How a rock star's drug addiction killed a man
Tina Baltz with her brother Paul Shoulders Jr.'s late-70s Malibu drag racing car at her home in Nashville, Tenn., Saturday, July 1, 2017. Shoulders was killed by an intoxicated driver in 2013 and she kept his car after his death to remember him.Buy PhotoBuy Photo
Student participants of Nashville Workcamp, a community service focused summer program, pray for former 3 Doors Down bassist Todd Harrell. Harrell spoke to the group on June 7, 2017 as part of his court-ordered probation after causing a deadly crash in April 2013.
Shoulders, meanwhile, preferred life under the hood of a car.
A Nashville native and mechanic by trade, in his spare time he'd tinker on his late-70s Malibu drag racing car, his sister said.
Harrell was speeding 101 mph down Interstate 40 late April 19, 2013, when he clipped Shoulders' pickup. That sent the pickup rolling over a guardrail, and 47-year-old Shoulders, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was thrown from the truck.
At the time of the crash Harrell had used the anxiety medication alprazolam, the painkiller oxycodone and alcohol, according to police. When he was taken to jail, staffers found 36 pills that he didn't have a prescription for in his sock.
"The police pulled me out of the car that night and were giving me field sobriety tests and I was like, why aren’t you doing this (to the) other guy?" Harrell said. "They said, well that guy’s dead.
"I have nightmares about it. It changed my life y’all. It took who I was and just turned me upside down. Paul died and he didn’t have to for a decision that I made."
Read the USA TODAY Network-Tennessee's complete coverage of the opioid crisis.
June 2017: Tennessee counties slap Big Pharma with lawsuit over opioid epidemic costs
'I couldn't believe it'
Paul Shoulders, 47, was killed by an intoxicated driver on April 19, 2013 in Nashville.
On that night four years ago, Tina Baltz fell asleep on the couch. There was a knock at the front door of her Donelson-area home shortly after 3 a.m.
It was not about one of her three children, as she first feared.
Soon came several painful hours. Identifying Shoulders' body. Removing personal items from his truck. Going to his home to fetch his beloved dog. Notifying his boss, and those he did car work for, that he wouldn't be back.
And then, a twist: A call hours later from one of her daughters about the other driver.
"She’s like, he’s the bass player from 3 Doors Down," she recalled, tears in her eyes while sitting on her backyard deck next to her husband.
"The kicker was I’d been listening to their music out here on the deck trying to sort things out. They were one of my favorite bands at the time.
"I just spaced out. I couldn’t believe it."Buy Photo
Tina Baltz with her brother Paul Shoulders Jr.'s late-70s Malibu drag racing car at her home in Nashville, Tenn., Saturday, July 1, 2017. Shoulders was killed by an intoxicated driver in 2013 and she kept his car after his death to remember him by.
What was next was prescription drug addiction within the Baltz family.
Tina and her husband, Michael Baltz are raising their two grandchildren, 7 and 3 years old, because one of their daughters used painkillers that led her to heroin, Tina Baltz said. She has been in and out of jail and rehab, they said.Buy Photo
December 2015: Ex-3 Doors Down member gets prison in deadly crash
In December 2015, Harrell pleaded guilty to six crimes in a Nashville courtroom. He was sentenced to two years in prison, but with credits for good behavior, got out in just a year.
Now he is about seven months into a six-year probation term. Criminal Court Judge Mark Fishburn ordered him to speak to students six times each year about drug addiction.Buy Photo
"I can never change what happened," Harrell said, pacing the stage. "But I can definitely try and make a message out of it. Guys, you know, a split-second decision could change your life. If you’re drinking and druggin', there’s help for that too."
Tina Baltz doesn't think a year behind bars was enough, but is glad to see Harrell speaking publicly. She hopes someday to do the same, but there's healing that must come first.
The reminders of devastating drug addiction are everywhere. Once, she said, 3 Doors Down came on at a mall. She had to leave.
There's Shoulders' turquoise drag racer in the driveway, with "Paul" still painted on the passenger side window. She cannot wash it off.
There's her two grandchildren, who think their mother is sick.
"I want people to understand that they’re ruining not just their lives, but family member’s lives," she said. "Strangers' lives."
And she wants an apology, one-on-one without a judge looking on, from Harrell.
"Can I ever forgive him? I don't know," she said. "I'm definitely never going to forget."
Reach Stacey Barchenger at 615-726-8968 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @sbarchenger.
By the numbers
In Tennessee in 2015:
7.8 million opioid prescriptions written
1,451 Tennesseans died from drug overdoses
6,036 people: five-year drug overdose death toll
174 people killed in crashes in which a driver tested positive for drugs or an officer determined drugs contributed to the crash
136 deaths in crashes related to alcohol use
51 deaths in crashes in which distracted driving was a factor
Sources: Tennessee Department of Health, Tennessee Highway Patrol
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