Pain Over Lost Kids Crushed Walgreen 

Pain Over Lost Kids Crushed Walgreen 
Posted by FoM on December 19, 1999 at 17:29:08 PT
By John Carpenter Staff Reporter
Source: Chicago Sun-Times
It was Nov. 26, 1996, and Loren Walgreen had just won a shocking legal victory, stopping her in-laws from adopting her two children. She went out that night and got high on cocaine. It's yet another sad detail in the even sadder story of the troubled ex-drugstore heiress, who was found dead at age 31 in a West Side drug house Tuesday.
The man who shared the story is Dennis Clinton, a former truck driver and Walgreen's longtime boyfriend. The world knows the Loren Walgreen who lost custody of her two children to their grandparents because of her drug problems. People who follow the news know that she had been arrested many times since she lost contact with the children. What the world doesn't know, Clinton insists, is that Walgreen was a good mother to a third child--a bright, happy 4-year-old named David, Clinton's son with her. "She had a drug problem, a serious drug problem," he said. "But it wasn't all the time." "We have a son. He's 4 1/2 years old, and he can work a computer," he said. "He's smart. He's happy. So did she destroy his life? Did someone need to take him away from her to save him? No." Charles and Kathleen Walgreen, who are now raising the two children Loren had with Tad Walgreen--who died of a drug overdose in 1996--believe they did have to step in to save the children. And, according to an interview Kathleen gave to the Sun-Times last week, they tried to help the children's mother. Clinton does not agree. And his bitterness toward the billionaire couple is unbridled. He said his girlfriend's drug problems became much more severe after she lost custody of the children. Mostly, though, he wants people to know that the story is not so simple. Walgreen had been off illegal drugs for more than a year at the time of the highly publicized adoption trial, Clinton said. During the trial, doctors testified about Walgreen's mental illness and drug problems. She had suffered from depression and been in and out of psychiatric hospitals since age 14. One doctor testified that he was surprised she could get up each day, Clinton recalled. "She was getting up every morning, feeding our son and getting him dressed, driving him to a baby-sitter, getting on the L downtown to sit at the trial for eight hours, taking the train back, picking him up and coming home and cooking dinner," Clinton said. Then came the verdict, which declared that the adoption of Walgreen's two children with Tad by their grandparents would have violated Loren's constitutional rights. She had won, but the victory didn't win her custody. "Even after she won, she still couldn't get custody," Clinton said. "She went out that night with a girlfriend and came home and told me she had used cocaine. "Things got worse from that time on." Walgreen's brushes with the law since losing custody of her two children are well-documented--more than a dozen arrests, mostly for drug possession but also including prostitution. After many probation violations she was jailed for several months and was released in September. Clinton said her drug problem was serious but not an everyday problem. "She'd be fine for a week or two, maybe a month, then she'd go off for two or three days and get totally wasted. She'd disappear," he said. "When it got to where she was thinking about the kids [the two she lost custody of] then she would go off. When she went off like that, she would go off to the maximum." Clinton said Walgreen eventually came around to the idea that her two children with Tad were better off with their grandparents. But he said she wanted to be part of their lives, at least through visits. Kathleen Walgreen said she would have granted Loren visitation rights if she could have stayed clean and sober for a year. She could not. Neighbors of Clinton's in unincorporated Melrose Park said police were often called there, mostly for arguments. Clinton acknowledged this and said any fights they had were over her drugs. "Her drug use was our biggest problem," he said. "It was our only problem." Clinton maintains that Walgreen's drug use was a form of drawn-out suicide over the loss of her first two children. He argued the same was true of Tad, whose death was ruled an accidental drug overdose. "Neither one of them died of drug overdoses," Clinton said. "They died of broken hearts and suicide." Clinton and Walgreen talked over breakfast Monday morning. She had been off drugs since September. "Prison scared her," he said. "She was determined never to go back to prison again." But she was despondent at the prospects of not being able to see the two children over the holiday season, he said. "She said she couldn't stand to go through another holiday season without being able to see or even talk to those children," he said. "I told her she had to stay strong, stay off the stuff." About 3:30 p.m. Clinton got a call from Walgreen at the tavern he owns. Police say she already had been at the West Side drug house for several hours. But she told him she was still shopping in Evanston and asked him to pick up their son from school. "She sounded as straight as an arrow, but I knew there might be a problem," Clinton said. That was the last time she talked to him. Police said she spent several hours in a basement apartment at 43 N. Menard, a house where she and others had been arrested for drugs before. During the evening, she slumped over in her chair; others thought she had passed out. By 1:45 a.m. Tuesday, they could not wake her and an ambulance was called. She was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. "She never hurt anybody but herself," Clinton said. "Granted, she was her own worst enemy." Published: Decenber 19, 1999Copyright  The Sun-Times Company
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