Film honors teen who died after using synthetic drug

FRANKLIN, Ind. (WISH) – Three Whiteland High School seniors created a documentary memorializing a local teen, and made the Top 8 in the Franklin Film Festival.

The documentary, titled “The Power of Choice,” honors and remembers local academic honors-athlete Sam Motsay, who died last Mother’s Day, May 11, 2014, after taking a drug called “N-Bomb.”

The three Whiteland teen filmmakers interviewed Motsay’s family members and friends, who gave poignant interviews remembering the teen.

“The Power of Choice” also includes more information about Sam’s Watch.

Sam’s Watch is the non-profit that Motsay’s friends and family created to inform about the dangers of synthetic drugs – more specifically, the little-known synthetic drug that killed Motsay – 25I-NBOMe, or “N-Bomb”.

The Top 8 film entries in the Franklin Film Festival, which include “The Power of Choice,” will air Friday at the Artcraft Theatre on 57 North Main Street in Franklin. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m., the films start at 7:30 p.m. Cost of admission is $5.

To find out more about synthetic drugs and their dangers, click here.

News advisory: Documentary in memory of Sam Motsay makes Top 8 in Franklin Film Festival

INDIANAPOLIS — The documentary “The Power of Choice” in memory of academic honors-athlete Sam Motsay has made the Top 8 in this year’s Franklin Film Festival themed “A Story That Has To Be Told.”  The Top 8 film entries will be showing Friday, Mar. 6 at the Historic Artcraft Theatre in downtown Franklin. 

“The Power of Choice” documentary was created by three Whiteland High School Seniors and submitted as an entry in the local film fest.  In memory of Sam Motsay, the documentary includes poignant interviews with family members and friends as well as Sam’s basketball coach at Center Grove High School.  Sam Motsay was killed last Mother’s Day, May 11th, from a little-known synthetic drug called N-Bomb (25I-NBOMe) and since that time his family and friends have formed nonprofit Sam’s Watch to get the word out about the dangers of synthetic drugs; drugs that threaten teens with no known medical use and for which there is no information on long-term effects.  For the latest about synthetic drugs that kill, go to www.samswatch.org or Facebook and Twitter @SAMsWatch.


Friday, Mar. 6

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and films start at 7:30 p.m.  Admission cost: $5.00

Artcraft Theatre, 57 N. Main St., Franklin, 317-736-6823

Sara Schaefer, WTHI, Favorite Story

Sara Schaefer joined the WTHI team June 2014 as a multi-platform journalist/producer. She reports general assignments Monday through Friday.

This is her first full time position but she worked part time at WTHI’s sister station in Indianapolis WISH-TV. There she was part of the promotions team and worked events for the station.

One of her favorite stories she has done at WTHI is about a mother sharing her heartbreaking story about her son dying from synthetic drug abuse. This was a touching story for Sara because this mother turned her situation into a lesson for the community, hoping to save them from the dangers of synthetic drugs by creating an organization called Sam’s Watch. It monitors the process of synthetic drugs becoming more common as well as what is being done to prevent abuse.

Sara is from Fort Wayne, Indiana. She graduated from Ball State University with a double major in journalism and telecommunications. In her free time she enjoys being outdoors and spending time with her friends and family (including the four-legged members.) She is a big lover of animals, music, reading and writing, nature and sports.

Mom works to toughen penalties for synthetic drug dealers

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – It’s been almost a year since a Greenwood mother lost her son after officials say he took a new and dangerous synthetic drug, known as 25i-NBOMe.

16-year-old Sam Motsay was an athlete and an honor student, with big dreams and a bright future. He died on Mother’s Day 2014 after taking NBOMe.

At the time of Sam’s death, even police here weren’t familiar with synthetic drugs. His family started a non-profit called Sam’s Watch, in the months after his death.

Sam’s family is now working to educate both parents and students about the dangers of synthetic drugs. Jeanine Motsay, Sam’s mother, says she’s also now working with state lawmakers to get these drugs out of our community.

Motsay says she’s working with Senator Jim Merritt to help get Senate Bill 278 passed. The bill would make the penalties for selling a synthetic drug the same as the penalties would be for whatever drug it mimics, like LSD.

