McCrabb: One bullet changed many lives for Middletown family

Kenny Ray Fugate, 33, of Middletown, was found dead last month in his bed at Serenity Hall, a halfway house in Hamilton. His family said after his sister was murdered, his drug addiction increased. SUBMITTED PHOTO

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Kenny Ray Fugate, 33, of Middletown, was found dead last month in his bed at Serenity Hall, a halfway house in Hamilton. His family said after his sister was murdered, his drug addiction increased. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Officially, one person died in August 2016 when the lifeless body of a Middletown woman was found slumped over the steering wheel of a car near a Dayton apartment complex.

Brittany Russell, 29, suffered a single gunshot wound to the head, and her death was ruled a homicide. Russell’s 6-month-old daughter, Haven Edwards, who had been reported missing to Middletown police just hours before, was found unharmed in a car seat.

That single gunshot also permanently changed the life of Russell’s brother, an example of the unseen impact of violence in our communities.

After Kenny Ray Fugate lost his sister, his heroin addiction intensified. He was charged with felony burglary and spent more than three years in prison. Then, last month, he was found dead in his room at Serenity Hall, a halfway house in Hamilton, at age 33. Some close to him believe it was a drug overdose.

His sister, Danielle Booth, said their sister’s murder “put him in a very, very dark, bad place. He turned straight to drugs. Her death broke his soul.”

He became homeless and landed at Serving Homeless Alternate Lodging Of Middletown (SHALOM), a church-based shelter that provides housing and food during the winter.

Bill Fugate, no relation to Kenny, oversees operations at SHALOM and he remembers the first time the two men met.

“Wet, tired and cold” is how Fugate described him.

He had a bubbly personality that drew others to him. He was “a good worker, very helpful,” Bill Fugate said.

Then his sister was shot and killed by Brandon Carr, 36, of Dayton, who was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility for parole.

“After that,” Fugate said, “he went off the deep end. That’s when he hit rock bottom.”

When he overdosed in a Middletown church that was hosting the homeless as part of the SHALOM program, Middletown paramedics revived him with Narcan. But he wasn’t allowed to remain at SHALOM.

On June 22, 2017, 10 months after his sister’s murder, Fugate was charged with burglary, theft of a firearm, and multiple drug chargesafter he broke into a home in the 3400 block of Tytus Avenue.

Fugate told officers he was “dope sick” and needed money to buy more drugs. He didn’t remember breaking into the house.

“He was not in his right mind due to drugs and the issues with his sister,” Bill Fugate said.

Butler County Common Pleas Judge Keith Spaeth sentenced Fugate to 36 months for the crimes and12 months for having weapons under disability.

While he was serving time at Southeastern Correctional Institution near Lancaster, Bill Fugate and Dottie Emrick, another SHALOM volunteer, visited him monthly. They bought him food out of the vending machine, put money on his account and ended every meeting with prayer.

He earned several vocational certificates and regularly attended Bible study while in prison.

When he was released in April, he found a full-time job at a manufacturing firm in Lebanon and a couple donated a vehicle so he could drive from Serenity Hall, part of Talbert House, to his workplace.

His life appeared to have turned around. Then on June 2, two days after he signed in, he was found dead in his bed. The Butler County Coroner’s Office hasn’t ruled on the cause and manner of his death. All of the lab reports won’t be finalized for several weeks, according to the office.

Bill Fugate said his friend caused no problems and passed every random drug test at Serenity Hall. Teri Nau, vice president of community and donor relations at Talbert House, said due to confidentiality she couldn’t disclose information about any potential resident there. She said there are 35 beds in Serenity Hall and the male residents are randomly drug tested.

“I didn’t see it coming,” Bill Fugate said. “I thought we had beat the drug issue. But with addicts, I guess, you never beat it.”

So Kenny Ray Fugate, 33, became another person whose life was lost too soon.

“He had so much promise,” Bill Fugate said. “He seemed to be in the best place. He was working and saving money. That’s what makes it so difficult to understand I guess.”

His sister said: “He had everything in the world. Absolutely shocked. I just got him back. He was doing so well.”

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