Pubdate: Sun, 1 Nov 1998
Source: Ft. Worth Star-Telegram (TX)
Copyright: 1998 Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas
Author: Betsy Blaney, Star-Telegram Staff Writer


HALTOM CITY -- A 21-year-old Haltom City man died early yesterday
possibly of a heroin overdose after he apparently used the opiate and
went to bed, authorities said.

If toxicology tests show that heroin caused the death of Reef Dylan
Mask, it could be the fifth heroin-related casualty in Northeast
Tarrant County in just more than a month -- a toll that one addiction
specialist called "terrifying."

Emergency medical personnel arrived at Mask's apartment on Springlake
Parkway about 3:40 a.m., an hour after his girlfriend tried to awaken
him, police Sgt. Tony Veltre said.

When Mask didn't respond about 2:40 a.m., the girlfriend contacted a
friend in Southlake, who told her to call 911, Veltre said. Mask's
girlfriend, whom police identified as Elizabeth Beasley, called 911
after the friend arrived later, possibly because "she didn't know what
to do," Veltre said.

"Probably she was scared," Veltre said of Beasley.

Mask was taken by ambulance to North Hills Hospital in North Richland
Hills, where he was pronounced dead at 4:21 a.m., officials said.

In the apartment, police found a gelatin capsule containing a
substance that they believe is heroin that Mask snorted or smoked. No
syringes were found in the unit, authorities said.

The substance will be tested tomorrow, Veltre said.

Beasley, who is 17, told police that Mask had a history of heroin and
cocaine use, police said.

"She knew it was heroin" that Mask had taken, Veltre said. "We don't
have any reason not to believe her."

Beasley told police that when she went to bed about 11:30 p.m. Friday,
Mask appeared to be asleep, Veltre said.

"He may have been comatose by the time she went to bed," Veltre said.
Neither Beasley nor Mask's father, a Gainesville resident, could be
reached to comment.

Agents with the Northeast Tarrant County Drug Task Force will gather
information to try to track where Mask got the capsule, said Bedford police
Lt. Larry Romines,  the unit's commander.

The deaths of about two dozen North Texas teens and young adults have
been linked to heroin since January 1996. Mask's death was the third
in eight days and the fifth since Sept. 29 believed to be related to

"The scary thing for me is that teen-agers consider themselves
invincible," Bob Josch, director of addiction services at Cook
Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, said yesterday. "They think
that as long as they're not using a needle, it's not serious."

Josch called Northeast Tarrant County the current "hotbed" of drugs,
the result of a crackdown in Plano that has sent drug dealers to new
territory. Since January 1997, 10 Plano young adults or students have
died of heroin overdoses, but only one of those occurred this year.

"This is just the Plano phenomenon happening all over again," Josch
said. "And I hope, I pray, that we learned something from Plano."

Toxicology results are pending for Mask and three other Northeast
Tarrant County residents who had histories of heroin use and whose
deaths may be linked to the drug, police said.

Kristen Taylor, 19, was pronounced dead Tuesday after a roommate found
her unconscious in their North Richland Hills motel room, police said.
Christopher Bryant, 18, died Oct. 23 at his North Richland Hills home.

Test results are also pending in the Oct. 7 death of Stephanie Angela
Holley, 18, of Bedford.

The Sept. 29 death of Sonja D. Cardenas, 32, of Bedford has been ruled
a result of a mixture of drugs including heroin and cocaine, according
to Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office records.

The area needs to muster every available resource to combat the
scourge of heroin, and people cannot stick their heads in the sand,
Josch said. "We as a community, we as a society, we as a D/FW
Metroplex do not want to admit it's going to happen in our back yard,"
he said. "Out of sight, out of mind.

"It may be unprecedented, but it's not a surprise to me, because of
the phenomenon of denial."

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Checked-by: Rich O'Grady