12/10/17 — Deadly Combination Part III -- The Survivors: Survived by - Rance's story

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Deadly Combination Part III -- The Survivors: Survived by - Rance's story

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on December 10, 2017 3:05 AM

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The family of Gary Rance Hurley Jr. tells the story of his life and struggle with addiction and following the law. Pictured from left are Rance's sisters, Lisa Hurtado, Tonya Smith and Dee Hurley-Homes, and mother, Gloria Hurley.

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Photos of Rance Hurley from childhood to recent years show his love for friends, sports and family.

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Items Rance used to inject himself with heroin lie on the counter after his first overdose at his mother's home.

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Rance Hurley Jr. is taken to an ambulance after being given Narcan for his first overdose at his mother's home.

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Gloria Hurley talks about what it was like to find her son, Rance Hurley Jr., overdosed on cocaine and fentanyl in her home. The first time he was able to be revived with Narcan, but the second time he was pronounced dead.

A Carolina Tar Heels shirt still hangs in the closet.

A ball cap sits under the lamp on the nightstand.

Gloria Hurley holds on tightly to just about everything her son owned.

She keeps the items for sentimental reasons and a connection to the son she lost too early in life.

Some days are good. Some are difficult.

Sometimes the memories return of the son she believed in, held high hopes for and stood beside.

"I talk to him every day," she said. "I go down on his bed and go in the bathroom sometimes."

Gloria found her son, Rance, on the floor of her bathroom in early September. He had overdosed on heroin.

EMS responded and emergency workers were able to revive Rance with two doses of naloxone, an opioid overdose antidote.

"They took him to the hospital, and they told him then he was close to death that night," she said. "I really thought that might would scare that boy. He said, 'This has happened to me before, Mamma. Don't worry about it. I'll be all right.'"

Rance's girlfriend estimates that he overdosed possibly four times during the past 18 months.

The final time was Sept. 29.

"I didn't get there in time this time," Gloria said.

Gary "Rance" Hurley Jr. was at home alone when he died from an overdose. Autopsy reports confirmed his death resulted from a deadly mix of cocaine and fentanyl, an illegal, lab-made synthetic opioid with 50 to 100 times the potency of morphine, Gloria said.

He was 43.

On that night, his mother returned to the Wayne County home they shared together and had planned to get ready to go out with family. She was going to celebrate her birthday.

"He was cared for," Gloria said. "He had dreams, just like anybody else.

"We're just trying to adjust to him not being here. It's just hard."


Rance struggled in his younger years, one of four siblings raised by a single mother.

His sister, Tonya Smith, said that she always thought Rance's problems began when he saw violence in the home at an early age.

"As early as I can remember, that weighed on him a lot," she said. "I think the anger started then, watching and not being able to do anything."

Rance was young at the time ---- between the ages of 3 and 6 ---- when he watched the violence occur.

Eventually, she packed her belongings and moved her four children from Georgia to North Carolina.

Around the age of 12, Rance had his first brush with the law. He was caught shoplifting and ended up serving a couple years in a residential juvenile correction center, in Kinston.

When he got out, his drug use progressed from marijuana to heroin.

"He was in trouble from the time he was 12 on up -- off and on, and off and on, and off and on," Gloria said.

"Rance wasn't a bad child. He really wasn't. He would give you his shirt right off his back. Rance was an extremely good person."

He spent close to half of his life behind bars, primarily for larceny charges stemming from the need to feed his drug habit.

"The only time he was away from it was when he was serving time," she said. "He'd come out and get right back on it ... get right back on it."


In April 2016, Rance was released from prison after serving an 11-year sentence. He was determined to start a new life.

"This last time he got out, he really changed a lot," Gloria said. "He wasn't out there trying to get in trouble and stuff. He was in real good shape for about four months."

He enrolled and completed truck driving school, but when he tried to find a job, his record followed him. The offers were scarce, which led to discouragement and later to depression.

"That depressed him greatly, and then it got bad," his girlfriend, Robin Hill, said.

Things came to a head around Thanksgiving, when family members noticed what appeared to be heavy drug use. He looked "strung out," they said.

Around that time, he sought treatment at the local methadone clinic, the Carolina Treatment Center of Goldsboro, where medication-assisted treatment is offered to adults fighting an addiction to opioids, including heroin, Hill said.

In December, he was arrested under a larceny charge and served three months in the Wayne County Jail.

But after he was released, he continued to try and break free from the addiction. During a visit to the doctor's office, he asked that he not be prescribed pain medicine due to his past history.

He also went to Potter's Wheel Ministries, a faith-based drug rehabilitation program in Duplin County, for a while. His mother thought he needed more intense medical treatment.

"There's nowhere going to be able to cure a drug addict in two or three months," Gloria said. "They need at least two years. They need that long to get that stuff out of their system and teach them how to live without it."


Rance's heroin use remained sporadic during the past year.

He lived in two worlds, in a dichotomy of sorts, wanting heroin from time to time but also wanting to be free, Hill said.

"It was something that he would think in his mind (that) he would be able to do every once in a while and maintain his life," Hill said. "This was not a person who didn't care about anything, and 'this is the way I am and this is just the way it's going to be.'

"He really hated that addiction and desperately wanted to change, wanted to be normal. He had been trying to break free from this for 18 months."

Rance was surrounded by loved ones who tried to help and offer support. After he overdosed in early September, his sisters and mother decided to come up with money to send him to a residential treatment program in Boone.

His sister, Dee Hurley-Holmes, told him she never remembered a day in his younger years where he said he wanted to grow up and be addicted to drugs.

"We were all willing to try and get him into some place up in the mountains, but he would not go," Gloria said. "He thought he could handle that hisself."


There will never be a day when Gloria will think less of her son because of his addiction.

"I was never ashamed of him," she said. "He just had the problem with the drugs, and he could not kick it."

She and her daughters hope to create an awareness in the Wayne County area and beyond of the need for more resources, including treatment centers, and stiffer penalties for drug dealers selling illicit drugs laced with fentanyl and other synthetic opioids that are driving up the number of unintentional overdose deaths.

"This is a community problem, and it's going to take a lot of people to make a change," said Lisa Hurtado, his sister.

The Hurley family initially believed the drugs Rance used were laced with fentanyl, which was later confirmed.

"The dope on the streets today is not what it was 13 years ago, and he knew it was much more dangerous and much less pure, if you will, that it was being cut or whatever and it was bad stuff," Hill said. "But that doesn't take away that desire.

"This drug has no discrimination whatsoever. It doesn't care about your race, your sex, your social status, your financial status, and it will ruin your life and the lives of everyone you love."