Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Day 79° Partly Cloudy
News >  Health

‘I would have done more’: Newport family warns about dangers of fentanyl after 28-year-old’s death

Todd Krogh looks now at the Newport farm home where his newborn children were brought from the hospital, and the first thing he sees is death.

Krogh sees the white garage door he had to kick in on that April day last year in order to get to his 28-year-old son, Dylan, lying dead of fentanyl poisoning on the floor of the home that’s been in his family for generations.

“He had his phone in one hand, and the TV remote in the other,” Todd Krogh said. “That is probably the worst movie, that plays in my head all the time.”

The memories are so vivid they bring tears to Krogh’s eyes at times, causing him to pause in the middle of stories about piling in the truck with his son and trucking hay from Cusick down to Ellensburg, or some other stop in Eastern Washington.

There’s grief in those tears, but also guilt. The family learned of Dylan Krogh’s use of nonprescription pain pills several months before his death, one of a handful in remote Pend Oreille County last year attributed to fentanyl. The exact number is prohibited from release by state law, but it’s fewer than nine in a county of a little more than 13,000 people. The Kroghs know of two deaths, including Dylan’s.

Demand for services to help offset overdoses, including a needle exchange program and medicine kits intended to reverse an overdose’s effects, have skyrocketed in the past four years, said Matt Schanz, administrator of the Northeast Tri County Health District that encompasses Pend Oreille, Ferry and Stevens counties.

“We are not immune to this epidemic of impacts from opiates,” Schanz said.

The numbers are staggering, but what families of those who’ve died want the public to know is that the deaths are indiscriminate.

High school freshmen taking pills at a party are dying alongside longtime opioid users and senior citizens hooked on illicit painkillers after years of taking prescriptions. And it’s not just happening in cities, it’s hitting the rural areas that have long struggled with abuse of methamphetamine, heroin and other drugs.

Mackenzie Pedersen, Dylan’s younger sister by 16 months, said her brother had a sense of pride that kept him from seeking help and often masked what troubles he was going through.

“If you grew up in this community, there’s definitely a facade,” she said. “You’re a man, and you don’t have emotions, and you don’t need help.”

While he was outwardly stoic, Dylan Krogh had a soft spot for family. Pedersen recalled times her car was stuck in the snow, and her brother showed up at 4:30 a.m. with a shovel to dig her out.

Then there’s the tongue-in-cheek dramatic senior photos of the kid, who wanted to be a farmer since he was born, donning Daisy Duke jean shorts held up by logging suspenders, a flower tucked behind his ear.

“A lot of people don’t realize he was the funniest kid ever,” Pedersen said.

Dylan Krogh had agreed to the out-of-character photos as a request from his aunt, who was dying of cancer.

Todd Krogh and Dylan’s mother, Julia Frederick, divorced when Dylan was 7. Frederick, who now lives in California, said her son was spurred to help out from an early age.

Dylan bought a snowplow at 15 and paid his mother $11 an hour to sit in the cab so he could legally drive and work in Newport.

“He always paid for his own clothes,” Frederick said.

When the family went on an Oregon vacation when Dylan was 12, he insisted on helping pay, Frederick said.

Todd Krogh believes the stress of providing, and running a logging and excavation company with his brother, Austin, may have driven him to seek pain relief the night he died.

He was using proceeds from the company to help provide for his grandparents, who could no longer work.

“This is a lifestyle,” he said. “It’s not a for-profit enterprise, to be honest with you. That pressure to supply someone else with extra money, that really wasn’t there, was heavy.”

Silent pain

Austin Krogh spent hours in the woods on logging jobs with his brother, and didn’t know the extent of his reliance on pain medication or that he was buying pills outside of a doctor’s office.

“I worked with him every day, and I didn’t know,” Austin Krogh said.

Dylan started complaining of back pain, and told his parents he was seeing someone referred to him by a co-worker. That seemed to help, Todd Krogh said.

“He had been on our insurance,” Todd Krogh said, but that coverage ran out when he turned 26, around the time of the back injury. Pedersen said she believed he’d “bottomed out” in a tractor on the ranch, and began having trouble walking.

Dylan did less logging and ranch work after the injury, but Todd Krogh and his wife, Julie Krogh-Matthews, an intensive care unit nurse at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, didn’t suspect he was using fentanyl before a scare in September 2020.

He’d lost contact with his family for a few days and told his parents he’d been wrestling with Austin, his brother, and bumped his head. But Julie Krogh-Matthews asked that he get a CT scan to ensure he hadn’t suffered a head injury, and Dylan refused.

Then they learned he’d been buying the drugs from someone in the community named Antoinne Holmes.

Todd Krogh immediately made the one-mile hike from his home on adjoining property to the old ranch home, finding his son laid out on the couch, and confronted him about the drug use.

“He was ashamed, remorseful,” Todd said. “Dylan wasn’t one to cry, and on that day, he did. A lot.”

Todd Krogh asked his son to assure him that he didn’t need to worry about his son taking dangerous drugs.

“Well, the truth is, he lied to me,” Todd Krogh said. “Because I asked him all the time, I said, ‘Tell me I don’t have to worry about you.’ He said, ‘Dad, I’m fine, I promise.’ ”

‘I can’t find joy’

Todd Krogh was watching his granddaughter, Vivienne Ray, the day before his son died. The two had promised to join Dylan at a nearby bonfire, but they were running a bit late. Instead, they crossed paths with Dylan as he left to attend his sister’s birthday party in Coeur d’Alene.

Todd Krogh said he made his son promise he wouldn’t drink too much before returning to the ranch that evening.

