Father says cocaine addiction killed his son

  • Daniel Elderkin, right, with his father, David. Daniel Elderkin died in August 2003 after taking cocaine and falling into a Bartlett pond and drowning.

    Daniel Elderkin, right, with his father, David. