As Kameka and Cologne Caldwell mourn the loss of their son DeAndre Miller-Caldwell, they are also looking for answers.
“He was working, he wanted to go into the military,” his mother Kameka said. “He was loving, he was fun. He was a father, he made everybody laugh.”
The couple says DeAndre, who was 23, had ambitious plans.
He was attending classes at Germanna Community College, had a job in construction and was thinking about military service — either by joining the U.S. Army or working in Homeland Security.
DeAndre struggled every now and then with academics, his family says, but was in their words, “a young man in the making.”
“He was just a normal kid. He comes from a privileged family. He didn’t have to want for anything,” his father Cologne said. “He never was in no trouble.”
Which is what made the discovery of Miller-Caldwell’s death so tragic and difficult.
It was last Sunday when Fredericksburg homeowner Scott Mattice discovered DeAndre’s body in his side yard behind some bushes; the family had just returned from a vacation in Virginia Beach.
“How could somebody do that to another human being?” Mattice said at the time, himself, the father of a 17-year-old son recovering from leukemia.
Witnesses told police they saw Miller-Caldwell with Jarred Smith, also 23, on the previous Thursday evening when Smith had crashed his car into a ditch in front of Mattice’s house.
Investigators learned Miller-Caldwell was a passenger in Smith’s car.
“At some point (Miller-Caldwell) lost consciousness and during the excitement, Smith lost control of the vehicle, veering off the roadway, and into the ditch,” the Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. “Concerned citizens… observed (Miller-Caldwell) laying in the ditch. Smith explained that it was his intoxicated friend laying in the ditch.”
Police said that Miller-Caldwell had used a dose of heroin and passed out.
It turned out to be a fatal dose.
Authorities said Smith then hid Miller-Caldwell’s body behind a bush out of sight of the roadway.
“Supposed to be his friend. He wasn’t a real good friend,” Mattice said. “EMS is real close to this area, so you could have easily drove him. You wouldn’t have gotten in trouble driving your friend to an ambulance site, saying he OD’d on drugs.”
Smith, charged with concealing a dead body, is being held in the Rappahannock Regional Jail without bond.
All of what happened makes no sense to Miller-Caldwell’s family.
“We know it was an overdose, that we do know,” Cologne said. “He was far from an addict. He was a young man. A father, a young man trying to figure himself out in this world.”
“The heroin thing, that’s new to us,” Caldwell said.
The couple says they did not know Smith, that their son never brought him around the house; they say they’ve heard several stories about how the two 23-year-olds may have met.
“The circumstances are still pending of how… why the overdose transpired,” Cologne said. “That’s the question at the present time.”
Meanwhile, friends have planned a vigil at Loriella Park in Fredericksburg on Saturday night.
A memorial service is planned at Al Bennett and Son’s Funeral Home on Aug. 18.