EXCELSIOR, Minn. (WCCO) — He was described as funny, kind, creative and charismatic.
It’s what caught his parents’ eyes when they were searching for a child to adopt in Guatemala.
“Christian was the first little boy they showed us a picture of… and he was so cute… so sweet,” said Donna Beeson Hoelke, Christian’s mother.
Christian Hoelke was 5 years old when he moved to Excelsior to join his new family. But shortly after starting high school, Christian started on a path that would lead to him becoming one of Minnesota’s heartbreaking statistics.
In this week’s Life Story, his mother explains.
“I always used to tell him… Christian, you’ve got a story to tell,” she said.
Donna Beeson Hoelke finds comfort in the photos of the little boy she and her husband raised. Christian was one of three children the couple adopted.
“He had this infectious smile, he loved to laugh and kid around. He was so excited about everything,” she said.
His mom says he made friends easily, enjoyed playing sports, especially hockey.
“We lived on Lake Minnewashta. So we had an ice rink on the lake,” she said.
Christian loved feeling connected to his family.
“He’s laying in between us and he puts his little skinny arms around us and he says ‘Mi Mama y Mi Papa.’ He was so pleased to have a mom and dad,” she said.
She says high school was difficult, as Christian began to experiment with drugs.
“It’s that freedom that came with driving and friends that drove. All of a sudden mom and dad couldn’t control where he was and when he was,” she said.
It started with marijuana, and then progressed to heroin. Christian spent four months in rehab at Hazelden.
“Christian was in and out of treatment for the last five years,” she said.
His 21st birthday would be Christian’s last.
“The friend of his went over to the house where Christian was living. They found him passed away in the bedroom. They think he purchased what he believed to be heroin. He was smoking it,” she said.
But police say it wasn’t heroin. Toxicology test results revealed it was fentanyl, likely mixed with baking soda to look like heroin. They think it killed him almost instantly.
“He was struggling, but I believe he still wanted to live,” she said.
Live, and tell his own story. Christian’s family tells us police are still trying to find the source of the drugs that killed him.