Shelton mother talks about losing son to overdose

Gina Mattei misses her son Louis Ahearn, who died of an overdose in February at the age of 23. Since the tragedy she’s been asked what she would like to finally say following the loss of her son.

“If anyone has a child who shows signs of being depressed, pay attention because they could be in real trouble,” Mattei said. “They could attempt to self-medicate and they could turn to street drugs that are so readily available because of people like Commerford.”

Mattei fills her home with her son’s pictures, looks at his awards and childhood school work, and even keeps his last time card where he worked at Roseland Apizza in Derby.

She has posted on Facebook that she looks for him in signs, and is comforted when she sees a cardinal.

Ahearn died on the morning of Feb. 17 from an apparent drug overdose. His death

was the third overdose reported within 24 hours, along with two young Shelton residents that used heroin sold to them by Bradley Commerford of Derby on Feb.16.

Mattei wants to let others know that there was so much more to her son than the way he died. He was not someone who had struggled with substance abuse, despite that substances took him away.

Mattei's story has become all too common for Connecticut parents, with 729 overdoses in 2015. However, she wants for others to know her son is not just a statistic, he is bigger than his death.

He was her heartbeat.

Ahearn was born prematurely at 29 weeks old. Despite having learning challenges and having faced bullying in his youth, he persevered and graduated from Platt Technical High School and pursued a bachelor’s degree.

Mattei said Ahearn always strived to achieve his academic goals, and she was always told he was doing a great job by his school advisers. He never gave up. She believes he rose above his challenges more than anyone ever imagined.

Like many others, even with aspirations of bettering their life, Ahearn fell victim to the effects of the drug.

Mattei said Ahearn met Commerford in camp when he was a young teen through his younger brother David. However, both David and Ahearn pulled away from Commerford and they were not friends throughout their lives. She said she heard no mention of him during high school or college.

Ahearn had worked at Roseland Apizza since he was 16, and when he came home from college, Mattei speculates that he might have reconnected with Commerford.

Mattei was told by Ahearn just three days prior to his death that he had been using heroin for the previous two weeks. He told her that a boy name Brad was giving it to him. Mattei had told the police this information the night of Commerford’s arrest on Feb. 18, and she gave the police Ahearn’s cell phone.

Mattei said Ahearn told her that after getting a tooth pulled he suffered from pain and was given only Ibuprofen. The prescription wasn’t helping so he began taking heroin, at $3 each time, to alleviate the pain. He wanted his mother to know. He also wanted her to know that he felt bad about it and regretted it.

Mattei said that although she was incredibly stunned to hear this, he assured her that it was recent and that he would stop. She questioned him in detail and became concerned that he was depressed.

In the days that followed their discussion, he continued to work, they watched a movie one night together, but only three days later she went into his room and discovered that he had overdosed.

In the middle of the night, Feb. 16, Commerford contacted Ahearn. According to text messages found on Ahearn’s phone, Ahearn was offered a free “bag.”

Mattei said she heard a strange noise coming from his room in the morning and when she went in, she found him overdosing. The family dog was by his side. He was taken by an ambulance and treated with Narcan to attempt to save him. After going into cardiac arrest, and after attempted CPR, Ahearn was dead.

The medical report would later reveal the cause of death was acute fentanyl intoxication and there was no heroin in his system, Mattei said. Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate painkiller that is much stronger than morphine or heroin, 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

Mattei would later discover that although Ahearn had come home the night of his death with the intention of going to bed, Commerford contacted him to give him drugs. Federal agents discovered the text conversation through Ahearn’s cell phone.

Commerford plead guilty in a New Haven court on May 6 to selling drugs to Ahearn, and others including an 18-year-old Shelton boy. He admitted his guilt, willingly and knowingly, to selling to a child under 18. He will be facing his sentence in Hartford on July 28.

Mattei plans to be there, and she and her family are planning to write a victim’s impact statement provided by the victim’s advocate, so the courts could know how she and others who loved Ahearn have suffered.

Mattei is receiving bereavement counseling, attending a support group for parents who have lost children to drug overdoses, and she has joined an online support group.

Ahearn has a younger brother David, a senior at UConn, who is severely affected by his brother’s death. He was very close to Ahearn and spoke at his funeral. David spoke about Ahearn's ability to persevere in the face of adversity. He also spoke of his brother’s kind heart and how he always put others before himself. He said his brother, who was normally full of life, was in a depression and sadly was influenced into taking heroin.

Ahearn had many friends from college, home, and members of his family who showed their respects for him at the wake and funeral. Nobody expected his death. Mattei said there are days she struggles just to get through the day, wishing he was still alive.

Below is a tribute video the family made for Aheran after his passing.