“Sam was your typical kid, but for us, he was our son. We miss him every day,” said Motsay. “We’re hoping his death can be life giving to someone else.”

Motsay says Sam and his friends didn’t know what they were getting, and the information shared between peers wasn’t accurate.

“I want parents to know what I would have wanted to know before this happened to Sam. I want students to know because Sam was a smart kid and I think with the right information, he could have made a better decision.”

Motsay says tougher penalties for those who deal such drugs are imperative.

“It’s important to me that we cover all the bases, and we make the penalties stiffer, so we can dissuade those dealers and distributors from making that drug and targeting our teens.”

Motsay spoke at numerous schools last week as a part of the National Drug Facts Week, reaching thousands of Hoosier students to share her message.

She says they’ve also prepared a PSA they’re going to release to media outlets and schools.

Her efforts come as an appeals court just declared the state’s ban on synthetic drugs unconstitutional, the judge saying the law is too vague for citizens to understand. The state has 30 days to appeal.

“If you look at what happened to my son, I don’t think there’s anything vague about it. They were sold something that was to resemble LSD or acid, it was a research chemical, a synthetic drug called 25i NBOMe, and it actually resulted in my son’s death. I don’t think there’s anything vague about that,” said Motsay.

“It helps to know we may be saving someone else,” said Motsay.

For more information on the non-profit Sam’s Watch, and also for more information on synthetic drugs click here

New synthetic drug bill proposed as statewide ban is thrown out

INDIANAPOLIS (February 3, 2015) – The Indiana Court of Appeals has thrown out the state’s ban on synthetic drugs like spice and bath salts, concluding that the law as it is currently written is too complicated for the average person to understand, and therefore unconstitutional.

One must navigate long lists of compounds and statutes to find out exactly which substances are illegal to sell or purchase under the synthetic drug ban. In addition, manufacturers are constantly altering the ingredients in banned products to stay ahead of the law.

State Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, says the Indiana Court of Appeals made a mistake.

“Well, they got it wrong first of all, and second of all, I expect the attorney general to appeal this to the Supreme Court,” says Merritt. “For someone to say ignorance of the law is a reason not to follow it, is not a good defense and I think the appeals court missed it on this one.”

Merritt has co-authored Senate Bill 278 with Sen. Randall Head. The proposal would increase the penalties for “dealing in a counterfeit substance if the person represents the substance to be cocaine, methamphetamine, LSD or a schedule I or II narcotic drug.” Merritt says he wants to make sure synthetic drugs earn the same punishments as the more traditional street drugs they imitate.

“The drug pushers, the drug dealers, have been going to synthetics because the penalties are less, because they’re not noted as the regular, garden variety drugs like pot and cocaine and LSD,” says Merritt.

He says the new measure, if signed into law, would level the playing field.

“It does level out. If you’re caught with pot or you’re caught with spice, it would be the same penalty. If you’re dealing cocaine or you’re dealing bath salts, you’re going to be punished the same,” he says. “These are poisons that are entering our community and we need to make sure that if you’re dealing it, taking it, if you’re possessing it, you will be held to a standard that’s the same thing as the regular drugs.”

Jeanine Motsay’s 16-year-old son Sam died from a synthetic drug overdose on Mother’s Day. She says it was the first time Sam tried N-BOME, a synthetic hallucinogen. Motsay has now started an organization dedicated to raising awareness about the dangers of these designer drugs. She was surprised that the state ban was tossed out.

“He and his friends were targeted that they were getting something that was like LSD,” says Motsay. “If that’s what is being sold and it turns out to be fatal, which it was in one use for my son, then I think that’s pretty clear. I don’t think there is anything vague about that. It pretty much was poison, and I think the dealers and the distributors should be held accountable for that.”

She fully supports the bill Merritt is proposing and hopes people who sell synthetic products like the one that killed her son will spend a long time behind bars.

“If they’re selling something that they’re marketing as LSD, if it’s 25-I N-BOME, they should have that same penalty that comes from selling or distributing LSD,” says Motsay. “My son didn’t get a second chance, and neither should the dealers or the distributors that are selling these poisons.”

