was worth nothing to them." To Mary Jo, John Reeves meant 
the world.

She often told him that he was a blessing that God sent to her. They met 
about 10 years ago on a December night at an Ashley Phosphate Road nightclub.

As a band played shag music, Reeves stepped from the crowd and asked her to 
dance. "I said 'yes' and then we danced for the next 10 years," she said. 
"I think God knew we both had a need for something and put us together." 
Reeves told her of his past drug problems, including his 1990 arrest for 
cocaine possession. But he vowed to stay clean, and she promised to help 
him. For seven years, she said, he kept that vow. Good memories spring from 
those years: lunches on Daniel Island watching porpoises, afternoons raking 
leaves in the yard, an intimate Valentine's Day lobster dinner. Things 
changed about three years ago, when life's problems seemed to surpass 
Reeves' ability to cope. Among other things, he was haunted by the death of 
his first-born child several years ago and his continued estrangement from 
his four remaining children, Mary Jo Reeves said. He turned to crack and 
alcohol to ease the pain, she said. As time passed, Reeves' crack use 

He tried drug rehabilitation programs, but his sobriety didn't last. 
Meanwhile, he used every ounce of energy to hide his problem and continue 
functioning at work, Mary Jo said. His co-workers at Stenstrom & 
Associates, a Goose Creek construction company, were unaware of his drug 
use, said Robert Stenstrom, the firm's president.

He excelled at the company and was promoted in less than a year from 
carpenter to superintendent. "This has taken me and a whole lot of other 
people completely by surprise," Stenstrom said. Reeves passed a drug test 
before he was hired, and random drug screenings showed no evidence of drug 
use, Stenstrom said. Though undetected, his problem was there, his wife 
said. It pained him, and he was ashamed of letting her down. In May, she 
moved to Florida to give him time to sort his problems out, though she 
continued to call and visit regularly. "I knew the road he was traveling 
would lead him to where he is now, and I didn't want to see him hurt 
himself any more," she said. During a visit in early August, she noticed 
Reeves had lost 30 or 40 pounds and seemed distracted. Finally, about a 
week ago, he admitted he needed help and was considering rehabilitation 
again, she said. Afraid of being stigmatized as a drug user, Reeves told 
his co-workers last week he was seeking help with an alcohol problem.

On Friday, he told his mother he was about to undergo drug treatment, 
according to his brother Ronald Reeves. But by Saturday, it was too late.
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