The Dangers of a College Student Becoming a Campus Police Drug Informant

A mother said her son's college never told her he had a double life.

ByABC News
January 23, 2015, 1:47 PM

— -- intro: When Francesca sent her son Logan off to college at University of Massachusetts Amherst, she said they were in constant communication, exchanging phone calls at least once a week and texts every day. She was proud of his accomplishments at school and says he seemed to be thriving.

“He was having so much fun, he really was," Francesca told ABC News' "20/20." "He made a lot of friends."

But what she didn't know was that Logan had been recruited to be a confidential drug informant for the university’s campus police.

And for the first time, Francesca, who asked that her last name not be used, is speaking out about what happened to her son.

Scroll through to find out how it all unfolded.

quicklist:1title: Logan Thrives at Schoolmedia: 28388686text: In October 2013, Logan, whose name has been changed, was a junior kinesiology major and a recipient of a prestigious Chancellor’s scholarship at U-Mass Amherst. Growing up, he had been a Boy Scout and an AP student in high school.

“Very happy, always -- jokester, major jokester,” Francesca said of her son’s personality. “He was the life of the party, he really was. ... He was all about helping people.”

Logan’s family has set up a memorial foundation in his honor. For more information, visit their website HERE

Francesca, a real estate agent and a single mom, said she and her son were “very close.” Logan was her only child, and she said she would visit him every Family Weekend in the fall.

She never imagined that when she spoke to Logan the night before she was coming for Family Weekend in October 2013, it was going to be the last time.

quicklist:2title: A Parent’s Worst Nightmaremedia: 28388642text: On Oct. 4, 2013, Logan’s father, Francesca’s ex-husband, arrived at the school first for Family Weekend and soon discovered something was wrong.

“I was about a half-hour into the drive and his dad was supposed to meet him after his last class and take him to lunch,” Francesca said, noting that her ex-husband called her and said Logan wasn't here he was supposed to meet him.

Francesca’s ex then told her he had gone over to where Logan worked at the campus gym, but couldn't find him.

“He said, "Nobody's seen him,’” she said. “And I told him I just had an awful feeling, and I told him to ‘knock the door down, something has got to be wrong.'"

Logan's father got a maintenance worker to open Logan’s off-campus apartment door, shown here. Then he delivered the horrifying news.

“He said, ‘He's not breathing,’” Francesca said through tears. “That's all he was telling me is ‘he's not breathing.’ I said, ‘Call an ambulance,’ and he went from saying, ‘He's not breathing,’ to, ‘He's blue. He's dead.’”

At the time, Logan’s parents had no idea what had happened to their son, who loved hockey and was very athletic.

Francesca said she wasn't naive. She knew her son occasionally drank and smoked marijuana with friends. “I didn't see anything out of the ordinary,” she said. But a more serious offense was when he was arrested when he was 18 years old after police found cocaine residue in a pen in the trunk of his car during a traffic stop.

But Francesca said Logan was enjoying college, and was working towards becoming a physical therapist. She didn't know yet that her son had been tapped to work as a drug informant for campus police.

quicklist:3title: A Student Reporter Makes a Shocking Discoverymedia: 28384831text: When Logan was found dead, a fellow U-Mass Amherst student named Eric Bosco, pictured here, along with his classmate Kayla Marchetti, decided to look into the case as a class project for an investigative journalism class. He asked for public records on Logan’s death, which he said they copied and gave him.

Bosco said what he found was shocking. The police records showed details of a night 10 months before Logan’s death. He was a sophomore at the time and on Dec. 4, 2012, according to the records, Logan unwittingly sold two tabs of LSD to an undercover campus police officer for $20 and was caught. The records said campus police then raided his bedroom at his apartment.

“They find $700 in cash, an assortment of drugs, and a hypodermic needle,” Bosco said, recounting the records.

The hypodermic needle, which is banned on campus, the drugs and money would have typically led to an arrest, suspension and, as part of school policy, the parents should have been notified that a student was found responsible for a drug or alcohol violation.

But that night, the records showed that campus police decided to do something different for Logan.

“He was offered a chance to help himself by giving information in regards to another drug dealer,” Bosco said. “The offer was they'll drop all charges and they won't charge him with distributing LSD and for the possession of drugs in his room if he wears a wire and goes, makes a controlled buy from a higher-level dealer on campus.”

quicklist:4title: Becoming 'Confidential Informant No. 8.'media: 28437245text: According to campus police records, after Logan agreed to the deal, he is dubbed “Confidential Informant No. 8.” That same night, Dec. 4, 2012, the records say Logan contacted his former roommate, a friend called “Sleepy Dan,” and arranged to buy $70 of LSD while wearing a wire.

Bosco said that, “When [Logan] gets up into the room, he's wearing a wire, he makes the buy, he leaves the room, and detectives swoop in and make the arrest ... in a matter of minutes.”

Logan kept his role as a confidential informant a secret from his mother. Even six months after his death, campus police had not talked openly about the night of Dec. 4, 2012. In fact, Bosco said he was the one who told Francesca that Logan was an informant.