“He said, ‘I’ll be careful, I promise, dad,’” Todd Krogh said. “The good thing about that meeting is I got to visit him, and we got to share, ‘I love yous.’ ”

Dylan seemed “off” that night, Pedersen said. Not his usual joking self.

“I think I would have done more,” she said. “But I had no idea.”

The clues seemed to coalesce in the days and months after he died. Julia Frederick, his mother, remembers a particularly vigorous hug during a visit six weeks before Dylan ’s death.

“He grabbed me, and just held on,” Frederick said. “I knew at that moment he was really struggling with something. He just held on, and that wasn’t Dylan.”

The next day, the family took their pontoon boat on Sacheen Lake. Dylan didn’t show, but Todd Krogh had seen his son post about getting his Harley Davidson motorcycle running for the first time that year. He figured his son had gone out for a ride, so didn’t worry too much.

The hours dragged on, and finally Todd decided to go and check on his son around dinnertime. The Harley was in the garage.

“I peek through the window, and I could see him lying on the ground,” Todd Krogh said. “And I try to pound on the window, and he didn’t respond.”

Opiates attach themselves to receptors throughout the body, including portions of the brain that affect breathing. A person overdosing may stop breathing, and the areas of the brain that would instruct the body to begin again don’t send that signal because of the abundance of drugs in the system.

If an overdose patient is given a quick injection or nasal spray of naloxone, a drug that blocks opioids from attaching to the receptors in the body, the effect can be reversed. Molly Corvino, community health director for the Northeast Tri County Health District, likened naloxone’s effect to the game of “king of the hill,” in which the drug shoves aside opiates from receptors in the body to allow breathing to resume.

But it must happen quickly, and sometimes the blocker can prove ineffective, requiring several doses.

In the first few months of 2018, the first time the health district made naloxone kits available through its three offices, eight were handed out to those who requested them. Last year, the district provided 101 kits, Corvino said.

Todd Krogh thinks his son was dead for several hours before anyone checked on him. That’s what sticks with him, as he gazes over the 700-acre ranch that Dylan took over, where his son’s ashes now rest forever. Todd Krogh makes playful “mooing” sounds with the niece his son only knew for a brief few months as an ornery herd of cattle graze obstinately outside their pen.

“I can’t find joy,” Todd Krogh said. “Vivi brings joy to me, but it’s never lasting.”

What’s left

A preliminary autopsy showed that Dylan hadn’t died of a brain aneurysm or a heart attack. It took several months for the Kroghs to get the official report: a lethal dose of fentanyl.

In the meantime, rumors swirled around town about Dylan ’s death. Pedersen, his sister, was asked about any farm accidents.

“It was just amazing the amount of rumors that went around,” said Julie Krogh-Matthews, Dylan’s stepmother.

The police recovered a bottle of pills that the family was told looked like chemotherapy drugs, she said, but authorities haven’t told the Kroghs what was in that bottle. They’ve also had to piece together where their son got the drugs.

Federal investigators had already focused on Holmes by the time Dylan died. Four days before Todd discovered his son’s body, Holmes had been indicted in Idaho District Court on a charge of distributing fentanyl resulting in serious bodily injury or death.

Holmes was later charged with additional crimes in Eastern Washington, and pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge April 7. The plea deal includes an admission that he used smartphone apps, including Snapchat, to sell pills in Eastern Washington and Idaho, leading to the overdose death of a Bonner County teenager in August 2020. Three months later, he and girlfriend Reigan Rae Allen used pills themselves in the presence of her infant, who also suffered an overdose but was resuscitated using naloxone. Allen also was charged in connection with the scheme.

The agreement does not include a charge specifically for Krogh’s death, and Holmes’ attorney did not immediately return a phone call requesting comment last week. The document identifies a victim requiring restitution as “D.K.,” but a representative of the U.S. attorney’s office would not confirm that person is Dylan Krogh.

The Kroghs have identified that victim as their son, and hope to speak at Holmes’ sentencing in U.S. District Court in Spokane in July.

When the toxicology report came back, the Kroghs initially debated whether to tell Dylan’s younger brother, Ben Krogh, 18, who’s now a student at Spokane Falls Community College, about the cause of death. He and his mother, Julie Krogh-Matthews, recently attended a roundtable with Drug Enforcement Administration officials and members of the Rayce Rudeen Foundation, a nonprofit working with law enforcement and others in the Inland Northwest to address what has been deemed a public health crisis.

Ben Krogh said he believed students in schools needed to hear about the dangers of fentanyl directly from the people who’ve experienced it. He remembered attending Newport High School and hearing from a man whose addiction to drugs had forced him out of his home in San Francisco.

“For me personally, and I know a bunch of my buddies feel the same way, when that guy came in our whole perspective on everything was changed,” Ben Krogh said. “You know, you can make some poor decisions, but sometimes you can get away with them, and you can make the best out of those situations. But it’s best to avoid them if you can.”

Ben Krogh is 12 years younger than his brother Dylan, and was the butt of a lot of his big brother’s teasing. Ben said Dylan promised he was “breaking down” his sibling with that teasing in order to “build him up” later. He kept texting his big brother after Dylan died, a way of coping with an unexpected death.

“The toughest part about it was texting him and saying, you know, I always looked forward to the building up part of the breaking me down later, and it breaks my heart to know the building up isn’t going to happen,” Ben said.

The memories are tough. Todd Krogh has sought counseling for post-traumatic stress brought on by finding his son. Julia Frederick wonders if there weren’t more warning signs during his childhood. Mackenzie Pedersen laments the loss of “my person,” and that her daughter, Vivi, lost a loving uncle.

But what’s more important, they say, is warning other families of the danger of the drug.

“It can happen to anybody,” Todd Krogh said.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.