Two adults were found dead of suspected drug overdoses in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, after their 7-year-old daughter told a bus driver that she couldn't wake them.
Rowen Lally, 7, thought her parents were asleep on the morning of Sept. 30, 2016. She tried her best to rouse them, but couldn't, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She spent the next four days taking care of her three siblings, aged 5 years, 3 years, and 9 months. On Oct. 3, she fed and changed her infant sibling and caught the bus to school, leaving her siblings in the apartment with her unresponsive parents.
She didn't tell anybody that anything was wrong until the bus ride home, where she told the driver that her parents wouldn't wake up. The driver called the authorities and police found the bodies of Christopher Dilly, 26, and Jessica Lally, 25.
All four children were taken to the hospital to be evaluated and eventually placed with the department of children, youth and families, The Washington Post reports.
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There were 422 opioid deaths in Allegheny County alone in 2015, and "the upward trend continues," according to a report by country health officials.
"There is an opioid overdose epidemic in the U.S., and Allegheny County is not immune," the report said.
Rowen's aunt, Courtney "Dee Dee" Lally, tells the Gazette that her sister, Jessica, was an honor roll student who, after graduating high school, worked two jobs to care for her family. After meeting her husband, Christopher, Jessica began to become addicted to pills, weed, and then heroin.
"It didn’t need to end this way. Why did it end this way?" asked Courtney.
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"She loved her kids. She loved her family. She was a good person. She just got mixed up in something so powerful she didn’t have the strength to pull away."
Courtney noticed a huge change in her sister's personality around 2011. She knew that Jessica was using drugs and tried to hold interventions to no avail. Although Jessica's children were briefly taken away by child protective services, she was able to regain custody shortly after.
"It was all smoke and mirrors with Jess," said Courtney. "She knew how to make it look like things were good and safe for the kids. If I blame anybody, I blame myself. I tried to find out ways I could get the kids away from them, but I think I should have tried harder. I should have come up with something."
Courtney says that she wanted to share her sister's story to shed light on the country's opioid epidemic.
"People keep asking me what I want. What I want is for people to know," she said.