Fairfax County mom wants to clear son's name after police mistakenly said he overdosed

"I knew Rey didn't use drugs."

NBC Universal, Inc.

Like most parents, Vilma Gonzalez lights up when she shows off photos of her son, Rey Maldonado.

"He was skinny," she laughed while pointing to a photo of Maldonado when he was a little kid.

The 16-year-old from Falls Church, Virginia, was well-behaved and close with her, Gonzalez said.

So it came has a shock when police said he died of a drug overdose on June 25. Maldonado and another teenager were found unconscious and “foaming at the mouth” in a vehicle in a parking lot in the 5700 block of Columbia Pike, according to Fairfax County police. The parking lot is near Bailey's Crossroads.

Gonzalez said Maldonado had gotten a ride from a friend to a McDonald's to grab lunch for her as she was on her way home from work.

But he never came home. The next time she saw him was later that night in the emergency room.

"They tried, tried, tried and they declared Rey dead at 8:15. He never came back, he never came back," she said while fighting tears.

Gonzalez was filled with disbelief at the explanation the authorities gave her.

"Police, doctors, everybody around people say, 'Overdose.' I say 'Overdose? How?' Nobody explained to me what happened, but they started talking about overdose. I say, 'I can't - I can't believe it. That's not Rey, that's not my Rey.' I knew Rey," she said.

Neighbors supported her while people on social media criticized her, some blaming her for allowing her son to die of an apparent overdose, she said.

"I knew Rey didn't use drugs. He was my friend; I was his friend," Gonzalez said.

Then, nearly two months after his death, detectives came to her and said they had an update about Rey's death. The initial results of Rey's autopsy revealed he didn't overdose, but he had a lethal level of carbon monoxide in his system, police told her.

In a statement to News4, Fairfax County police said, "Based on our detective's experience and evidence at the scene, it seemed that the cause of death in this case was related to an overdose."

While nothing will bring her son back, Gonzalez said she's hopeful that she can clear her son's name and grateful to know their close bond was true.

"I feel like Rey is still here," she said.

Maldonado was an organ donor and doctors were able to save some of his organs for donation.

"He will live in other children and that makes me happy," Gonzalez said.

Below is the full statement from Fairfax County police:

On June 25, officers were sadly confronted with a seemingly similar scenario seen many times before: two unconscious teenagers in a car, foaming at the mouth. Based on our detective’s experience and evidence at the scene, it seemed that the cause of death in this case was related to an overdose. As our detectives continued to investigate, it was discovered that there may be an alternate cause of death. Any death investigation, especially one that involves a juvenile, draws concerns from our community. Based on the available information we had at that time, we attempted to share a message that we have shared many times before, the danger of fentanyl. We are awaiting the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner report and we will update the community when received.

Contact Us