RIP: Debbie Lynn McConnell
by Jeffrey Stockbridge
Debbie McConnell stands with her mother Laura Bailey Talbert in front of a wall of family photos at their home in Staunton, VA 2017.
Deborah Lynn McConnell, 38, of Fairfax County, passed away unexpectedly Saturday, August 4, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. Her body was found at the corner of Willard and Hollins Streets in West Baltimore.
The manner of death is undetermined however the medical examiner reports that Fentanyl was found in Debbie’s system.
Debbie was found on August 4th but her family wasn’t notified of her death for an agonizing 7 days, during which time her mother frantically searched the streets of Baltimore and struggled to get her on the Missing Persons List.
Debbie was born August 12, 1979 in Chester, Pennsylvania, a daughter of Laura Bailey Talbert, William and Christine McConnell.
Although Debbie struggled with drugs throughout most of her teenage and adult life, she was also able to maintain extended periods of clean time. Most recently, from 2013 to 2017, Debbie was living drug free at home with her mother in Staunton, Virginia.
In addition to her parents, family members include daughter Cheyenne McConnell, of Staunton, son, Joshua Biondo of Maine, four sisters, Jamie (Richard) Sullivan of Staunton, Gina McConnell of Pennsylvania, Cara (Evan) Yocano of Pennsylvania and Audria McConnell of Pennsylvania, two brothers, Theodore Manna of Staunton and Tyler Manna of Staunton. Numerous nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and cousins. She was preceded in death by a sister Megan Lynn Manna.
A cremation will be conducted by Simplicity Crematorium and Funeral Home. The memorial service is scheduled to take place on October 20th, 2018 at 1pm at Friendship Church, 1601 W Beverley St. Staunton, Va. 24401.
Laura Bailey Talbert writes, “We would love it, if everyone wore something “GREEN” 💚💚 that was her favorite color or sport your Philadelphia 🦅Eagles pride. That would be great.
She would love that. She missed her birthday by 9 days 😰. So we will be having a 🎉BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION PARTY🎉 after the Church memorial service.
The following letter was written by Debbie’s mother, Laura Bailey Talbert.
Dear mothers and daughters,
Like always, we think we have taught them all we can to protect themselves from this great big world… And then we find ourselves wondering what went wrong?
My daughter was the kindest person in this world. She was my best friend and co-pilot in life. She began early in life, getting into some legal problems, and it quickly became the drug scene. She was so bad into them, I asked her to tattoo my phone number on her so if she was found they wouldn’t have any problems getting ahold of me. And if she was in jail, I knew she was safe. Three meals daily and clean. She had been to several rehabs to no avail. I was always on pins and needles when the phone rang, knowing that it would be bad news about Debbie. She had been on the avenue for quite some time. I would go walk the streets to find her. Begging for her to come home, making sure she had clothes, shoes…..sometimes I have even given her money to buy what she needed to get her in the car and bring her home.
You have to understand our relationship: we were the best of friends but as her mom there was a line in the sand. She knew disrespect was not an option. There came a time she got into some serious trouble and I would not bail her out. I told her that was it‼️ And that was that. She was on her own. I couldn’t just keep living her demons. We had not spoken for three years. Then her sister passed away at 29 and I had to go tell her that face to face 😢 😢 and that started our relationship over again. But Debbie had a different outlook on life & family after that.❤ We visited, talked, and had quality time to figure out what path we were going to take. Things just fell into place 😇 and our relationship got to the point that I trusted her again.
When Debbie was released, (the last time she ever went to jail) 😇 🌹 I think the death of her younger-sister really made her think & she chose her family. I trusted her and let her come home. We have always been close. But the drugs masked the “BEAUTIFUL” (my nickname for her) person she was inside. I’m sure all of you mom’s out there going through this, know exactly what I mean… 🌹 You still see your little girl in her eyes but her appearance was not the girl you knew at all.
To the daughter’s out there who are still on the avenue, or wherever you are, please know, that no matter what, your mom loves you with all she has ❤.
Or a family member, who has been a mom to you🌹.
We’ll never give up looking for you, even if you think that’s the case 💚. If you haven’t called home, please do so 🙏😇 because the person on the other end, loves you, needs you and will help you. They just need to know your alive ✨💚 and to hear your voice, will be the best day of their lives 🍀. Because they pray everyday for that 🙏🙏😇. And know there is a chance to save their babies. Call your mom please 🙏🙏. You’re both feeling the same way, just on opposite sides: lost 💚 lonely 💚 scared 💚 a hole in your ❤ where each of you belong, and can only be filled by hearing each others voices. Because I know the pain, sleepless nights, uncontrollable emotions that comes with not hearing my (BEAUTIFUL) daughter’s voice ever again 💔😢.
