The Tragic Death of Sammy Hayes

MEDFORD, Ore.  —  On June 7th, 2011, the body of a teenage boy was found in Ashland Creek. The deceased was later identified at Sammy Hayes, a local Ashland teen.

The medical autopsy determined that Hayes’s death was an accidental drowning. The autopsy also listed severe ethanol intoxication as a significant condition to Hayes’ death. In addition, the autopsy showed no significant natural or traumatic irregularities. Toxicology results from the autopsy showed that Hayes had a blood alcohol level of .27%.

Police say they believe Hayes got the alcohol from Richard Nolan Currier, who has no relation to Hayes, but has a background of purchasing alcohol for minors. Currier was arrested and was later arraigned in Jackson County Court on July 14. Currier pled not guilty to furnishing alcohol to a minor. Police say surveillance video showed Currier buying a half-gallon of whiskey from the Ashland Liquor Store, which they say he then gave to Hayes.

The initial report of Sammy Hayes death shocked the community; Hayes’ death affected many at Ashland High School, where Sammy was enrolled in the GED program. Hayes was well known by many students; his teacher said he was very well liked, and well respected. Alicia Cane was a good friend of Sammy’s and says she was shocked when she heard the news, and it’s still hard to believe.

A public memorial was held for Sammy Hayes over a week after his death. Hundreds came out to the memorial held at Culture Works in Ashland, which had served as a home base as family searched for him more than a week ago. Hayes’ family says based on the amount of people that showed up, it was clear the 16-year-old touched many lives.

On December 26, 2011, Richard Currier was sentenced for supplying alcohol to a minor. In court, Currier barely looked up, wiping the tears of his face in court. Currier’s attorney asked the judge for six months in jail. The state pushed for a year. The judge told him in court he hoped Currier would learn from the crimes he committed, asking Currier to take the time in prison to reflect on his actions. The judge sentenced Currier to 10 months in jail with no chance of early release.