Parent program on drugs and children at GHS Wednesday

The Greencastle Community School Corporation will present the program "What Parents Should Know: Drugs and Their Children" on Wednesday, Jan. 28 at Greencastle High School's Parker Auditorium.

Any parent who has a child from fourth grade up is invited to attend.

The free 6:30 p.m. program is for parents only. No students or other children will be allowed to attend.

Purpose of the session is to help parents know and look for the possibility of drug use in their children. Schools have been seeing a lot more drug use and discipline problems because of poor decisions and peer pressure.

Expert speakers will include Jeanine Motsay, a mother who lost a 16-year-old son to synthetic drug use; Justin Phillips, mother of a heroin addict and a certified life coach who specializes in addiction recovery; and lifelong Greencastle resident Cpl. Jerrod Baugh, a 20-year police officer with the Indiana Excise Police.

Motsay has a degree in psychology from the University of Illinois and is a business and project management leader with state government.

However, her most rewarding role, she says, has been that of "mom." That is until her happiness turned to devastation when she lost her 16-year-old son, Sam, on Mother's Day 2014, the victim of a little-known synthetic drug targeted at teens.

In the months following the loss of Sam, she and her family formed a non-profit, Sam's Watch, to get the word out about emerging and evolving synthetic drugs.

"I want young people to be aware of the latest drug dangers," Motsay said, "and I want to equip them -- as well as their parents, educators and communities at large -- with information. I want them to know that what is being sold to young people is fatal."

Sam's Watch has partnered with the National Institute on Drug Abuse in National Drug Facts Week, an evidence-based drug awareness event Jan. 26 to Feb. 1.

Meanwhile, Phillips describes herself as having two roles. A mother, she has raised her three children over the past 23 years. She is also a professional with more than 16 years of program development and management in the public and nonprofit sector.

With a master's degree in nonprofit management, she currently works for the state and is also certified as a life coach with a specialization in addiction recovery. Unfortunately, Phillips is also the mother of a heroin addict who lost his life in October 2013. Now Justin works to share Aaron's message so that other families do not have to experience this pain.

Cpl. Baugh, son of the late two-time Putnam County Sheriff Jim Baugh, holds instructor certificates in Firearms, Emergency Vehicle Operations, Active Shooter Response and works as an adjunct firearms instructor at Gunsite Academy in Prescott, Ariz.

He will be bringing to the program a wealth of field arrest knowledge from handling many juvenile and adult arrests in the areas of alcohol, tobacco and other drug investigations.

Sam’s Watch to share on drug dangers threatening teens

45 Indiana schools to participate with Sam’s Watch in National Drug Facts Week  

INDIANAPOLIS — Jeanine Motsay, president of nonprofit Sam's Watch will speak at four events during National Drug Facts Week, which takes place Monday, Jan. 26, through Sunday, Feb. 1. Ms. Motsay will share information on drug dangers threatening young people in memory of her 16-year-old son Sam, who was killed by a little-known synthetic drug targeted at teens.

Sam’s Watch collaborated with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health, to encourage Indiana schools to participate in the drug facts week. Forty-five Indiana schools with more than 33,000 students plan to participate with Sam’s Watch in the 2015 National Drug Facts Week, up from only two schools that did so in 2014. The increase is the result of efforts by Sam’s Watch to encourage participation in the awareness campaign, which aims to get science-based information about drugs and their effects out to teens.  For a full list of schools participating with Sam’s Watch, go to samswatch.org.

Wednesday, Jan. 28

2 p.m.: Student assembly, Greencastle High School, 711 S. Central St., 765-653-9771

6:30 p.m.: Parent meeting, Greencastle High School, 711 S. Central St., 765-653-9771

Thursday, Jan. 29

9:30 a.m.: SADD meeting, Carroll High School, 105 South 225 East, Flora, 574-967-4881

Friday, Jan. 30

11:30 a.m.: Student assembly, New Tech Institute, 1901 Lynch Road, Evansville, 812-435-0967

A Mother Shares An Important Message

Why I Participate

By Jeanine Motsay, Indianapolis, Indiana

My son, Sam, was a sophomore honors student at Center Grove High School with a GPA over 4.0 and extracurricular interests including a love for basketball, playing school and Amateur Athletic Union ball, and playing tenor sax first chair in school bands.

