It is not OK to sleep on the floor of a high school hallway. Ever. So, when Dean Fennel from Holy Trinity High School called Teri Kroll early in the 2001 school year to say that her son, 16-year-old Timothy Kroll, was doing just that, she and Tim’s father Frank were more than a little concerned. The Copiague family had never faced such a situation before.
They demanded Tim be drug tested. Despite his protestations, claiming he was part of a group of kids known as “straight edge”—a culture that abstains from drugs, cigarettes and alcohol— he acquiesced and submitted to urine tests. They came up negative. Timothy went into counseling and was diagnosed with depression. He continued his counseling at the school. He had friends. He skateboarded. He surfed. All was good.
Tim enrolled in Farmingdale State College, but did not embrace the typical partying lifestyle of a college student.
“He spent his time at home mostly,” says Teri Kroll.
He did not go to the bars often if at all. Tim was also starting to suffer from headaches. His depression worsened and he began to exhibit suicidal tendencies. Frank and Teri had trouble finding a psychiatrist.
“You call in April, and they say ‘Yeah, bring him in June,’” says Frank. “But he needed help.”
He was admitted for psychiatric assistance and spent one week in the hospital. It was not a good week for him. After tests revealed he was not suffering from migraines, an ear, nose and throat specialist said maybe there was something wrong with that part of his anatomy. Treatments were tried, but they did not work. Tim still fought the headaches.
It was in the Spring of 2005 that Teri and Frank brought Timothy to Dr. Saji Francis, an internal medicine doctor based in Massapequa, literally steps away from Massapequa High School.
“He told us he was going to help Tim,” says Teri.
Francis chatted with Tim. They talked about Tim’s future, what he wanted to do with his life. Dr. Francis told Tim he was an adult, and he could go outside of the U.S. and attend medical school one day. Tim was prescribed a pain medication, and Francis told him to come back one week after that visit. Tim did go back to Francis, as it turns out, and told him the pills were not working. So Francis prescribed oxycodone, a powerful pain killer and dangerously addictive opiate. Teri and Frank say this was the first time their son did any real drugs. And without their knowledge, Tim would continue to see Dr. Francis and refill the powerful prescription. Tim became addicted and fell into a life of psychological despair and torment.
On Dec. 8, 2009, Dr. Francis was arrested in his office, charged with illegally selling prescriptions for cash.
It was four months after Teri Kroll had called the Nassau County Police Department’s Narcotics/Vice Squad and told them about Dr. Francis.
And three months after Timothy Kroll died in his bed at age 23, after four hellish years.
“No One Gets to Come In”
By the time he was arrested, Dr. Saji Francis’ name was known to detectives in Nassau’s narcotics squad, at least by nickname.
“His name didn’t come up a lot, but we had some people who were arrested mention a Dr. Frank,” says Detective Lt. Andy Fal, the commander of the unit.
Teri Kroll told her story to Fal and Detectives Jayne Collins and Debbie Gibson in June, 2009. The information about Dr. Francis was intriguing. It became even more enticing when another tipster contacted the unit and said a family member was coming out of rehab after treatment of an addiction to, among other things, oxycodone. The caller did not want the family member returning to Dr. Francis because of the doctor’s reputation for providing easy access to hard drugs.
“Kind of just like that, Dr. Francis was on our radar,” says Fal.
It had been four years since Teri and Frank had taken Timothy to Dr. Francis, hoping he would help rid the young man of his painful headaches. In that time, the Kroll family lived a nightmare.
“There was one year when literally, every day my phone rang with some other drama about Timmy,” says Frank Kroll, standing in the dining room of the Copiague house where he raised his children Timothy and daughter Jaime.
There is an incredible sense of charm and calm in the house. On the walls painted with soft, inviting earth tones are sayings, lines like “The fondest memories are made when gathered around the table.”
The loss of their son is obviously devastating to the Krolls, and they trace Tim’s battle with addiction to his visits with Dr. Francis.
His parents started to become aware that something was terribly wrong with Tim. They rifled through his trunk and found a large bottle of oxycodone. After being confronted with the pills, the family visited a doctor who suggested that Tim be admitted into a hospital for detox. He instead asked his parents if he could spend five days with his father in Montauk, just the two of them.
“He did not have a good experience when he was hospitalized before,” says Teri. “He said he wanted to go with his father and surf it out.”
The two headed east in Frank’s VW bus.