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Medical Examiner: Former Howard High Football Player Died from Drug Overdose

Joey Bonavitacola's sudden death was caused by the combined effects of heroin, cocaine and alcohol.

 

Joey Bonavitacola died suddenly on Sept. 23 from the combined effects of heroin, cocaine and alcohol, according to the Maryland Medical Examiner's office.

A spokesperson for the office said the manner of death was undetermined.

Bonavitacola, who was 18 at the time of his death, graduated from Howard High School in 2012 and was a star running back on the Howard High football team.

He was from Elkridge.

Requests for comment from Howard High School and the Howard football team were declined by the school's athletic director, Michael Duffy.

Police declined to provide any information surrounding the circumstances of Bonavitacola's death because it was deemed not a criminal matter, according to a Howard County police spokesperson.

Attempts to contact the Bonavitacola family on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

In his senior season, Bonavitacola rushed for 700 yards and 10 touchdowns, helping the Lions qualify for the playoffs, according to an article in Explore Howard.

The news of Bonavitacola's death shook the Howard High community. On the Howard football team's Facebook page, families from around Howard County offered their prayers to Bonavitacola's family.

Lions football coach Bruce Strunk has said of Bonavitacola: "...no one had the kind of heart that he did on the field," reported the Howard County Times, which described the teen as "popular" and a "star."

The Lions' defensive coordinator Doug Caplan told Ellicott City Patch that Bonavitacola was "quick" after the player, a junior at the time, had a breakout game with two touchdowns, 16 carries and 209 yards rushing against Oakland Mills in fall 2010.

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Elkridge Football Player Dies at Age 18