On Mother’s Day weekend 2014, Sam and two of his basketball friends took the chance of their lives. They tried what they thought was LSD or acid and would pass quickly through their system, avoiding detection from random drug testing for athletes. I woke up Mother’s Day morning to learn that my 16-year-old son had lost his life; later, I learned Sam was the victim of a synthetic drug called 25I-NBOMe or N-Bomb, a synthetic poison targeted at teens as LSD. At that time, even law enforcement was not familiar with what had killed Sam.

In the following months, our family realized there was a need to share Sam’s message to help prevent harm and save others. We formed a nonprofit, Sam’s Watch, to get the word out about the drug dangers threatening young people, especially synthetic drugs, which are constantly evolving and extremely dangerous.

Sam’s Watch is collaborating with NIDA to encourage Indiana schools to participate in the 5th annual National Drug Facts Week.

NIDA Drug Facts Newletter - Winter 2015: Why I Participate

Why I Participate

By Jeanine Motsay, Indianapolis, Indiana

My son, Sam, was a sophomore honors student at Center Grove High School with a GPA over 4.0 and extracurricular interests including a love for basketball, playing school and Amateur Athletic Union ball, and playing tenor sax first chair in school bands.

On Mother’s Day weekend 2014, Sam and two of his basketball friends took the chance of their lives. They tried what they thought was LSD or acid and would pass quickly through their system, avoiding detection from random drug testing for athletes. I woke up Mother’s Day morning to learn that my 16-year-old son had lost his life; later, I learned Sam was the victim of a synthetic drug called 25I-NBOMe or N-Bomb, a synthetic poison targeted at teens as LSD. At that time, even law enforcement was not familiar with what had killed Sam.

In the following months, our family realized there was a need to share Sam’s message to help prevent harm and save others. We formed a nonprofit, Sam’s Watch, to get the word out about the drug dangers threatening young people, especially synthetic drugs, which are constantly evolving and extremely dangerous.

Sam’s Watch is collaborating with NIDA to encourage Indiana schools to participate in the 5th annual National Drug Facts Week. Schools registering via Sam’s Watch will get participation assistance and be entered into $1,000 school donation drawing. There will also be a student contest for Sam’s Watch schools, with prizes for best entries to “Shatter the Myths” about drug use and addiction.

“National Drug Facts Week provides an opportunity for young people to get science-based information about drugs and their effect on the body. But that can happen only if schools participate. I urge students and parents to encourage their school leaders to participate in National Drug Facts Week. It will save lives.”

– Jeanine Motsay, Sam’s Mom

Preventing Heartbreak

Her hope is that if more teenagers hear about Sam they’ll hesitate if someone suggests they take a drug.

In that moment, she wants them to remember who Sam was — a quiet Center Grove High School sophomore who loved basketball and was taking honors classes to prepare for college.

He also was a teenager who made a fatal mistake in May when he took the synthetic drug 251 NBOMe, known as N-Bomb.

If more teenagers knew that story, if they knew that N-Bomb and other synthetic drugs have chemicals that could kill them, they might make a different choice, Motsay said.

“It’s part of why I keep going every day, is to know there’s the opportunity to save somebody else like Sam,” she said.

Motsay also has been meeting with State Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, who’s sponsoring a bill in this year’s legislative session that he hopes will increase the penalty for anyone who is caught with or is dealing a synthetic drug. If the bill becomes law, anyone caught with synthetic drugs could face the same penalties as someone caught with drugs already defined as illegal. For example, someone possessing a synthetic hallucinogen would face the same penalty as someone caught with LSD, Merritt said.

“We’re saying to those that might want to use these drugs or deal these drugs that you’re going to be prosecuted the same way as if you were using the actual drug it imitates or looks like,” Merritt said.

Merritt reached out to Motsay shortly after Sam’s death, and the pair started speaking to parents and high school and college students about the dangers of synthetic drugs.

