Medical Examiner: Former Howard High Football Player Died from Drug Overdose

Joey Bonavitacola's sudden death was caused by the combined effects of heroin, cocaine and alcohol.


Joey Bonavitacola died suddenly on Sept. 23 from the combined effects of heroin, cocaine and alcohol, according to the Maryland Medical Examiner's office.

A spokesperson for the office said the manner of death was undetermined.

Bonavitacola, who was 18 at the time of his death, graduated from Howard High School in 2012 and was a star running back on the Howard High football team.

He was from Elkridge.

Requests for comment from Howard High School and the Howard football team were declined by the school's athletic director, Michael Duffy.

Police declined to provide any information surrounding the circumstances of Bonavitacola's death because it was deemed not a criminal matter, according to a Howard County police spokesperson.

Attempts to contact the Bonavitacola family on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

In his senior season, Bonavitacola rushed for 700 yards and 10 touchdowns, helping the Lions qualify for the playoffs, according to an article in Explore Howard.

The news of Bonavitacola's death shook the Howard High community. On the Howard football team's Facebook page, families from around Howard County offered their prayers to Bonavitacola's family.

Lions football coach Bruce Strunk has said of Bonavitacola: "...no one had the kind of heart that he did on the field," reported the Howard County Times, which described the teen as "popular" and a "star."

The Lions' defensive coordinator Doug Caplan told Ellicott City Patch that Bonavitacola was "quick" after the player, a junior at the time, had a breakout game with two touchdowns, 16 carries and 209 yards rushing against Oakland Mills in fall 2010.

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Elkridge Football Player Dies at Age 18

Keith B. October 19, 2012 at 01:06 PM
hrd, You missed the entire point of my post. Mrs. Millissa post objections to others freedom of speech along with ignorant cussing. And Patch is responsible in reporting the autopsy results. Have you read what Millissa said above? Yes, if you have a problem with freedom of speech one should move to China or Russia. Red White and Blue that. Grown "crybabies"
Liz October 23, 2012 at 01:26 AM
wow....a child died, regardless of how or why...it is heart wrenching. I think we need to know that it was a drug overdose. There are so many kids that are using drugs in this county and we need to wake up to that fact. It's not something to hide or be ashamed of if it's in your family. I have lived in Howard County a long time and have known of so many families that have to go out of state to get the affordable help that they need. Rest in peace Joey and God comfort their family during this time of grieving.
hrd October 23, 2012 at 04:31 PM
That gets us to the important question of why Howard County is experiencing such high drug use. This child in question wanted for nothing. He wasn’t poor, picked on, had non attentive parents, nor did he have unsatisfied material needs. He was even highly regarded in the community from a highly regarded family. He was not too different than a lot of Howard county kids where the kids get everything they need from the parents. And all of his comrades that I knew came from well-off families. My guess is that these kids have been given so much, that there is nothing to struggle for and turn to drugs excitement. The easy life has not only led to obesity, but apathy in our kids. As I see it, we are the victim of our own success, and the solution appears to be figuring out how to put our kids on a diet. The real irony is that the kids have most of the responsibility to figure out the solution to the problem because in a few short years, they’ll have the problem of raising their kids so they are not apathetic.
Liz October 25, 2012 at 03:11 AM
That is all so true HRD, however...drug addiction is rampant everywhere and has no boundaries when it comes to race or status of people. I think that kids sometimes just want to have fun and party, now knowing how highly addictive heroin is these days. Before they know it they are hooked. Who knows why things happen the way they do. My heart goes out to the family and friends of this young man who had such a promising future. Also, I think a lot of young people are bored, have too much time on their hands or just do it because it seems the thing to do these days. It is all through our culture, in music, media and clubs. I pray that people would open their eyes to the fact that it can happen to anyone and that it is a serious problem in this country. There is rampant use of prescriptions pills and crystal meth, as well. There is also a shortage of jobs for young adults and for some, selling drugs is a gateway to fame and fortune. Pray for our nation.
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