Netflix's new docu-series "The Pharmacist" may predominantly focus on the ongoing opioid epidemic in New Orleans and America at large, but it also highlights the intimate implications of drug use within families in small towns.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
For Dan Schneider, his crusade against Purdue Pharma would likely not have begun had his own son, Danny Schneider Jr., not died after a drug deal-gone-bad in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans at the hands of a then-unknown assailant.
Between the police department's lack of initiative to look into a case about a "spoiled ... crackhead" and his own persistence to achieve justice for his son, Schneider began his own inquiry to find his son's killer.
Many nights of cold calling Lower 9th Ward residents in the hopes of finding someone with information eventually led Schneider to Shane Madding, who lived in near the intersection where Danny was shot and made the initial 911 call.
On their first phone call on Sept. 1, 1999 – five months after Schneider Jr.'s death – Madding shared her eyewitness experience that April night. According to Madding, Schneider's son had picked up a drug dealer and drove around the block, before the dealer exited the vehicle and shot Danny through the driver's side window.
Madding identified the assailant as 15-year-old Jeffery Hall, who Schneider had actually spoken to as a witness (though he provided information that was later determined to be unreliable). He was also the son of Madding's best friend.
Madding recalled that when Hall walked from the crime scene and realized that she had seen what happened, he asked her, 'Titi, you see what I did?' "Titi" was an affectionate moniker Hall had for Madding, whom he saw as an aunt.
One of Madding's biggest concerns about coming forward with information in the case was her safety. Should it get out that she revealed Hall's name to the police, she believed she would be in danger. She evaded calls from the Schneiders for months, and grew increasingly aggravated when they continued to hound her and reach out to members of her family, even as she relocated.
"The fear had really set in after that (first) call," she said in the documentary. "I knew if he (Schneider) could walk the blocks and if he could call me on the phone, they were gonna find out it was me."
After months of hesitation, Madding decided to come forward to police. Seeing what the young man's death was doing to his sister Kristi - and recalling how her own brother was murdered - drove her decision.
"I felt every pain that she felt. Because I felt like that, too," Madding tearfully explained in the documentary. "I was 12 when my brother was murdered. We were real close ... and I always thinks about how we never got the truth. And that's a hurtful thing not to know."
In May 2000, 13 months after the murder, Madding made a formal statement to authorities identifying Hall as Danny's killer. A month later, the then-16-year-old learned that it was Madding that had turned him in.
With constant threats on her life, Madding and her four young children were moved by witness protection for their safety leading up to the trial. Madding herself turned to drugs to cope with the stress and admitted that she was addicted to crack at the time of the murder.
Despite the death threats and terse interactions with Hall's family, Madding's father encouraged her to tell the truth. She remained a key witness and testified at the trial in late 2000. Hall later took a plea deal for 15 years behind bars, of which he served 13.
After the indictment, Madding decided that she needed to make changes in her own life, too. She moved out of her childhood home with her kids and sought help for her drug addiction.
"I cleaned my life up," she said in the documentary. "I said, 'Today I become a real wife and a real mother.' ... I've been clean since then."
Months after the trial, Madding received a local Victims and Citizens Against Crime award for her commitment to the truth.
"I don't consider that 'being a hero.' I consider that 'standing up,'" she said in the documentary.
Oxygen.com's attempts to reach Madding for comment were not successful.
"The Pharmacist" is now available to stream on Netflix.
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