One of those presentations included a forum in Johnson County in August after school was back in session. Little was known about N-Bomb when Sam died; and Motsay, Merritt and local police departments wanted students and parents to know how dangerous synthetic drugs could be.

Shortly after, Motsay rented office space in Center Grove, near State Road 135 and Smith Valley Road. She has a full-time job working for a health care organization and works from home; but after Sam’s death, it was difficult spending a lot of time at the house.

The office gave Motsay a place to clear her head, and it quickly evolved into the headquarters for Sam’s Watch, a group dedicated to spreading the word about the dangers of synthetic drugs.

Motsay does a few hours of work for the nonprofit at the end of each day. Right now, her focus is on signing Indiana schools up for National Drug Facts Week at the end of January. The goal of the week is to educate teens about drugs. So far, 35 schools have pledged to participate, she said.

To encourage schools to sign up, Sam’s Watch is sponsoring drawings and contests for prizes, including $1,000, which can be used to fund student activities, and three iPad minis. The cash and iPads were donated by local businesses and Motsay’s friends and family.

Working with Sam’s Watch is cathartic, Motsay said, but she’s learning how to deal with the pain of losing a child. She knew the holidays last month would be difficult, but the hurt was worse than she expected.

“Sometimes you don’t realize how low you can really feel,” she said.

Motsay knows that she’ll have to keep learning how to cope with that pain. So she doesn’t have long-term goals for Sam’s Watch yet. She said those goals will evolve as she continues to heal.

“You end up in a place you never expected,” she said. “So it’s hard to think about the future.”

A mother's message: Synthetic drugs designed to pass high school drug tests

Many parents reading news articles about teenagers experimenting with synthetic drugs may say to themselves, “Couldn’t happen to my kid.” One Indiana mother, Jeanine Motsay, has a message for parents across the nation: “It may not be your kid but it’s what your kid doesn’t know that’s going to make the difference.”

Jeanine lost her 16-year-old son, Sam, to a synthetic drug called NBOMe, or synthetic LSD, on Mother’s Day, May 11, 2014. Sam’s death motivated Motsay to provide the public, the media, educators and even law enforcement to be aware of what is residing quite prolifically in our midst.

Samswatch.org is a website created by Motsay and is devoted to education about synthetic drugs. The website has drawn nationwide attention and has been recognized by organizations such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse and theNational Institutes of Health. SamsWatch.org aims to alert communities state by state on incidents involving these drugs. 

One of the biggest problems with synthetic drugs is that when they hit the market they are essentially legal, that is, they are unknown to drug agencies and police so they haven’t been classified at all. In the case of Sam, NBOMe became illegal in November 2013, but that didn’t mean information was readily available about it.

Remembering Sam Motsay

Sophomore Sam Motsay had a 4.0 grade point average and already knew what he wanted to study in college. He played tenor saxophone and was a forward on the Center Grove, Indianapolis, junior varsity basketball team. He and his two best friends, also on the team, decided they would try NBOMe together on the Saturday night. On the Sunday morning Sam didn’t wake up.  

Motsay believes Sam’s motivation was to do this particular drug was to avoid detection; it moves quickly through the body and is hard to detect in a high school drug test.

According to the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 2014, “Current research reinforces previous conclusions that student drug testing is a relatively ineffective drug policy.” Motsay believes that “When you have a drug policy in place you must have all the bells and whistles that go with it, not just the policy.” In the case of Sam’s school in Indiana, she says “They are only testing 6 to 8 percent of the population.”

“But it came out of the blue,” Motsay says, “Sam was a health conscious kid who looked the other way when it came to teenage smokers and drinkers.” What propelled him out of the blue seems unclear: peer group pressure, a teenagers yearning for experimentation, the need to be “cool”?

The police were able to go through Sam’s phone to find out where Sam had bought the drugs from. Another student at his school had passed on the phone number of a connection to the drug dealer. The drug passed through two sets of adult hands before it got to Sam.

