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Portrait of a Teen Tragedy : Most Everyone Said That Ed Makielski Was Caring, Loving, Happy, Handsome...and That He Was Hooked on the Horror of Drugs

February 11, 1989|John Needham | Times Staff Writer

Ed Makielski was the kind of teen-ager you could have wrapped with dozens of "Just Say No" ribbons and paraded before the world as a living example of the horrors of drug abuse.

Since age 14, he had been in and out of drug treatment programs, Juvenile Hall, and psychologists' and psychiatrists' offices.

At 18, he still had no driver's license, yet he rode motorcycles and drove cars, sometimes driving while drunk and sometimes crashing.

His most recent drunk driving arrest came in November after a police pursuit that started in Irvine and ended in El Toro. To escape jail, he entered a new county program that requires youthful drunk drivers to meet with victims of alcohol-related accidents, to spend a weekend in a hospital emergency room and to tour the coroner's office.

So 11 days ago, Makielski reported at 8:30 a.m. to the coroner's office in Santa Ana, not far from the apartment that he shared with his girlfriend.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday February 11, 1989 Orange County Edition Metro Part 2 Page 1 Column 6 Metro Desk 2 inches; 51 words Type of Material: Correction
A photo caption accompanying a story in some editions of today's Orange County Life, a preprinted section, was incorrect. The photo featured a group of participants and observers touring the county coroner's office. Not everyone pictured with Edward Makielski was a drunk-driving offender, as the caption in some editions stated. The Times regrets the error.

His already-fair complexion paled as he stared transfixed at the five autopsies in progress: a saw, emitting a high-pitched whine like a dentist's drill, cut away bone around the brain of one of the corpses; huge pincers tore ribs from chests; tubes siphoned off blood; gloved hands removed body tissues and put them in jars.

Witnessing an autopsy is supposed to impress upon young offenders the possible consequences of their actions. And to observers, Makielski seemed impressed.

He said the tour "made me see that (death) could happen to any one of us at any time. It was pretty sad, you know, people are dead like that."

He was asked what kind of strategy would work to keep youngsters off drugs.

"Scare the kids," he replied. "Scare them. You can talk and talk and talk for 3 hours, talk your lungs out. It's not going to do anything to them. . . . It'll be in one ear and out the other. That's how I was. I heard it, but it didn't soak in. I think you should scare them."

But apparently, even the sight of an autopsy didn't scare Makielski enough. Two days after witnessing the horror of the coroner's office, Makielski was back there as a corpse. Dumped in a hospital parking lot in Tustin by persons unknown, he was pronounced dead a short time later--the victim of a drug overdose.

Why Edward Makielski? Why did this seemingly normal teen-ager, a guy with a pet dog and a girlfriend, a youth who loved his family and was loved in return, why did he turn to drugs over and over again, and finally die from them?

Officially, Makielski's life and death caused little stir. A file was closed in the County Probation Department. Another was opened in the Tustin Police Department.

In today's Orange County, a teen-ager with drug problems is not unusual. Even 6 years ago, a survey of the county's junior and senior high school students found that more than 40% of them had smoked marijuana and almost 20% had used cocaine. The percentages are thought to have risen since then.

Nor was it extraordinary that his body was just dumped. "We find it routinely, especially when there's drugs involved," said Richard Rodriguez, a senior deputy county coroner. The shorthand in his office is "O.D. (overdose) dump."

But for a small group who knew him, the death was a shock.

It surprised the deputy county coroner who ushered Makielski and other youths in the drunk driving program through the morgue--and who was called to the hospital to identify the body. It shook a reporter who had been talking with him in the week before his death, preparing a story on the drunk driving program as viewed by the teen-agers who went through it.

It stunned his parents, who thought he had been off drugs for several months. Why their son?

Edward Allan Makielski was born May 11, 1970, in St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, the youngest of three children. Six months after his birth, his father left the family. Two years later, his mother, Mary, remarried, and the family moved to Irvine, living in the same house on a quiet cul de sac where they live today.

Makielski's childhood was much like that of the other kids on his block: elementary schools, Little League baseball, summers spent with a cousin in San Clemente where he developed a love of surfing. He was a good-looking boy who grew into a handsome teen.

When he was 10, his parents decided it was time to tell him that the man he thought was his father was really his stepfather. He said the knowledge confused him, made him "wonder where my real dad is and if he thinks about me." Years later, he met his real father, even stayed with him briefly but then returned to his mother and stepfather, whom he said he loved and thanked for having "stuck around."

It was when he hit adolescence and began junior high school that Makielski's life started to disintegrate. Added to all the normal problems of a teen-ager--peer pressure, grades, the gropings for self-esteem, the relationships with parents, brother and sister--there were the drugs.

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