LAPORTE | Richard and Lisa Lliteras believed their son Nicholas was on his road to recovery from a heroin addiction.
They had moved away from LaPorte in an effort to get him away from friends addicted to the drug, and their efforts seemed to be paying off.
But soon after the family returned to the home they still owned in LaPorte for the holidays this week, they found their 20-year-old son dead Christmas Eve morning from an apparent overdose.
"I trusted he was going to make it," said Richard Lliteras, who found Nicholas on the floor of his bedroom about 6 a.m. Tuesday.
According to LaPorte County police, Nicholas Lliteras was in full cardiac arrest when paramedics arrived at the home in the 2600 block of North Van Gough Drive, about two miles northwest of the city. Attempts to revive him failed.
A plastic bag containing 25 smaller bags of suspected heroin was found underneath his mattress, police said.
Richard Lliteras last saw Nicholas alive at 2 a.m. Tuesday when he said he was going outside to have a cigarette.
Lliteras said his son began using heroin in 2011. He admitted his addiction to his mother when she confronted him about the drug use she had suspected.
Richard Lliteras was working in Florida at the time and decided to relocate the family there to get Nicholas away from a group of friends using the drug. He said Nicholas never checked into a rehabilitation clinic because just getting him away from his friends and making new friends who weren't using drugs seemed to keep him off the heroin.
Lliteras' job then took the family to Ohio and Nicholas remained clean and got a job at Sears in Toledo.
"It seemed like he was a different kid," Lliteras said.
Lliteras said he and his wife kept close tabs on Nicholas and from time to time they returned to LaPorte to spend time with their daughter and their new grandchild.
The day before Christmas Eve they allowed Nicholas to go visit one of his old friends. After finding his son dead, Lliteras found text messages on his son's phone revealing talks between Nicholas and his friend about getting some drugs, police said.
"I guess we let our guard down," Lliteras said.
LaPorte County police Detective Ron Heeg said the death seems accidental but whether criminal charges result hinges on the outcome of the ongoing investigation.
He said the efforts by his parents to keep their son clean illustrates just how much of a grip heroin can have on its users.
"It just shows that heroin knows no boundaries. Young, old, rich or poor it'll affect the lives of everybody and anybody involved," Heeg said.
Lliteras said his advice to parents with children on heroin is to keep close tabs on their activities and give them a lot of encouragement, things that appeared to be having a positive impact on Nicholas.
"If we hadn't done that he might have been gone a lot sooner," Lliteras said.