Jack Holiman, a senior mechanical engineering major from Jackson, died on Wednesday, Sept. 16, at Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi after being hospitalized Sunday night for a suspected drug overdose.
Holiman had postponed his senior year to pursue a remote research internship with the U.S. Department of Energy this year. He was also a member of the Center for Manufacturing Excellence and Engineers Without Borders.
Holiman’s mother, Paige Cascio Holiman, announced his death via Facebook last Friday. Hundreds of friends and family members commented to share their condolences.
“He was funny, stubborn, brilliant, honest and kind … among many other traits. His relationships were his most valuable asset. He helped people find their place and purpose with no judgement,” Paige Holiman wrote. “He was an encouraging example to others of the importance of being your authentic self. He loved without holding anything back.”
Senior integrated marketing and communications major Kendall Causey, a lifelong friend of Jack Holiman’s, went to the hospital on Sunday after a call from her mother informing her of his overdose. Causey stayed there until Holiman’s family arrived from Jackson.
According to Causey, Holiman and his roommates were awake until 4 a.m. on Sunday at their home. Holiman’s roommates did not discover he was unconscious until late Sunday afternoon.
“They thought he was asleep that whole time because he stayed up so late,” Causey said. “He was losing oxygen to his brain. There wasn’t much hope when they took him (to the hospital).”
Paige Holiman issued the following statement to The Daily Mississippian on Sept. 22 regarding her son’s death:
On Wednesday, Sept. 16, Oxford Police Department (OPD) issued a press release in response to a Facebook post referencing the presence of dangerous narcotics in Oxford. The post, written by April Brown, the distraught stepmother of a Northwest Community College student who died of an overdose in Oxford on Sept. 5, circulated among university students and parents.
The press release said that two of 11 drug overdose cases that OPD responded to this year ended in fatalities.
According to authorities, the uptick in drug overdoses is partly because of an influx of pills that have been proven to contain other lethal narcotics.
Alex Fauver, commander of the Lafayette County Metro Narcotics Unit, confirmed the threat of “dirty dope” in Oxford is real.
“A lot of ecstasy has come back (from the crime lab) as methamphetamine, and we’ve had some different pills — some Percocet and OxyContin — that have come back with fentanyl,” Fauver said.
According to Fauver, the Metro Narcotics Unit has also recently intercepted Xanax they suspect to be laced with other substances, but have yet to receive results from the crime lab.
“Know that there is a risk that what you’re taking came off the dark net, came from overseas, who knows where, and contains who knows what all is in it,” Fauver said.
Fauver added that some narcotics are gaining popularity because their prices are drastically getting lower on the dark web, making them even more threatening to communities.
“It’s not coming from a factory or a pharmaceutical factory, so there’s no telling what’s in it,” Fauver said. “You’re seeing a lot of synthetic stuff, and like I said, just about all of our ecstasy has been coming back from the crime lab as methamphetamine.”
In response to the recent increase in drug overdoses, The William Magee Center for Wellness Education is teaming up with Lafayette County Metro Narcotics, the Oxford Police Department and the University Police Department to address the concerns of the community.
David Magee, the father of William Magee, a UM student who died in 2013, said his most important role is being committed to making a change after losing his son to an accidental overdose.
“As a community built around higher education, we have the opportunity to lead and create change,” Magee said. “Speaking openly and honestly about the realities faced can make all the difference.”
Holiman, who was a talented musician and who regularly performed around Oxford with his band Subcontra, posted a YouTube video of himself playing Debussy’s “Clair De Lune” on piano in April. After news of his death, several friends posted in the comments. One of them read:
“I miss you, Jack. I loved this back in April and I hope I expressed that to you fully. I still love it now. I wish I could see you again. You were one of the most creative and talented people I have ever met. Kindest and funniest, too.”
Community members can attend the ‘Disrupt the Culture Hot Topic’ virtual discussion at 4 p.m. today via Zoom.