Heroin hits home in the Northland: Hopes, dreams and life lost
In January of this year, Jazzelle Lee Marie Evavold was a 19-year-old with plans.
She had instigated plans for a family vacation during the Duluth schools’ winter break in February. It fit the schedule for her mom, Kim Evavold-Bolf, who teaches third grade at Lakewood Elementary School.
The morning after the Super Bowl, Jazzee was dead, the victim of a heroin overdose.
Heroin addiction is a growing problem in Minnesota and across the country, experts say. Last year, at least 98 people in Minnesota died of heroin overdoses, double the number from the previous year, according to preliminary figures.
It might seem to be something that happens to someone else, or to someone else’s child.
But those who work on the front lines say the victims come from all walks of life.
“Chemical dependency knows no boundaries, no limits, no sect, no denomination, no institution, no age,” said Dennis Cummings, executive director of Duluth Bethel, which devotes 32 of its 92 beds to addiction treatment.
Jazzee’s story belies any stereotypes.
“It’s not just the rich and it’s not just the poor that are dying for drugs,” Kim Bolf said. “Jazzee had all the resources. She had love; she had support. She had three parents, two homes.”
Jazzee lived in the spacious, two-story country home that Kim Bolf and Jazzee’s stepfather, Shawn Bolf, built themselves, along with her younger brother, Forrest, now 17, and her son, Carter, who will turn 2 on May 31. Her mom and stepdad say they maintain a good relationship with her dad, who lives in Duluth.
‘Her laugh was infectious’
The Bolfs talked about Jazzee’s life and death one day recently in the living room of their home, which features three spotless aquariums and countless family photos. Some of what they know now they’ve pieced together since she died through Facebook and conversations and text messages.
Jazzee was petite, with long brown hair and eyes that changed from brownish to green with her mood, Kim Bolf said. She stopped growing when she was 12 but insisted she was 5 feet tall, not 4 foot 11 like her mother, and she tried to prove it by the lines on the wall that measured her growth.
“She would puff her hair anytime we would (measure her),” Kim Bolf said. “(She) wanted to be measured in the morning because you’re taller in the morning.”
She loved art, music, photography and food — the more exotic the better. Among her favorite places to take pictures were Hawk Ridge — where friends will gather on May 26, which would have been her 20th birthday — and Forest Hill Cemetery. Her dream job was to travel the world as a National Geographic photographer. She had a plan for how to get there: Join the National Guard as a means of financing her college education.
Jazzee had the right stuff for college. She graduated a semester ahead of her class from Duluth East High School with at least a 3.95 grade-point average — she fought for 4.0, the Bolfs said. She was a knowledge junkie, scanning the paper for deals and information.
“She was always fact-gathering, always reading,” Shawn Bolf said.
Her personality was irrepressible.
“Many of her friends said she’d walk into a room and it would light up, just by her smile, her eyes,” Kim Bolf said. “We’ve heard that a lot. Her laugh was infectious.”
‘We were never ashamed’
The Bolfs know Jazzee dabbled in drugs as a younger teen. They suspect it was mostly marijuana and perhaps some alcohol, although she made it clear she didn’t care for drinking.
“I did find a letter in my drawer upstairs when she was 15 or somewhere in there, where she wrote a letter apologizing for having a couple of drinks the night before,” Kim Bolf recalled. “She said, ‘Mom, now we’ve been through everything. It’s clear sailing from here on out.’ ”
They’re certain that once she learned she was pregnant, in the fall of 2011, she abstained from anything that would harm the baby.
“We were never ashamed of her,” Kim Bolf said. “I always told her that babies are blessings. And that’s what she said: ‘Mom, I’ve been blessed. A littler earlier than you would like, but …’ And he is a blessing. Beautiful. He’s just like her. He looks like her. He acts like her. He’s got her spirit, her spunk, her eyes, her smile.”
“Her love of food,” Shawn Bolf added.
Help from a ‘friend’
The smallish mom gave birth to a 10-pound baby by emergency Cesarean section. The effects of surgery delayed her entry into the military by a few months.
But three or four months after Carter was born, several things fell apart at once. She wasn’t able to breastfeed her baby. The Bolfs are convinced she experienced postpartum depression. But she refused to see the doctor, believing if she were prescribed medicines that her plans to enter the Guard would be delayed further.
Then she learned that she’d never be in the Guard. A doctor had prescribed an epinephrine injector pen for bee stings when she was 5, believing Jazzee might be allergic. Although Jazzee later had been stung without an allergic reaction, the prescription meant she didn’t qualify.
She discovered a boyfriend had been cheating on her.
“All of this stuff compiled, and that’s when her so-called friend said, ‘I can help you,’ ” Shawn Bolf said.