Debbie was clean for years after she was released from jail. Together we got her back on track. Alimentally (she had to do the work herself) but knew she had a family that loved her💚a cheerleader mom💚who at times was pretty tough on her😘, but always had her back💚. There were times she would tell me to back off, she was a grown woman and didn’t need me to be a mom🙄🙄. But I’m fierce as a mom‼️
And Debbie did not always make the best choices, when it came to men & friends😐. If she had a date and I didn’t like the on line dating thing anyway because people are not going to tell you their real story… And when it came to Deb she almost always believed what anyone told her 😱. So I would sneak out take a picture of the car and plates so if I didn’t hear from her, I knew I could track down the person she went on a date with📸
One day she needed my phone, and was scrolling thru my pictures 😱 and discovered the pictures I had taken of the cars😜. At first she was like (MOM REALLY)‼️ I said “YUPPERS”. No one is going to take you away from me‼️ I brought you into this world, and I’m the only one who gets to take you out‼️ We laughed our asses off….. to the point of tears 😄😂😅. She hugged me and said “ONLY YOU WOULD THINK TO DO THAT” 💚💚💚 and maybe that was true 😍💚😇 but I’m sure that all of the moms out there, that have walked the streets of addiction to hell and 🍀 enough to find their daughters, have done something like that. So they knew where to start if their daughters were not home by the next day ✨✨.
Debbie and I were very close, co-pilots, partners in crime, best friends. We could finish each other’s sentences. We were rock stars in the car, singing & being silly. There was not a subject we couldn’t talk about (but had to remind her occasionally) that there are somethings I didn’t need to know as her mom 😱. She didn’t care…. She said we’re both grown women, and you’re the only one I tell everything too 😍.
We went and did everything together.
But she needed her own life also. She didn’t like that she couldn’t have overnight company, a house rule but respectful, and to set the example I never had anyone over, or spent the night. We had some pretty heated argument at times. Mostly because I didn’t like the people she was hanging out with. Because I could see she was being used by these people….. I knew she would be the child that was always going to live at home, because she spent more time of her life in the system & on drugs. She struggled with how to conform to the rules and ways of communicating with the outside world. She said what was on her mind, no matter who she spoke too. It was difficult for her to keep a job, because she would call you out if you were not doing your share of the work, and it always came out like she was being bitchy, because of her tone. And 99% of the time she was just trying to express her opinion, not in a mean or nasty way but in the only way she knew how– blunt & to the point.
In November of 2017. She met a man and moved in with him. She lived just 1 mile from me so we talked and texted everyday. It was like she lived at home but slept there 😂😇. We had coffee together most days. Nothing really changed except her address 😂. She had slipped up a time or 2 but came clean to me about it and we found a doctor to help and went to a meeting. I went with her sometimes when she wanted me to so she knew I was in her corner 💯% of the time. But in March I saw the change in her eyes…. New names popped up?? And communication was only text & she was becoming distant. I went to her house to see her and knew immediately that she getting high again. I called her out about it and she told me it was the Suboxone and Seroquel that she was prescribed that was making her loopy. Her boyfriend was evicting her, she was out of control, in trouble and needed to get help immediately‼️‼️. And she knew it. We talked about it and found a place for her right away. But the day we were to go she had a million excuses to put it off. So I went to her house, packed up the rest of her things, put them in the car and said “LETS GO.” She said she wasn’t going, she was a grown woman & I couldn’t make her go‼️ I said I trump that because I’m the mom‼ and could care less how old she was‼
She needed cigarettes, but I refused to move my car so she could not get her car out. I said fine get in the car I will take you to get cigarettes and bring you home. If you want to throw away all your hard work over the years that gave you your family & life back, so be it. But I’m not going to watch you go down that road. She was withdrawing and a bitch on wheels because at that point so was I‼️‼️ I couldn’t & wouldn’t let her fall down that rabbit hole again. So she got in the car. We went to the store. And I just started to head for the rehab she was going to. To say that she was not happy was an understatement. She was pissed I tricked her 😡. But she would have to get over it. We arrived. I unpacked the car and told her she either goes in and gets with the program or she could sit outside. Either way I was going home without her. She got up, and asked me to go in with her 😇💚. She knew she needed help and I was so proud of her. And told her that she did so well and looked as “BEAUTIFUL” as ever. She even extended it for 2 extra weeks. She liked the area she was at because there were people her age, more things to do. She came home to get her car and her things that were here. She found a place to live, worked a crappy job to pay her rent, but continued to look for something better 💚🎉. She had been living in Northern Virginia for 3 months by now and was very proud 💚she was clean 💚 living on her own 💚 making her own money 💚. And I was very proud of her for really giving it her all 💚❤.
