Labor Day weekend 2018, after most people were already in bed, 26-year-old Shawn Sinisi landed at the Pittsburgh Airport. No one was there to pick him up — he was alone with a simple bag of belongings, having been abruptly kicked out of one of the top drug rehab facilities in the country. He was supposed to be recovering from an addiction that had consumed most of his young life. Instead, he hit the streets to score.
It was almost midnight when he walked into a McDonald’s bathroom and dialed a friend to talk him through his misery while he shot a needle into his arm. She remembers his voice trailing off. The dope was laced with fentanyl. That night, Shawn became the first known and documented victim of Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse to die.
Exclusive interviews give a never-before-told story about how the system failed him — from the time he was sent to the now-defunct Second Mile charity camp, to the rehabilitation system that is poorly designed and ill-equipped to handle people like Shawn — who have underlying trauma that needs to be addressed along with the addiction.
We will tell the story of how he hopped from facility to facility, desperately trying to find the right kind of care, but instead finding a broken system. Most of the last decade has been about accurately recognizing and dealing with sexual abuse — bringing it to light, and holding people accountable. What’s next is treating those who are struggling with the effects. Shawn’s story highlights the complexities of this trauma and the system failures that are not being addressed.