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Dawn Harrison talks Thursday, June 30, 2016 in her home about her son, Logan Whiteaker, who died from an overdose earlier this year.

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Arrests bring some closure to mother of overdose victim

The mother had waited four months for an answer, and it came on a piece of government paper: Darius Blakemore, Joshua Corbett, Jessica Rachels.

So, Dawn Harrison thought, these were her son's last suppliers.

The ones who federal agents had tracked through Chattanooga before unveiling a nine-count indictment last week. The ones who allegedly sold Logan Whiteaker a batch of heroin so strong it killed him within 24 hours of his graduation from Hamilton County Drug Court.

"My head's kind of spinning a little bit, but I'm OK," Harrison, 46, said Tuesday afternoon.

She read the names again, didn't recognize them. They each face charges of knowingly and intentionally possessing a drug mixture that contained heroin. For Blakemore and Corbett, any plea agreements are due Aug. 23. Records show no other activity in Rachels' case.

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Logan Whiteaker, center, stands with members of his family as he and others are honored at Drug Court graduation on Monday, Feb. 22, 2016, in Chattanooga. Less than one day after Hamilton County Drug Court celebrated the graduation of 11 participants, Whiteaker was found dead in a Red Bank home, a hypodermic needle next to him on the floor and a small amount of suspected heroin on the bathroom counter, according to a police report.

Since February, authorities have launched a large investigation into the area's heroin trade, federal records show. And last week, Gov. Bill Haslam and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe came together to discuss Appalachia's drug abuse epidemic.

Harrison logged into Logan's Facebook account, where people still posted messages months after his relapse in February. She started scrolling through his friend list.

The indictment offered a sense of closure Harrison hadn't experienced in months — she had returned to work at Unum, started a public speaking class, and sorted through four totes of Logan's clothes — but some part of her itched to know:

Was Logan friends with these alleged dealers?

* * *

The trouble started with an oxycodone bottle on the side of the garage.

Logan, who was 12 at the time, denied using it. But Harrison had her suspicions.

She and her mother always thought Logan would be a lawyer.

Charismatic, quick-witted, intelligent, he burned through entire books in one weekend. His thoughts raced too much, but he was never officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which ran in the family.

As a child of divorce, Logan didn't always see Harrison. "But when we did, I could tell he was developing a drug habit," she said.

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It was crack, acid, opioids, cocaine. He was drinking, smoking, stealing. In and out of high school. In and out of jail. At Christmas, his family hesitated to buy his sister any electronics, knowing Logan would hawk them for drug money.

Get out of the house, Harrison would say. "I don't want to know what you're doing, Logan."

But throughout the turbulence, she told him: "I will always be your biggest fan."

At 17, he came home for good.

Harrison took him to a health care group, where one of the 14 forms asked, "What types of drugs have you used?"

Patients could use the back page if it was necessary — and it was.

She stood with him before a Juvenile Court judge who ordered that Logan get his GED.

Every court date since his first arrest, she was there.

* * *

"I will always be your biggest fan."

And perhaps, his biggest enabler, Harrison later realized.

In 2014, Harrison and Logan's stepfather were decorating a house they wanted to sell. Logan created beautiful mosaics, tiled floors, knew how to use his hands.

She wanted to trust him, so she handed over a Lowe's card.

But the projects never materialized.

His stepfather would come in behind Logan, finishing the work he promised to complete.

It became obvious: Logan had slipped again.

He disappeared, changed his number. Through Logan's girlfriend, Harrison knew vaguely where he was staying.

One day she noticed his mug shot in the center of a 12 most-wanted display. For so long, Logan had taken advantage of everyone, but never her. Not until now.

She called the sheriff's office.

"This is where I think you will find him," she said. "He will not be there long. You need to get him now."

* * *

He stood in a jumpsuit and shackles; she wore street clothes.

They were no more than a few feet apart, but Harrison asked for a no-contact order after his 2014 arrest.

"Hardest thing I have ever done," she said.

The wheel eventually turned when Logan entered Drug Court.

He passed drug tests for 18 months, found work in tiling and became a beacon to struggling peers, telling them, "Hey, man, look at how much sobriety you've got."

Now, in the living room of Harrison's home in Hixson, he is a constant memory.

His cat, Kanade, bounded across the floor, leaping into Harrison's lap while she rocked in the wooden chair that she used to nurse Logan and his sister. Behind her, a string of cards speckled the mantle. Just feet away, Logan's cremated body rested in an urn.

"The two younger ones were on Logan's Facebook," Harrison said of the accused dealers. "You know how these kids are: they get a request and just take it."

But today, Harrison's request is to remember how Logan would sigh as he would begin to fix a broken remote: "Give it here, Mom."

And how Logan would sit in the back seat of the car, reciting entire segments from the cartoon "Cow and Chicken."

And how Logan went to McKamey Animal Center alone last year, coming home with Kanade against his girlfriend's wishes.

And how, as a child, Logan would tie his blanket off in a knot, hold it, and pull his sister around on the floor.

Growing up, he only called her "Miss."

And then, one day, when he became a teenager, Logan finally called her by her real name: Kinsley. She cried because everything was changing.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at 423-757-6347 or zpeterson@timesfreepress.com. Follow @zackpeterson918.

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