On the Tuesday after his death, 65 DEA, narcotics agents and police officers stormed the house of Zachary Catron, 24, on the south side of Indianapolis. Inside Catron’s home they found NBOMe, heroin, ecstasy, gold bullion bars, guns and ammunition. He had recently been sentenced to 20 years for dealing cocaine and methamphetamine but it was reduced to 18 years suspended and he was put on an ankle monitoring bracelet. One of the adults who facilitated the drug deal turned himself in when he heard about what happened to Sam Motsay. The other eventually turned himself in as well.

Mother's efforts to educate about synthetic drugs gaining ground

JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind. (November 27, 2014) – A central Indiana mother is ramping up her efforts to educate teens and their parents about the dangers of synthetic drugs. Samuel Motsay, 16, died of an N-Bome overdose on Mother’s Day.

His mother’s turned her pain into passion to prevent more deaths.

This Thanksgiving, Jeanine Motsay has a message of strength, though her heart remains broken.

“We really are thankful. We don’t want to be in this situation, but we really are thankful we’ve made it to this part,” she said, “I’m thankful for my faith, and I still have hope for the future.”

It’s been six months since her 16-year-old son, honor student, and athlete Sam died of a drug overdose. N-bome is a synthetic substance the teen had taken with friends, a substance the Drug Enforcement Administration calls a hazard to public safety.

“I think about Sam. Sam was a smart kid. With information, he would never have made the decision he made, is my hope,” Motsay said.

Passing information along is what got Jeanine going. She started telling her story, reaching out to teens and parents locally after Sam’s death.

But she didn’t stop there.

Sam’s Watch is a nonprofit organization, built on awareness, with a website laying out information about designer drugs and emerging trends.

“Every time I take a step forward as it relates to Sam’s Watch, I think about what I would have wanted to do,” said Motsay.

And in the new year, Jeanine wants to get into Indiana schools even more. Sam’s Watch will be working with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of a program in late January, to hand out facts about drugs to teens.

“This is just a launching point for something that could become a drug facts network, so we could be convening on a regional basis, about what’s happening in different areas of the state,” Motsay said.

Signs of Sam are everywhere in his mother’s office. And though the year’s been tough, she said courage keeps her and her family moving forward, along with their love for Sam.

“We’re going to make it,” she said.

Schools can contact Sam’s Watch directly by email at info@samswatch.org or by phone, 888-575-1015.

You can also like the Sam’s Watch page on Facebook here or follow the organization on Twitter here.

Mother Shares Story Of Synthetic Drug That Killed Son

NBOMe Synthetic Drug Kills Teen

By Jane Sugiyama. CREATED Nov 12, 2014

On Mother's Day, May 11, 2014, the Motsay family lost a loved one.

Sam Motsay, an honor student and avid athlete, had big plans for the future. However, he became victim to a little-known synthetic drug called NBOMe. This drug is targeted at teens as a substitute for LSD and can be as lethal as poison with just one use.

"Sam was not involved with alcohol or gateway drugs. He was very health conscious because he was an athlete. He was always very alert about what he was doing and putting into his body," said Sam's mother, Jeanine Motsay.

Due to the nature of the drug, NBOMe works its way out of the human body much faster than other gateway drugs, putting the user at a higher risk. This makes the drug very alluring to athletes as they are often subject to random drug tests.

"The drug is literally taking poison because you don't know what exactly it is made up of since the compounds it contains are man-made and random, and haphazardly put together. To make it look like it is not dangerous, the drug is packaged to look like candy as the wrapping features pictures of clowns and primary colors." 

The drug that killed Sam was not made illegal until November 15, 2013. Prior to making NBOMe illegal, users were able to order the drug online.

"When we found out about NBOMe, we realized that in the week's following Sam's death there was not a lot of centralized knowledge about the drug. We wanted parents to have a place to go to learn more so they can have a conversation with their children about the dangers of synthetic drugs, particularly this one."

Leaving behind his parents and brother, Sam's family is seeking to educate the public about NBOMe through a website called SAMs Watch. SAMs Watch offers information about the dangers that young people, parents and schools readily need regarding this synthetic drug.

"It's not you, it's what you don't know."

Get more information about NBOMe by visiting www.samswatch.org or by visiting SAMs Watch Facebook and Twitter.