In Colorado, worries have been rising about the number of opioid-related fatalities here. Now, the deaths of two celebrity offspring in the state have put these local concerns on the national agenda. Eric Bolling Jr., a nineteen-year-old University of Colorado Boulder student and son of recently ousted Fox News anchor Eric Bolling, died on September 8 of an apparent overdose. His death took place just 41 days after the July 29 passing of Max Barry, 22-year-old son of Nashville mayor Megan Barry, in Littleton.
We've been reporting about overdose data throughout 2017. In March, we revealed that heroin-related fatalities in Denver had jumped a staggering 933 percent since 2002, according to numbers assembled by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Moreover, this increase has been nearly as steep on a statewide basis. During the past fifteen years, fatalities related to heroin in Colorado as a whole were up 756 percent, and they've kept escalating during the past three years even as heroin deaths in Denver have leveled off.
The following month, the CDPHE issued a disturbing new report showing that heroin deaths in Colorado doubled in four years despite an enormous increase in seizures and arrests related to the drug over the same interval. Among the factors for the rise cited in the document, titled "Heroin in Colorado," was the price, which tumbled by over 60 percent during a two-year period.
In addition, contributor Jackson Barnett zeroed in on the heroin problem at the University of Colorado by taking readers inside two CU Boulder students' struggle with addiction for a June feature article.
Colorado and overdoses were brought together again in coverage of Barry's death, which was confirmed in the following statement from Nashville mayor Barry's office, which reads in part:
"Early this morning, we received news that no parents should ever have to hear. Our son Max suffered from an overdose and passed away. We cannot begin to describe the pain and heartbreak that comes with losing our only child. Our son was a kind soul full of life and love for his family and friends.
"Our family would greatly appreciate your thoughts and prayers, and would respectfully ask for privacy as we mourn the loss of our child and begin to understand a world without his laughter and love in our lives.
"Max Barry, age 22, graduated in June from the University of Puget Sound. Max attended Eakin Elementary School, West End Middle School, and MLK High School before attending and graduating from University School of Nashville. He is survived by his parents, as well as grandparents Joyce Brody, Jan Mueller, and Ken Mueller."
Last month, an autopsy noted Barry's cause of death. His system contained alprazolam, methadone, hydromorphone, THC and cocaine, a cocktail that resulted in cerebral and pulmonary edema exacerbated by obesity and other factors.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
The Boulder coroner's office has yet to formally detail the younger Bolling's death, which immediately followed news about his father's parting from Fox News. The network canceled The Specialists, a program created by the older Bolling, after an investigation found that he'd sent lewd text messages to female co-workers. He's only the latest Fox News personality to be jettisoned because of such accusations, with the most prominent of them being former Denver TV personality Bill O'Reilly, who was disappeared in April.
Around 2:20 p.m. on September 9, Eric Bolling tweeted about his son's death. The message reads: "Adrienne and I are devastated by the loss of our beloved son Eric Chase last night. Details still unclear. Thoughts, prayers appreciated." In a second message shared just shy of an hour later, he wrote, "Authorities have informed us there is no sign of self harm at this point. Autopsy will be next week. Please respect our grieving period." And at 9 a.m. yesterday, September 10, he added, "We are overwhelmed by the love and support we have received. Adrienne and I thank you all and ask that you please keep us in your prayers."
The family, friends and loved ones of other overdose victims in Colorado — including retired admiral James “Sandy” Winnefeld, whose son Jonathan Winnefeld, a nineteen-year-old University of Denver freshman, died of an overdose on September 7 — would no doubt make the same kinds of requests.
Editor's note: The original version of this post said that Eric Bolling Jr. died at the University of Colorado Boulder. Authorities have yet to release the actual location where the death took place, but a university spokesperson says no fatalities happened at the campus proper on September 8. The text has been corrected; we regret the error.