I became very ill in July and it was a touch and go situation but I pulled through it and told Debbie she had nothing to worry about. She needed to work. That I was good to go. Then a week later I was back in the hospital 😱. Wild horses couldn’t keep her away this time. She came to the hospital to see for herself, that I was TRUELY going to be ok ❤❤. She had to get back to work though but came home on July 31st because she had a court date on the 1st of August. It was nice having her home for a few days. I was still not 100% well so she was in nursing mode 😱 making me crazy. I couldn’t move at all without her following me, making sure I wasn’t doing anything 😂😇💚.
Debbie left to go home on the 3rd…. With plans to be back for her birthday on the 12th. I gave her kisses and hugs and for her to let me know she made it home safe. She sent me a text around 8pm. She made it home ok………💔 that would be the last time I would ever hear from her‼️‼️
I text her the next day & she didn’t answer? I thought she was sleeping in. She mentioned something about Baltimore before she left my house to go home but didn’t elaborate so I didn’t know if she went out or not at this point. I called and texted her all day & nothing. Not like her at all, we communicated 10x’s a day or more. I was concerned that I didn’t hear from her at all on Saturday. Sunday I was calling and texting 😱 still nothing. I was in panic mode, something was wrong I could feel it. Every Mom has that built in mechanism that you feel it when your child is in trouble‼️ I called her roommate and she said she was concerned also because she had been trying to get ahold of her also. She last heard from her was at 3am on Sunday and Debbie was in Baltimore then.
Clearly Debbie had not returned any messages, her phone went right to voicemail. She would never leave without her make-up if she was not coming home‼️ I called the police to do a safety check on her, however, they did nothing. She was old enough to go where she wanted, did not have to tell anyone, so the Fairfax police would do nothing. I called for a second safety check, this time her roommate was there. She told them the last time she communicated Debbie, she reiterated what I had been explaining to them that Debbie wouldn’t leave for 3 days without taking some things with her. Her car, clothes, make-up, toothbrush…. everything was at her house but her‼️‼️
So at the 2nd check the police said they could not search the car without a warrant (REALLY‼️). She is missing, 2 calls to check on her, and they needed a search warrant even though I gave them permission‼️‼️ So while the police were there, Debbie’s roommate searched the car and her ID wallet and a receipt from McDonald’s was found inside‼️‼️ So clearly she was a missing person‼️
FOR ALL OF THE MOMS OUT THERE THAT KNOW WHAT THAT SICK FEELING IS TELLING YOU, THAT YOU KNOW THE OUTCOME BUT WILL NEVER STOP LOOKING, BECAUSE YOU NEED TO SEE IT TO BELIEVE IT‼️ Three of my sisters all turned into private detectives, and were relentless in calling everyplace in Baltimore to see if she was hurt or….anyplace they could think of.
We tried like hell to get her on the missing persons list. Fairfax wouldn’t do it because they suck and are lazy. They said it had to come from where I live because I was making the report. At this point I was going to call the national guards if that’s what it took to make someone get off their ass and listen to the facts. Her sister had had enough of the BS and come hell or high water was getting her on the Missing list. And she did‼️‼I have no idea how she worked that miracle but she was an angel with powers that be. So we know Debbie was in Baltimore and still missing. Me, Debbie’s sister and brother walked the streets in search of anything we could find out. To no avail. No one there wants to talk. But we were not deterred. We kept asking. And we found the woman that found Debbie. So when the police showed up at my house, we at least knew where she was at. AND WOULD HAVE KNOWN SOONER IF DETECTIVE MASON HAD GOT OFF HIS ASS and went to Baltimore to identify her the first time 😡 the coroner called him. She did a tremendous job & research. She found my news cast and Debbie’s picture in the Kensington Blues book. She called detective mason again and told him she had my baby and he had to come identify her. But he blew her off again so she made a call…. and poof. There he was. Identified her and washed his hands of it.
I could go on and on…
Moms alway be there for your daughter. Keep the lines of communications open, that’s so important 🙏.
And go & get her out of the hell hole even if you just don’t know what to do to get out. But you need to be the one to find her and be patient, it’s a struggle. Please don’t give up.
We had a great relationship before she was taken from me 🙏💚‼️😇❤.
For the moms out there your daughter is looking for you to find her, love her and help her get through issues. I feel 🍀💚 to have had years of clean time to really know her as a person 💚.
I love you my “BEAUTIFUL” baby.
Laura Bailey Talbert
My condolences to Debbies’s family. My heart breaks for them all. If I could tell her mother anything it would be that Debbie inspired me. I have been clean for 1.5 years now. I also spent some time off and on the streets of Kensington . I read all about her through the “Kensington blues” . I was so incredibly happy to see her clean and beautiful..filled w life. She was a true inspiration. May her beautiful soul RIP…
Thank you very much for sharing! I am so sorry for your loss! I appreciate you sharing so people know that there is a personal, loving side to addiction. I can only imagine what a wonderful girl your daughter was..
