Only on Action 2 News: Green Bay mom shares story of daughter’s loss due to accidental fentanyl overdose

A Green Bay mom wants sellers of pills laced with fentanyl held accountable after her daughter's death
Published: Apr. 21, 2022 at 10:19 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - “She wanted to go to cosmetology school,” Diane Payne says of her teenage daughter who would’ve turned 20 this past Easter Sunday.

Flipping through a photo album inside her Green Bay home, Payne remembers her daughter as a happy girl who was loyal to her friends.

“This one you can see her personality and her smile,” Payne said pointing at a picture of her daughter striking a pose.

Looking at another photo, “Me and the girls took a vacation.” Payne pauses and then begins to cry. “February of 2020 was the last time the three of us were together. We went down to my sisters in Florida.”

Erin Schumacher died May 17 of 2020.

According to investigators, she took a Percocet pill but had no clue it was laced with fentanyl, a highly potent synthetic opioid. Twelve milligrams of fentanyl was found in her body, two is considered lethal.

“These are not overdoses. It’s pure fentanyl being put out in the streets. It is poisoning, it is murder and the laws need to change,” Payne said.

Twenty-four-year-old Talia Jade Thomas of Green Bay was sentenced to seven years in prison November of 2021 after pleading guilty to first degree reckless homicide.

Thomas sold Schumacher the fake pill that was actually pure fentanyl, according to court documents.

“Many of the overdoses aren’t intentional. They’re taking pills thinking it’s one thing. But in reality, it’s fentanyl and then that’s of course what kills them,” Green Bay Police Lt. Jeff Brester said. He works in the department’s narcotics unit.

Action 2 News has done several stories on the issue of counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl and Brester says police have seized a lot of these pills since the start of this year.

RELATED: ‘Like the flip of a switch,’ fentanyl abuse surges as new criminal law takes effect

“These types of pills are found in all the schools throughout the area. All of the teenage and young adult groups and their hangouts. It’s really over. It’s not specific to one central part of the city,” Brester said.

According to a recent study published by the Journals of the American Medical Association, the number of teens dying of drug overdoses doubled in the past two years. Investigators blame fentanyl.

“There was a little bit of justice, so not satisfied but it is what it is. Can’t change anything,” Payne said.

Payne says her mission is to change Wisconsin laws to hold those selling counterfeit pills accountable.

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