The help came in the form of heroin injected by this friend, the Bolfs have learned. They believe it was her first experience with heroin. They also believe she immediately became addicted.
That’s not unusual, experts say.
“It’s so addictive and powerful that you can go from not using it at all to being a daily heroin user,” said Ted Nielsen, an addictions counselor at the College of St. Scholastica.
‘We asked for help’
Jazzee’s introduction to the drug was a little unusual. Eighty percent of heroin users started with prescription opioids — painkillers — said Dr. Charlie Reznikoff, an addictions specialist at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.
But in another sense, Jazzee’s entry to heroin fit a pattern.
“It’s an attractive drug to people who have low self-image,” Cummings said.
And despite her vivacious personality, Jazzee thought she was friendless.
“Jazzee … made comments about how she’d always feel alone with no friends,” Shawn Bolf said.
She was able to hide her heroin use at first. But by February or March of last year, the Bolfs knew there was a problem. They were frustrated in their efforts to help.
“Over and over again we said we are fighting for our daughter’s life,” Kim Bolf said. “And we asked for therapy, we asked for direction, we asked for help. … And we just kept hearing: There’s nothing you can do until she wants help.”
Jazzee was 18 when the Bolfs first brought her in. They were told that under the law even if she were as young as 16, the doctor couldn’t have revealed to them anything she had to say about drug use.
The road to Hazelden
By last August, Jazzee wanted help. On her own she contacted Hazelden, the famed addiction treatment center in the Twin Cities, and arranged to be admitted. In the interim, she also tried to detox on her own, something experts says is nearly impossible. That’s because the effects of withdrawal are so intense.
“It’s been described as the worst flu you could ever have plus being hit by a truck,” said Kim Munoz, a chemical dependency case worker in Carlton County.
On a Friday in August, her mom and stepdad took Jazzee to the emergency room, where she was given four prescriptions to help her deal with withdrawal symptoms. But because she was coherent and had made the choice to seek help, she wasn’t eligible to be admitted, they were told.
They carefully administered the drugs, but Jazzee’s condition deteriorated over the weekend. By Monday morning, she was so weak that Bolf carried her to their car and into their doctor’s office. Her blood pressure was 65 over 59. Her doctor immediately had her admitted to St. Luke’s hospital, where she stayed three days. Then the Bolfs took her to Hazelden.
Jazzee thrived during her 32 days in the treatment center. The Bolfs still get text messages from young women who were housed with her.
“The girls called her the mom,” Kim Bolf said. “She called all of the girls her girls. And she loved them all. She made sure they were up and on time to meetings. She’d sing, ‘Give God the glory, glory,’ to get them out of bed, and they got up just to shut her up.”
After that, Jazzee was transferred to a sober house in St. Paul. While there, she attended AA meetings and continued in drug therapy. She was required to hold down a job, but she worked two jobs, both at the Mall of America.
On the Friday after Thanksgiving, someone picked her up after work. What happened after that crossed four police jurisdictions, and the investigation isn’t complete. But she was beaten and robbed and left at a bus stop, her face bruised. When police found her, she told them a friend was coming to pick her up. But she had no purse, and it was 6 a.m. by the time the friend came.
Sober house personnel, assuming Jazzee had broken her sobriety pledge, called the Bolfs and told them they either needed to take her home or she would be taken to a homeless shelter. They were eager to bring her home, and she was eager to come.
But it was the start of a difficult time.
“We went through a lot,” Kim Bolf said. “We went to dark places after that.”
They monitored Jazzee’s behavior closely, but they know that at one particularly hard time in December, she managed to get a heroin injection.
Super Bowl Sunday
Still, in January it seemed as if the worst was over. It was as if a light switched back on, Shawn Bolf said. She had always had “amazing dreams,” her mom said, and she was again making plans to bring those to reality. She planned that family vacation.
On Super Bowl Sunday, Jazzee and her brother, along with her son, went to her dad’s to watch the game. The Bolfs are absolutely clear: They don’t blame Jazzee’s father for what happened that day. He did everything he reasonably could have done, they said.
Jazzee asked if she could watch the game at a friend’s; her dad said no. Negotiations ensued, and her dad agreed that if the friend’s mom came to pick her up, it would be OK. A car arrived; her dad walked out of the house with her and waved at the 40-something woman behind the wheel.
The Bolfs say they now know what no one could have known at the time: The woman behind the wheel was a drug dealer.
They know that sometime while she was away, someone gave Jazzee a heroin injection. Months later, the autopsy revealed she suffered a heroin overdose.
An injection after a user has been clean for a time can be particularly dangerous, experts say. Over time, the user’s tolerance to the drug builds, but it decreases as she goes without. If she returns to the drug, a dosage that was safe before can prove fatal.
“They don’t have the immunity that they did,” Nielsen said. “And it’s way too much and they OD. And usually your breathing stops when you OD on heroin.”