God bless you!
i am so sorry to hear about your daughter Debbie..My deepest sympathies to the family. May she rest in eternal peace. I am a recovering addict myself and know the struggles of this horrible disease..I hit rock bottom, kicked out of my home, lost my whole family..I regained everything, by hope, prayer, and other addicts helping each other. I lost my son to DHS, and that was it.. It was the worst thing that could have ever happened.. As of then, that life ended, I went to rehab, inpatient , everywhere, if not death was waiting at my door. I, like Debbie and most addicts have so much love and care and intelligence to give…Her memory will go on forever..Celebrate her birthday with smiles and remember what an amazing daughter she was…One day at a time..Rest easy Debbie…xoxoxoxoxo God bless. <3
I am so, so sorry for your loss. You sound like the most amazing mom ever! She was so very lucky to have you and you her!! Thank you for sharing this and being a voice, being strength, courage, strong! This was just so raw and open and your testimony is ringing very loud! I hope so many more moms and daughters get to read your story! Your Beautiful will not have died in vain… I can guarantee you that much!! I don’t know anyone who won’t be able to relate and understand and use your words as their own strength to keep fighting for their loved ones, both sides of the equation!! Xoxo to you ALWAYS ! You will ALWAYS be in my thoughts and prayers the picture of your and your daughter will stay forever in my memory!! Thank you again!!! Big XOXO to you!!! Always!!!!!
I am so sorry you’re u lost your daughter. My daughter passed away from drug abuse on August 27, 2018. It is devastating. I only hope I can help
Other beautiful young women find a way out of the hell of their addiction. God bless you. Thank you for sharing your daughter and your story.
Tears are cascading down my face thinking of all the hell I put my beloved mother through…she is so precious to me and I can’t stand the fact that I was the primary cause of her worry, stress, fear, helplessness, and pain for so many years. Even when I became a parent myself I still couldn’t fully grasp what she endured because I hadn’t freed myself from bondage then. Suzanne Wilke is my mom and I love her with all of my heart. I can never forgive myself, only try to do better.
I worry about my own children. As of now they are 11 and 7, so they’re a little young for situations where they might encounter alcohol and drugs socially. Yet I think of how idyllic my own childhood was and the love and attention bestowed upon me….I still went down a very dark road. My parents didn’t do drugs or smoke cigarettes. My mom didn’t even drink and my dad rarely imbibed and not to the point of excess. But it still happened. So what’s it going to be like for my precious, innocent children who have a mother, father, maternal grandfather, paternal grandmother, paternal grandfather, and paternal great-grandmother who were alcoholics and addicts. It terrifies me. I try not to panic about something that hasn’t happened yet– and may not happen at all– but I hope they never pick up. Let them learn from my mistakes. They can break the cycle if they never get started.
My heart is hurting from reading your love story about your daughter. I also lost my daughter in 2018.
My daughter’s addiction was to alcohol. There may have been drugs involved at some point but I will never know.
My daughter’s name is Shay. She was kind and generous, just like your Debbie, very carefully raised, well educated, fun to be with, loved her family, was very funny to the point that I’d laugh so hard I had to ask her to stop! She especially loved her two children.
When I say “kind and generous”, that was the quality that brought about her death. Shay met a young woman in rehab who she befriended one year earlier. The woman remembered that Shay had a talent for making jewelry and looked up Shay on FaceBook. She asked Shay if she would teach her how to make jewelry. Of course Shay was eager to teach her. Two days later the woman and her husband went to Shay’s house with the intent to rob her, not to learn jewelry making. They murdered her.
Just like your Debbie, Shay’s body was not found for six days. Because of the time involved, I am assuming that you, like me, were not allowed to view her body.
Not being able to say goodbye to my beloved daughter has caused me unending grief. Even private therapy and group therapy is not easing the pain.
I’m telling you all of this because your story has inspired me to reach out to you and thank you for giving me hope to heal. You told your story so other mother’s walking in our foot steps will also find hope in your message. You are strong and courageous and will survive. I also want to survive this tragedy. And I am so certain that you will go on to help other grieving parents with your wisdom and insight.
God Bless you! My heart so, so goes out to you. I battled addiction for such a long time and saw so many bad sides of it. Please share your story..You are in my heart, thoughts and prayers
So sorry for your loss ,it must be heart-breaking to lose a sibling ,you did all you could and more ,you were there for her and walked the extra mile ,i so admire your strength ,RIP Debbie she will be in a better place ,my thoughts and prayers are with you ,G