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Fargo family mourns loss of son to suspected heroin overdose

FARGO -- Lucas Anderson often found himself seated at the standup piano in his parents' home, his fingers playing the keys in a way that could illuminate the darkness.

Jon and Nikki Anderson, the parents of Lucas, a victim of a recent opiate overdose, talk Monday, March 14, 2016, in their Fargo home about how Lucas, a Concordia student and pianist, was not defined by his drug abuse. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Jon and Nikki Anderson, the parents of Lucas, a victim of a recent opiate overdose, talk Monday, March 14, 2016, in their Fargo home about how Lucas, a Concordia student and pianist, was not defined by his drug abuse. (Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor)

FARGO -- Lucas Anderson often found himself seated at the standup piano in his parents' home, his fingers playing the keys in a way that could illuminate the darkness.

On Monday afternoon, as the sunshine of a balmy March day filtered into the house on Eighth Street South in Fargo, the piano was noticeably silent.

"I'm just going to miss his music so much," said his mother, Nikki Anderson. "He could light up a room with his music."

Lucas Anderson, a 26-year-old Concordia College student who lived with his parents, died at home Saturday. The next day, local police agencies held a news conference where they said his death was the latest in a string of five suspected overdoses that left three dead last week.

Investigators believe the overdoses may be linked to heroin laced with fentanyl, a potent prescription painkiller. A group of suspected heroin dealers were arrested Sunday at a south Fargo hotel, and authorities say they were Lucas Anderson's suppliers.

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His family says they hope talking about his death can lead to more avenues of help for those suffering from addiction, a chronic disease that can affect people of all backgrounds.

"We lost Luke," Nikki Anderson said. "We don't want to see anybody else lose their life over any sort of overdose."

While Lucas Anderson struggled with addiction for years, it didn't define him, his family said. "Addiction is an experience, it's not your identity," his mother said.

Mike Anderson, 36, described his younger brother as an artist who lived a lot of life in a short time. And with a charismatic personality, he had an extensive network of friends.

"He was a lover. He was, you know, a hopeless romantic," his brother said. "Women definitely loved him."

Lucas Anderson's family is no stranger to grief. In July 2014, his 28-year-old sister, Ashley, took her own life after battling depression. Losing two of their three children in less than two years has left Nikki Anderson and her husband, Jon, in shock.

"Our faith in each other is a big part of how we get through it, and our faith in God," Jon Anderson said.

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'He found solace'

Lucas Anderson taught himself to play piano at the age of 6, practicing constantly even though it drove his brother crazy.

He graduated from South High School where his popularity helped him win the title of Mr. South. At Concordia, he was a music major with a focus on piano performance.

He played in the college's jazz band, but his interests were mainly classical. Frederic Chopin and Franz Liszt were his favorite composers.

For several years, he had stepped away from music. But he returned to it after the death of his sister. With a key to First Presbyterian Church in Fargo, he would practice there at night.

"He found solace in the church where her funeral was, and he would go play all night there," his mother said.

His family said he knew about the deaths of the two other men who recently died from suspected overdoses. One of the men, 24-year-old Tyson Chaney, had friends in common with Lucas Anderson, and he went to Chaney's funeral to support those friends, Mike Anderson said.

Lucas Anderson's former girlfriend, Cassandra Colling, said that after attending Chaney's funeral he told her he was having a hard time with the fact that someone he knew had died from an overdose.

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"He was very compassionate," said Colling, 30. "He cared a lot about everybody."

His family said that he had gone through drug treatment a few times, that he wanted to be clean and that he didn't want to die.

Aware of their son's addiction, Nikki and Jon Anderson took precautions to try to keep him safe, which included obtaining Narcan, a nasal spray for the emergency treatment of overdoses to heroin and other opiates. Still, their worries never ended.

"You're kind of living on the edge of your seat always thinking: Is he going to use?" his father said. "It's an evil thing. It's around his neck all the time."

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