‘Mom, isn’t he perfect?’
All seemed well when Jazzee returned to her dad’s house, and later when she and Forrest and Carter returned to the Bolf home. But Kim Bolf remembers having a premonition at about 8 p.m. — an “icky feeling,” like nothing she’d ever experienced.
Later, Jazzee asked her to join her in Carter’s room.
“I went in there, and she was looking at Carter and she said, ‘Mom, isn’t he perfect?’ ” Kim Bolf recounts. “And I said, ‘Yes, Jazzee, he’s perfect.’ I said, ‘He looks just like you.’ She said, ‘I love when you say that.’ Then she said, ‘I love you, Mom.’ I said, ‘I love you, too, Jazz.’ And she said, ‘No, Mom, I really love you.’
“Those were her last words to me.”
At midnight, Shawn Bolf checked on everyone in the house, a habit the Bolfs long had been in. He had missed some of the game, so he was watching it again when he fell asleep on the couch.
At 3 a.m., Kim Bolf awakened, thinking she heard Carter crying. They always waited to let Jazzee be the mom, she said, but when Carter cried again, she went to check on him.
He was sound asleep.
But a light was on in Jazzee’s room, so she went to check on her.
Jazzee was on the floor.
Kim summoned Shawn and called 911.
“I told them: ‘Our daughter is incoherent. We believe she has had a heroin overdose,’ ” she recalled.
‘She didn’t come back’
First responders came and stayed more than two hours, trying to revive Jazzee. Sheriff’s deputies came, too. They told the Bolfs that by 7:30 a.m., tips already were coming in about what had happened.
When it was over, Kim Bolf went up to her daughter’s room. She cradled Jazzee’s head in her lap, brushed and braided her hair, washed her face and closed her eyes.
“And I just caressed her and thanked her and I told her I loved her,” she said. “And I begged her to come back.”
She paused, weeping at the memory.
“She didn’t. She didn’t come back.”
The funeral for the young woman who thought she was friendless filled the sanctuary, balcony and narthex of the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Shawn Bolf said. The Cremation Society of Minnesota, which was in charge of arrangements, stopped counting at 750.
Among those who attended were at least 20 young people who were in recovery from addiction.
“(They) let us know how she had helped them through a bad night, how she kept them from using, how she motivated them,” Kim Bolf said.
Texts and instant messages followed in succeeding weeks, telling the Bolfs how Jazzee had comforted girls who had become pregnant or were lonely or felt abandoned by their families.
‘Invade their life’
A criminal investigation into Jazzee’s death is underway, and the Bolfs are holding their fire until that is complete. But Kim Bolf’s sister, Sondra Forrest of Duluth, already has started a campaign for what she’s calling “Jazzee’s law.” It seeks to have drug dealers caught selling heroin tried for attempted murder, or for murder if there is a death.
The Bolfs would like to see other changes. Duluth needs a sober house for women, Shawn Bolf said. They want privacy restrictions that keep doctors from telling parents about their teen child’s drug use relaxed.
Their advice to other parents is to act aggressively at the first suspicion of drug use.
“Invade their privacy,” Kim Bolf said. “Invade their life. Get answers. We were waiting for proof. We suspected it. But we didn’t want to accuse her of something that we didn’t know for sure. We don’t wait with our son now. We invade.”
Jazzee had plans, the Bolfs said. Her focus was on her future, and on her son’s future. On the day she died, she received a job offer from a local bank and an acceptance letter from an art school.
She never intended to become addicted to a drug, the Bolfs said. She never intended to die young.
In the end, the drug she called the monster had its way.
But Jazzee will have the last word. Faith was a huge part of Jazzee’s life, all of her life, her mother said. Jazzee’s favorite prayer, known as the “Serenity Prayer,” will be etched around a memory bench at one of her favorite places, Forest Hill Cemetery, Kim Bolf said.
“God grant me the serenity To accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; And wisdom to know the difference.”
RELATED CONTENT: In the Northland and across the U.S., heroin use is exploding
JAZZEE'S LAW: Jazzee’s relatives have started a petition calling for harsher penalties for drug dealers caught selling heroin.
This is a partial list of resources for help with heroin abuse and other chemical dependency issues:
- To schedule a chemical use or chemical dependency assessment in southern St. Louis County, call the St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services chemical dependency unit intake line at (218) 726-2225.
- For help finding a support group for yourself or a family member in the Twin Ports via Alcoholics Anonymous or Alanon, call (218) 727-8117.
- MN Adult and Teen Challenge, Northland Campus, residential and outpatient treatment, call (218) 529-3733; www.mntc.org.
- Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment, (218) 723-8444; www.cadt.org.
- Duluth Bethel, (218) 722-1724; www.duluthbethel.org.