Charbel Baroody never got to prove to his parents that he had become an adult. His troubled teenage years ended before he reached any sort of milestones — a driver’s license, a first apartment, a relationship or a full-time job.
Baroody’s parents, Jane and Philip Baroody, were left with only one glimpse of maturity that their son showed them on their way home from his graduation at Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School. “I know what I want to do Mom,” Jane Baroody recalled him saying, still wearing his forest green square cap. “I want to become a plumber, and I want to move out.”
“That’s what we were planning,” said Jane Baroody. “He died a few days after that.”
Charbel Baroody was 20 years old when he died from acute fentanyl intoxication on Aug. 14, 2021. When his mother retrieved her son’s belongings from Charlton Memorial Hospital, she said mixed in a yellow paper envelope among a lipstick tube, a vape, and a couple dollar bills was one and a half blue pills. She said the New Bedford Police later told her the pills were the painkiller Percocet laced with fentanyl.
From an early age, Baroody was unable to concentrate or focus in school, his mother said. He started to show signs of hyperactivity. By the end of elementary school, Baroody was diagnosed with OCD, ADHD and autism.
With little knowledge of her son’s condition, Jane Baroody said she took every possible step. She enrolled him in an Individualized Education Program at Carney Academy. She recruited in-home behavioral therapists from Northeast Behavioral Associates. She counseled regularly with Child and Family Services.
The medication prescribed by doctors seemed to be effective during the mornings while Baroody was at school, “but at home, it was a different story,” said his mother. He wouldn’t listen, and grounding him appeared to have zero effect. “At 13 his behavior started to change,” she said. For the worse.
One morning, while the behavioral therapist was at home to help him with his studies, Baroody disappeared. A classmate had called him and he ran out the door, his mother said. By 9 p.m. she was still out looking for him and knocking on neighbors’ doors. He came back one hour later like nothing had happened, she said.
“I needed to put limits on him,” said Jane Baroody. “For both of us, it was a fight.”
At Keith Junior High, his outbursts turned into more physical confrontations, which almost always ended the same way: Baroody kicking his room door from the inside, while his mother sat on the hallway floor, holding the door closed from the outside by pushing with her legs.
Jane Baroody followed specialists’ instructions by the book for over 15 years, she said, hoping to see an improvement. “At the end, Charbel had so many councilors and doctors. We were lost,” she said. “I tried, but … it didn’t happen. Something went wrong.”
The first time Baroody overdosed was in December 2020. Philip Baroody woke up to noises coming from downstairs. He found his son unresponsive, sitting on a chair with his eyes rolled to the back of his head. As Baroody’s father called 911, his mother started performing chest compressions.
“Charbel told me he was not going to do it again,” said Jane Baroody. “He promised me.”
Philip Baroody said his son never told them what was going on, but it was clear he was being targeted by bullies. Every time he dropped his son off at the Dartmouth Mall to meet his classmates, Philip Baroody said he would soon get a call to pick him back up. Baroody’s father said he would find him sitting on the curb, with his hair tousled and, sometimes, bruises on his face.
“They were laughing at him,” said Philip Baroody. “He never really understood what a friend was. He couldn’t read people.”
Jane and Philip Baroody moved to Acushnet 10 days before their son’s death. They said they decided to move from the West End in New Bedford after they say their home was vandalized at least four times by the same teenagers who tormented their son.
The new single-family home is welcoming, with family photos on the wall and a coffee table with a vase of white carnations and a portrait of a smiling Charbel Baroody. Inside his room, which still has a colorful handmade name tag hanging on the door, everything is meticulously stored — pill bottles, plastic files with the medical examiner’s records, police reports, and a CD-ROM with the recording of the 911 call the night he died.
“For other people, Charbel, it’s just a name. That’s it. He’s gone,” said Jane Baroody. “For us, he isn’t… that’s the sad story.”
Since Charbel’s death, Jane and Philip Baroody have attended every Overdose Awareness Day and Church event to commemorate community losses and share their son’s story. “Parents have to be aware of everything,” said Jane Baroody.
“It’s a long battle, but we have to start somewhere.”