“That was probably the hardest thing I've ever done,” Bosco said. “It was just a powerful, tragic moment.”

Francesca became determined to help Bosco investigate Logan's death, and sent him her son's iPhone. When Bosco began looking through Logan’s text messages, he made another shocking discovery.

“We found a lot,” he said. “This kid hadn't deleted any text messages for a year and a half or two years that he had the phone. ... He was able to essentially speak from the grave.”

quicklist:5title: Logan’s Phone Reveals His Struggles With Going Undercovermedia:text: Logan’s texts made it clear that making the deal with campus police had taken a toll. In one text, Logan wrote, “kinda hard to live with myself. ... that was honestly the worst day of my life.” In another he wrote, “I feel like I lost a brother and it [is] all my fault. Kinda wish I was just behind bars right now.”

His phone also revealed a voicemail message left by U-Mass Amherst campus police one month after becoming an informant, which said they were returning the cash they took from his dorm room.

In the months before he died, Logan confided in his childhood friend John Neuwirth.

“He wasn't happy about what he did,” Neuwirth said. “He was ashamed. He felt bad. Anybody would. ... He gets labeled as a snitch, labeled as a rat. It’s basically ostracizing him from the community.”

As the months went on, Logan’s texts showed his drug use had escalated. “I’m a heroin addict,” he confessed to a friend in one text.

Then, in a text to a dealer he wrote 10 months after becoming CI-8, on the night before his parents were coming to visit for Parents Weekend, Logan wrote, “my veins are crying. ... is traffic going too bad?” The dealer wrote back, “you will very soon be in the loving comforting arms of Miss H.”

By the next morning, Logan was dead.

quicklist:6title: A Mother on a Missionmedia: 28384784text: Francesca, pictured here, is certain her son’s death could have been avoided if she had been given the chance to help him when he was busted for selling LSD on Dec. 4, 2012.

“We should have been called, under the policies and procedures of the university,” Francesca said. “I would have been up there in the middle of the night, bringing him home and finding him help. ... Just knowing there was a syringe, I would have gotten him help. I would have just automatically made an assumption it was heroin.”

According to Bosco, campus police claim that they asked Logan repeatedly if he had a drug problem, and they said he assured them he did not. But his mother is skeptical.

“Nobody wants to believe they have a problem, and no one's going to admit it, especially when you have so much at stake,” she said. “For the police to say, ‘We asked him,’ really? I don't even know what to say to that.”

Francesca launched a mission to hold the university accountable for Logan’s death.

quicklist:7title: A University Changes Its Policymedia: 28384736text: Bosco's story about his investigation into Logan’s death landed on the front page of the Boston Globe on Sept. 28, 2014, and led prosecutors to re-open the case. Even the university’s own Vice Chancellor of University Relations John Kennedy, shown here, said he didn’t know the details of Logan’s informant work until Bosco’s report came out.

“We learned through the reporting process,” Kennedy said.

John Kennedy told "20/20" the district attorney has instructed him not to talk about the specifics of this case because it is an ongoing and pending investigation.

He said Logan’s parents weren't notified that Logan had become a drug informant for U-Mass Amherst campus police because the policy on confidential informants protected his identity.

"I would say that this was a revealing moment for us because it caused us to go look at the policy," Kennedy said. "Parental notification was not required as part of the policy. Notification of the administration was not required as a part of the policy. ... that was a shortcoming."

U-Mass Amherst is not the only university with a student drug informant program. University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Campus Police Chief Matthew Kierderlen said they have used 20 CIs since 2012, and it’s made the campus unattractive to drug dealers. But he said students are never coerced into being CIs, they offer do it as a chance to erase drug offenses from their records.

“Our intent is to make this as safe as is possible,” Kierderlen said. “There's certainly always unknowns but we try to account for as much known as we can.”

After what happened to Logan, the university launched an immediate review, Kennedy said, and last week U-Mass Amherst “decided to do away with the use of student confidential informants on this campus.”

In the wake of Logan’s case, amendments to Rachel's Law, which puts restrictions on the use of confidential informants, are currently being debated in both the Florida state House of Representatives and the state Senate that would prohibit university campus police from recruiting or using enrolled students for drug buy-bust operations, but would allow them to provide confidential information. It would also require law enforcement to refer treatment programs to known drug abusers who become confidential informants, and prohibit police from using known drug abusers in buy-bust operations.

For Francesca, the policy change at U-Mass Amherst was a small comfort. Today, she said she is working to bring the heroin dealer who sold the lethal dose to her son to justice. Just this week, “20/20” learned that the phone number of the dealer Logan had been texting the night he died belonged to a paid teacher’s assistant at U-Mass Amherst, according to the university directory. He is no longer at the school, and the open investigation is now in the hands of the district attorney.

The Northwestern District Attorney declined to comment on the investigation into the dealer’s role in Logan’s death.

“Maybe they made [the dealer] a confidential informant,” Francesca said.