Christian Lee Koepke
Christian Lee Koepke
A year gone by…in memory of our son
On October 20, 2006, our youngest son, Christian Lee Koepke, died of an alcohol/drug overdose that was later ruled an accident by the Cook County Coroner’s office. While we do not really know too much in the way of facts surrounding Christian’s death, we know that his death had nothing to do with any alcohol that he may have had that night and everything to do with a bottle of water that he drank containing the homemade street drug GHB.
We have been told that Christian died as a result of drinking water laced with GHB that he received from a man at a well known bar on Franklin Street in downtown Chicago where Christian and his roommate stopped for a drink. Christian was a music student at Columbia College in Chicago, where he shared a downtown apartment with another college student. Christian’s roommate was the last person to see him alive and the only information we have of the events surrounding our son’s death is that which his roommate has provided.
Of the little that we do know, we have been told that in the early hours of October 20, our son was given a water bottle laced with GHB from a regular, well known, customer at this bar with the name of "J" or "Jay." Christian had only first met Jay the morning that he died. Christian was a gifted musician and an aspiring music producer. We have been told that Christian believed Jay to have connections in the music industry. After talking to Jay for a while at this bar, Christian and his roommate agreed to go with Jay and some of Jay’s friends (one being a young female with dirty blond hair) to an after-party at Jay’s house in the hopes of furthering our son’s aspiring career. So thereafter, they all got into Jay’s vehicle where Jay proceeded to pass around a bottle of water containing homemade GHB. We have been told that Christian took a small drink and then a larger drink of this water and then passed out while Jay continued to drive everyone to his house in Park Ridge. We were told that Jay was well aware of the amount of GHB water that our son had drank, but continued to drive to his house instead of taking our son to a hospital for medical attention. After arriving at his house, Jay and his friends carried our son’s almost lifeless body into Jay’s house where he died on a couch as they all partied around him. Christian’s roommate said that he had repeatedly asked Jay and Jay’s friends to help our son by calling 911. They refused his request each time and said that Christian would be fine. However, after an hour had passed, and everyone realized that Christian’s pulse had become extremely faint, Jay and his friends still refused to call 911 for fear that they would get in trouble over the drugs in Jay’s house. After pleading with Jay and his friends for help in getting our son the medical treatment that he desperately needed, our son’s roommate was able to persuade Jay to drive Christian to a hospital in Park Ridge, but only after Jay first considered dumping our son behind a Park Ridge restaurant. We were told Christian was dropped off dead.
Christian was a full-time student at Columbia College in Chicago, due to graduate in May 2007. Christian did graduate in May 2007, with honors. His father and I walked down the aisle and accepted his diploma on his behalf. When his name was called, my son received two standing ovations, while a dozen ceiling monitors displayed one of the last pictures ever taken of him. It was a beautiful gift given to us by Columbia College and one that Christian worked so very hard to achieve.
Wondering what really happened to Christian that night will haunt us the rest of our lives. Our hearts are broken. The truth cannot hurt us any more than Christian's death. Unfortunately, the story we were given is all we have to go on, all we think about, every single second of every day. Do we believe the story of how our son died? No, not at all. Will we keep on trying to find the truth? Absolutely. As parents, unconditional love is a choice we make and choose to share with our children. We had a very open relationship with our son. He knew he could tell us anything and because of that, we believe he told us everything. Of course, naturally as parents, some of the discussions that Christian shared with us we did not always want to know, but he knew if any two people would accept him, it was us.
Christian was such a truly special young man. He was so accepting of others. He was the type of person who stopped to speak with homeless persons, offer them cigarettes and share a conversation. He took a great interest in people and it made no difference to him who you were, what you looked like, or where you came from. He always had time to talk to you. Christian loved Chicago and would have made a difference in the music industry, both in and for Chicago. He had what it took; he had a beautiful gift of writing, recording, playing, and teaching others who would come to him for help or support. Because of Christian’s love for music, it is hard for me as his mom to listen to music anymore. It’s easier to leave the radio off. At times, I try to listen to the music that he created, but hearing his voice, picturing him at his microphone, playing his guitar, hurts.
Christian touched a lot of people in many different ways. Not a day would pass without him having some sort of theoretic debate with his friends or family over ideas or issues that they shared. The five-year-old girl that he recorded so she could sing a song to her daddy to tell him how much she loved him. His teachers who feared calling on him because they worried that they would not have the answers to his many questions. The friends that knew him and knew that he would always be there for them. His only brother who loved him and will forever miss him. The same brother and sister-in-law who made him so proud and thankful for the gift of being an uncle to their son and daughter. The aunts, uncles and grandparents for whom he was never afraid to hug or share conversations. The parents whose lives were filled with promise and purpose and were always amazed by the things he said and did at times. Not a day would go by without our son calling us just to find out how we were doing, to let us know what his plans were for the day or week, run an idea by us, play a new piece of music he wrote and recorded, or just to tell us he loved us. He had a smile that lit up the room when he walked in. He was a young man who challenged everyone to think outside the box. He was a young man who would have made a difference in this world. A young man who is missed more and more as each day passes. For all these reasons we will continue to pray for the truth, and hope our prayers will be answered.
If, in sharing our story with other parents, we ask them to please take the time from their busy schedules and really focus on what their children are trying to tell them. If we all did this, we might just have less crime, fewer deaths in and outside of Chicago and one more son or daughter alive today. We were blessed with a rich, open relationship with Christian centered around communication. He shared everything with us – his successes, his struggles, his heartaches and his dreams for the future. As a result, we are absolutely certain that our son was a victim of the tragic circumstances that took his life. Given what little we know of our son’s death and how much we did know our son, we will not let his untimely death go.
We want to encourage parents and young adults to be careful with who you meet and trust while out in this world. We are encouraging anyone who has lost a son or daughter as we have to speak out. Only we as parents can put a stop to this crime and ensure that our loved ones’ stories are not brushed aside and forgotten about.
We were told there were five or six people at Jay’s party who all looked on as our son slowly died. Some day, one of those people will wake up from yet another nightmare and realize they can no longer live with the guilt of knowing they took part in letting a young man die; the truth of that night can only be told to set them free. If, as the parents, I can only hope that if they do come to you, you help them make the right decision in telling the truth.