The Bangor mother found dead Monday afternoon in the median of Interstate 95 in Old Town had battled heroin addiction and told her story last spring to Gov. Paul LePage and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.
In May, about a year and a half after Bangor resident Liza Parker was arrested for dealing heroin to feed her addiction, she stood before LePage, Price and senior presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway to tell her story of recovery.
She told them that she had pulled herself away from the grip of addiction when she walked into an Ellsworth drug rehabilitation center in the summer of 2016, and in May spoke passionately about being clean and supporting recovery programs.
“I had to do a complete 360 with my life,” Parker said at the May 10 press conference in Augusta, held as part of an opiate addiction roundtable hosted by the governor. “I literally had to change everything.”
Parker was apparently heading north toward Howland Sunday night to meet the father of her son, Mason Worcester, 5, when she went off the left side of the highway, hit a bump and went airborne, crashing into the trees in the median, investigators believe. Her children suffered only minor injuries in the fatal crash.
Parker died as a result of the crash, according to the autopsy results, released Wednesday.
“The cause of death for Liza Parker is head and neck injuries, the manner has been ruled accidental,” Mark Belserene, spokesman for the medical examiner’s office, said.
Parker had spent part of Sunday working at the Riverside Cafe in Ellsworth. Afterward, she picked up her son and daughter, 1½-year-old Tiaona Robinson, from Hills House, a residential recovery project run by Open Door Recovery in Ellsworth, a program Parker had graduated from in April, Barbara Royal, executive director of Open Door, said Wednesday.
“It’s a tragedy,” Royal said. “I loved that woman. I loved her babies. It’s very surreal for us here right now. All the women share this experience together. They bond. They become a unit. It’s a tremendous loss all the way round.”
Royal believes she may have been one of the last people to see and talk with Parker, who was reported missing on Sunday when she didn’t arrive in Howland. Police believe she crashed Sunday night. Her vehicle, which was down over an embankment, was spotted by a tractor trailer driver Monday afternoon.
“I saw her just a couple hours before the accident when she was picking up the children,” Royal said. “The last words I said to her were: This door will always be open to her. ‘It will always be open.’”
Her family said she had been free from heroin for more than a year.
“She spent the last year and a half sober and proud,” her uncle Rodger Dow of Danforth said Wednesday. “That’s what her children will remember her by.”
Parker said in May that she was very grateful that she always had her children by her side.
“It’s like I’m the captain of my very own little team,” she said. “We are forever a package deal and there are no lengths I wouldn’t go through for them.”
Royal described her as an “inspiration” to the other women in the recovery home because “she was a woman of dignity. She spoke the truth. And not only did she work incredibly hard, she was an amazing mother.”
Rachel Higgins, manager at the cafe, said Parker was a hard worker and that “everybody just loved her.”
The cafe already has a donation jar on the counter for those who want to donate to a fund created for Parker’s children. A fundraising event also is being planned with details to be posted on the cafe’s Facebook page.
“She is going to be hard to replace, that is for sure,” Higgins said.