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Another Day in Court for Rock Music : The link?: Two Georgia youths who commited suicide listened to Ozzy Osbourne's music before they died.

October 04, 1990|CHUCK PHILIPS

On the night of May 2, 1986, Michael Jeffery Waller attended a beer bash at a friend's house in Fitzgerald, Ga., whose parents were out of town.

Waller--a 16-year-old student who wasn't known to take drugs--spent much of the evening driving about, drinking beer and listening to heavy metal music behind the house with friends in the cab of his pickup truck. According to Waller's father and the police, Ozzy Osbourne's "Blizzard of Oz" was the last tape the teen-ager listened to before returning to the party.

At about 2 a.m. on May 3, Waller entered the kitchen and asked his friends to take a seat on the couch facing him. After writing a suicide note, he picked up a handgun, leaned back on a kitchen stool and blew a hole through the refrigerator door. He then raised the pistol to his right temple and pulled the trigger. Waller died immediately.

Neither police nor Ben Mills, the Fitzgerald, attorney presenting the lawsuit against Osbourne, would reveal the contents of the suicide note, but Waller's father said the youth had been frustrated and depressed about a driving-under-the-influence violation he received about four weeks prior to the shooting.

Two days before his son killed himself, Waller said he had a talk with the boy and assured him that they would work things out regarding the pending D.U.I.-related court date.

"What he said to me was, he said, 'Pop, I believe old Oz has the solution,' " the elder Waller recalled. "But it wasn't until after the shooting, until I found the cassette in his tape deck, that I understood what the youngin' was talking about."

Prior to his suicide, Harold Mathew Hamilton--a 17-year-old high school dropout with a criminal record and a history of drug and alcohol abuse--seemed to be on the road to recovery. While he still used pot and alcohol, the boy had found a steady job as a cabinet maker and appeared to be stable and satisfied, his mother said.

But in the early morning hours of March 20, 1988, Harold wrote a suicide note to his sister, borrowed a car and gun from a friend's trailer with whom he had been boarding and stopped by to visit his mother.

He told her that he had just returned from a party in Charleston, S.C., where a girl he liked had rejected his advances. His mother said Harold seemed visibly upset and told her he intended to drive across the border to Augusta, Ga., to visit his sister.

At 11 a.m., Hamilton's car was found by a stranger parked in the driveway of a home in rural Washington County, Ga., 50 miles northwest of Augusta. Draped across the front seat with a pistol in his hand and a bullet hole in his temple, Hamilton was still alive. A cassette of Osbourne's 1976 album, "Tribute," was in the tape deck.

Police rushed him to the hospital, but he died seven hours later. A coroner's jury ruled his death a suicide, Chief Deputy Mike Moore, of the Washington County Police Department said.

"I asked him, I said, 'Howie what's wrong?' " said Hamilton's mother, recalling the conversation she had with her son seven hours before he shot himself. "He said, 'Mom, you'll never see me again.' "

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