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Milton family mourns loss of Rajien Harmon

Hardworking Cape grad, 22, lost to heroin
Rajien Harmon, 22, who died June 10 was a hard-working young woman who was loyal to her friends and family, they said. SUBMITTED PHOTOS
June 16, 2017

Rajien Harmon's friends and family are still reeling after the loss of a young woman they say was loyal to family and friends, with a smile that could brighten anyone’s day.

“She was a homebody, content with just being with family,” said her older sister, Jessica Griffin.

She was also a workaholic, and at the time of her death was working two jobs – one to raise extra income to buy school clothes and gifts for the children of one of her two sisters.

“She was a good aunt. She was a perfect daughter,” said her mother, Sharon Griffin-Harmon. “I wish I could have done something.”

Sharon said she had started to realize life had changed for her youngest daughter in the last couple of years. When Rajien's boyfriend unexpectedly died in late March, Rajien finally opened up to her mother. Their plan was for her to start drug counseling this week, Sharon said.

Her father, Deldin Harmon said, “I don't put my kid above anybody else.... Anything that happens to somebody else's kid can happen to mine, which it did.”

He said his daughter got “got hooked on drugs through another party, and later on she lost her life.”

The 22-year-old Milton resident had just finished a long shift at McDonald's in Long Neck June 10 when she was found unresponsive in a bathroom.

“Rajien was very well-liked, hardworking and an outgoing young lady,” said Mike Meoli, a co-owner of the McDonald's. “Our McDonald's family is very saddened by the loss of this bright, young person who had so much life to live. Our hearts and prayers go out to her family.”

Harmon was a floor supervisor at the restaurant before stepping down to work as an hourly crew member, he said.

“She was human. She had faults. She wasn't perfect,” her father said.

“Nobody is,” Sharon chimed in. “But she was a good girl. She really was.”

Harmon, a 2013 Cape Henlopen High School graduate who often made the honor roll, had planned to one day run her own daycare.

Her love of children stemmed from time spent with Jessica's four kids, who would scream “Jien-Jien!” in unison every time she stopped by to give them gifts, take them to the park or out for a quick bite to eat at McDonald's.

“She was on her way,” Jessica said.

In her free time, Rajien loved to watch Family Guy, Law & Order Special Victims Unit and hang out with her few close friends.

“She was hilarious,” said her best friend Chante Joyner, recalling a recent playful spat over the last pieces of fried chicken cooked by Rajien's second sister, Latoya Cook.

Rajien could be loud at times but was mostly an introvert, friends and family said, often sticking close to home.

“She was my baby,” Sharon said, adding that while she was quiet and hardworking like her father, she was a momma's girl through and through.

Her family said they suspect fentanyl or another deadly substance may have played a role in the young woman's death, but they won't know for sure until the state Division of Forensic Science's toxicology report is available in a few months. Those reports are not made public, said agency spokeswoman Wendy Hudson, who said autopsy reports take 12 weeks or longer to finalize.

Police said no foul play is suspected in Rajien’s death, and there is an ongoing investigation; Delaware passed a law in 2016 to hold drug dealers responsible in the case of an overdose death.

But the speculation that circulated on social media has been heartbreaking – and infuriating – for Harmon's friends and family.

“How can people be so inhumane like that?” Jessica asked. “Media shows us so much now. You can see death right on your phone. So people look at it as just everyday life so they don't take it seriously anymore. But it is very serious, especially when you love a person so much. It hurts.”

Deldin said he's avoided social media, but he reiterated that the heroin epidemic is far-reaching, and the tragedy that struck his family can happen to anyone.

“My family is not any better than anyone else's,” he said. “But you didn't know her. You didn't know her hopes and dreams.”

A GoFundMe page started by close family friends, Maria Horsey Nathan and Brenda Evans-Mason, aims to raise $5,000 to help Harmon's family with funeral expenses.

As of June 15, two days after the fundraiser launched, more than a dozen people donated more than $700. Because Rajien was so young, there was no life insurance policy, and her family needs the financial assistance by early next week.

“She was kindhearted and respected everybody,” Sharon said, holding back her tears. “I just miss her so much.”

A viewing will be held at 11 a.m., Saturday, June 24, followed by the funeral at 1 p.m. at Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church at 23115 Slaughter Neck Road in Lincoln.

To make a donation, go to gofundme.com/rajien-harmon-funeral-fund

Heroin's grip on Delawareans

Delaware has seen a sharp rise in overdose deaths in the last five years, with nearly 100 lives claimed so far this year.

In 2016, 308 people died from overdoses – which includes all types of drugs and alcohol – marking a 35 percent increase from 228 overdose deaths reported in 2015, according to the Division of Forensic Science.

Paramedics throughout the state and many police agencies carry the overdose-reversing naloxone medication, and all Delaware residents have access to training in the use of the life-saving medication. For more about naloxone training classes in Delaware, go to tinyurl.com/yda679pp.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, go to HelpIsHereDE.com for a list of treatment, recovery and prevention resources.