PapaDog October 17, 2012 at 06:05 PM
and this is being broadcast for . . . what, exactly? Perhaps this family has suffered enough. Some things are better left not said
FRANCIS October 17, 2012 at 07:46 PM
When this young man died, there were numerous news stories, including comments from friends and school administrators. It was only natural for those unfamiliar with his history to wonder why an apparently healthy young athlete could be lost so suddenly, and a follow up article was inevitable. Families are changed forever when these events occur-hopefully other young people who may be in a similar situation can learn from Joey's tragedy and get the help they need before it is too late.
Melissa Dutt October 18, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Does it matter what caused the death? No. The fact of the matter is a life has been taken too shortly. Are you trying to knock this angel off of his pedastool? Before you publish your "big story" before anyone else, why don't you have some goddamn decency to contact the Bonavitacola's and ask to publish the story. Respect their privacy. Dealing with a child's death is hard enough. Privacy and respect for this poor family is needed. It's apparent that you're too much of a low life to realize what the effect of this article has on his loved ones and the community.
Don Dixon October 18, 2012 at 01:31 AM
The media doesn't have to have permission to publish a story. This is news. It doesn't matter if it's painful. It's news.
Kayla October 18, 2012 at 03:27 AM
There is a special hell for individuals who believe that Joey's cause of death is anyone's business but his family's and whoever they decide to share that with. The fact that they had to find out through an article is even more ridiculous. This is not the public's business at all. So, like Melissa said, good for them to get their "big story", but this article has done more harm than good. What was the point of this article? This has already hurt his family and his friends who were already in pain and still grieving, why make matters worse?
Donna Smith October 18, 2012 at 10:29 AM
That it was an overdose has been known for some time. At the high school that was the information shared with the students. The students were talked to during first period by their teachers the day afterwards and they were told it was an overdose, just not what substance(s) had been used. I was surprised to hear that since nothing had been reported in the papers.
Coach October 18, 2012 at 11:09 AM
I hope all young people learn from this .God bless you Joey. Lets take something positive from this. Much love to the family .
Coach October 18, 2012 at 11:15 AM
Things happen this doesn't take away from how much Joey was loved . Lets leave the family alone and show Respect to all close to him .
Stacey Dix October 18, 2012 at 12:37 PM
Attempts to contact the family were unsuccessful? I can't imagine why! Let them greive for their son. It's respect, people!!
Polly October 18, 2012 at 12:46 PM
@Melissa Dutt - I hear ya, and I get it. But, take a step back yourself and calm down. The profanity is not helpful either. As a mom myself I've posted before without knowing the cause of death, as I just can't imagine the heartache his family is suffering. It's just wrong for a parent(s) to bury a child. But, reporting the cause of death happens all the time, especially when the individual that died was a high school standout and athlete. How many times as a child his age died suddenly and then we find out it was an undiagnosed heart condition or something else. Use it as a learning experience. His family and friends remain in my thoughts and prayers.
kmd October 18, 2012 at 12:58 PM
@Polly amen! Maybe kids might read this stop and think if it happen to a guy like that it could happen to me.
Don Dixon October 18, 2012 at 01:22 PM
Melissa, when someone dies, they report the cause of death. That's how it works.
Dave A. October 18, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Sad to have lost such a priding young man this early in his life.... The families pain has riveted they the Howard High community... Prayers for both Joey and his family... As for reporting the news the media I guess feels it is their responsibility to do so. I will not post my personal feelings on this (That's a first isn't it!).... BUT: I hope ALL of his friends, classmates and acquaintances can take this as a tradgedy and LEAVE that CRAPPY stuff known as DRUGS ALONE! R.I.P. Joey and run that football for a million yards a season!
Don Dixon October 18, 2012 at 02:16 PM
No one seems to care when someone in the city is shot and killed and the news reports on it, but when its someone you care about.... all of the sudden, it is wrong for the media to cover it.
Sarah October 18, 2012 at 02:40 PM
I am truly saddened for Joey’s family and out of respect for them do not think his cause of death needed to be public knowledge. Very often addicts are shunned and so are their families, I saw this first hand after my son’s death. It is painful enough to lose a child, comments like “that’s disgusting” and “what a waste” put a quick stop to my telling people his cause of death or even discussing him. I couldn’t save my son, I didn’t know what to do where to turn next. You do not tell people your son is an addict, you tend to fight the battle alone. How many children/young adults have we, as a community (Howard County), lost to drugs in recent years? And what, as a community can we do to prevent this from happening to another family. The loss of a child is the most profound, the most overwhelming, and the most inconsolable of all losses to deal with.
hrd October 18, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Its clear that people’s medical histories, even after death, are protected under HIPPA. This means that we have, as a society decided that it is important to protect our medical history. The death certificate MIGHT not be protected, but that means there has to be some benefit of reporting this. Sure, maybe it can stop other kids from doing this. On the other hand, maybe it will stimulate kids to do it. There was not foul play. So where was the benefit besides the private benefit to the newspaper and newsman. Even if there were some significant benefit, what was the rush to not have waited for a response from the family?
hrd October 18, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Keith B: Are you saying that people who you disagree with should move to China or Russia and this is bettering the community? Are you saying that eliminating the ability to comments enhances freedom of speech? I do believe in the First Amendment and I am also quite certain its a qualified right (see HIPPA). And I do believe in responsible journalism. And I do believe that sometimes - just sometimes -people use the First Amendment to satisfy their own selfish needs in reckless disregard of the public and private interests. And I believe that when these people speak out, it is the highest form of ignorance to try to silence them by arguing you love for freedom of speech.
Keith B. October 19, 2012 at 01:06 PM
hrd, You missed the entire point of my post. Mrs. Millissa post objections to others freedom of speech along with ignorant cussing. And Patch is responsible in reporting the autopsy results. Have you read what Millissa said above? Yes, if you have a problem with freedom of speech one should move to China or Russia. Red White and Blue that. Grown "crybabies"
Liz October 23, 2012 at 01:26 AM
wow....a child died, regardless of how or why...it is heart wrenching. I think we need to know that it was a drug overdose. There are so many kids that are using drugs in this county and we need to wake up to that fact. It's not something to hide or be ashamed of if it's in your family. I have lived in Howard County a long time and have known of so many families that have to go out of state to get the affordable help that they need. Rest in peace Joey and God comfort their family during this time of grieving.
hrd October 23, 2012 at 04:31 PM
That gets us to the important question of why Howard County is experiencing such high drug use. This child in question wanted for nothing. He wasn’t poor, picked on, had non attentive parents, nor did he have unsatisfied material needs. He was even highly regarded in the community from a highly regarded family. He was not too different than a lot of Howard county kids where the kids get everything they need from the parents. And all of his comrades that I knew came from well-off families. My guess is that these kids have been given so much, that there is nothing to struggle for and turn to drugs excitement. The easy life has not only led to obesity, but apathy in our kids. As I see it, we are the victim of our own success, and the solution appears to be figuring out how to put our kids on a diet. The real irony is that the kids have most of the responsibility to figure out the solution to the problem because in a few short years, they’ll have the problem of raising their kids so they are not apathetic.
Liz October 25, 2012 at 03:11 AM
That is all so true HRD, however...drug addiction is rampant everywhere and has no boundaries when it comes to race or status of people. I think that kids sometimes just want to have fun and party, now knowing how highly addictive heroin is these days. Before they know it they are hooked. Who knows why things happen the way they do. My heart goes out to the family and friends of this young man who had such a promising future. Also, I think a lot of young people are bored, have too much time on their hands or just do it because it seems the thing to do these days. It is all through our culture, in music, media and clubs. I pray that people would open their eyes to the fact that it can happen to anyone and that it is a serious problem in this country. There is rampant use of prescriptions pills and crystal meth, as well. There is also a shortage of jobs for young adults and for some, selling drugs is a gateway to fame and fortune. Pray for our nation.
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