Cordie Rodenbaugh of Madison, Miss., visits her son's grave at Natchez Trace Memorial Park Cemetery in Ridgeland, Miss, Thursday, March 31, 2022. Rodenbaugh has spent years trying to get legislation passed that would bring heavier consequences for drug dealers directly linked to drug overdose deaths caused by fentanyl. Lawmakers are close to passing a bill named after her son Parker, who died in 2014 from a synthetic LSD reaction.

Cordie Rodenbaugh recalls a conversation she had with her son Parker at the end of his freshman year of college. He had decided to transfer schools to Mississippi State University to study architecture and they spoke about his future.

“He said, ‘Mama, I just want to make a difference in the world,” she said recently.

Parker died in 2014, when he was 22 before his junior of college, from the effects of a drug called 25b-NB0me, or “synthetic LSD,” which he took at a party and caused him to have violent convulsions. Two acquaintances at the party later testified in court that they sought out medical care but only after Parker was turning blue and appeared to have stopped breathing. 

His death from the toxic effects of the drug led to what is believed to be the first known case in Mississippi where a drug dealer was prosecuted for murder in a drug-related death. The person who sold him the synthetic LSD, Skylar O’Kelly, was convicted of drug trafficking and second-degree murder and sentenced to two concurrent 10 years sentences in 2016.

After losing her son, Parker, to a drug overdose, Cordie Rodenbaugh is fighting for his legacy. Parker's Law will impose heavier consequences for drug dealers directly linked to drug overdose deaths caused by fentanyl.

The murder conviction, however, was overturned in 2018 by the state court of appeals, which found there was insufficient evidence to support the charge. O’Kelly was later resentenced on drug trafficking charges and remains in state custody.

Punishment for overdose deaths: Why second-degree murder charges for drug dealers aren’t resulting in convictions in the South

Since then, Rodenbaugh has devoted her life to speaking with families who have lost loved ones to drug overdoses. As deaths have surged due to synthetic opioids in recent years in Mississippi, she has held Narcan training in her home. But much of her focus centers on lobbying for tougher laws to hold drug distributors accountable for overdose deaths.

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