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Mom raising awareness after 22-year-old daughter’s heroin overdose, death at King Taco Bell

DANBURY, N.C. -- Less than four months after losing her daughter to a heroin overdose, a Piedmont mother is taking her story to the courtroom, in the hope of preventing other mothers from experiencing heartbreak of their own.

“You may not feel like you’re worth it, because you have hit your ‘rock bottom,’ but somebody, somewhere, loves you and cares about you, and if you don’t get help, this is what they’re going to get. This is where you’re headed. This is my daughter’s death certificate,” Claudia Marini said, while holding up the document in front of a full Stokes County courtroom Wednesday morning. “This is what your mom, your dad, your grandma, your grandpa, somebody will get if you don’t stop.”

Marini’s daughter, Madison, died on Dec. 29, 2016, in the bathroom of a Taco Bell in King.

“She was 22,” Marini said. “She had a whole lifetime ahead.”

Many of the people inside the courtroom unfortunately had something in common with Madison; many of them were there for drug-related offenses.

“I heard maybe about 80 percent of everyone in here today is here for something drug-related,” Marini said.

Wednesday marked the first time Marini had been inside the Stokes County courthouse since weeks before Madison’s death, when she accompanied her to a courtroom down the hall after a recent arrest.

“I have my daughter’s hair in a pocket in my pants and I wear the bracelet she had on before she died. This is it. This is real,” Marini said to the crowd, while displaying a locket around her neck containing Madison’s ashes.​

Marini says she was introduced to the idea of pre-court drug talks by Kerri Sigler, an attorney in Winston-Salem, who reached out to judges and put Marini in contact with them. Before her talk in Stokes County, Marini spoke to another courtroom full of people in Surry County on Tuesday.

“I’ve heard that what it feels like for somebody who’s addicted, is like being in the middle of the ocean, and you’re going under, and you’re trying to catch your breath, and you panic and you feel like you’re going to die,” Marini said, before sharing her own feelings of anxiety. “The grief that I feel every day, from losing Maddie, and I know that panic that I feel, and that overwhelming feeling that I’m going to die every day, because I can’t touch her, and I can’t see her and I can’t smell her.”

Although the people inside the courtroom were strangers, Marini wanted to remind them that they’re all connected.

“I don’t know you, but I care enough about you as a human being to know that your life matters,” she said. “I don’t want anybody in your life to have to carry you around – your ashes around – their neck.”

After her closing remarks, which were met by broad applause, Marini exited the courtroom out of the side door. Mere seconds went by before she was met by people who had just listened to her message. Some, letting her know how touched they were by her story; others, asking if she was interested in speaking to classrooms.

“You might leave here today, and you might tell five other people, you might tell one other person, and then they’re going to tell five other people,” Marini said. “They’re going to tell one other person and we’re going to get this message out.”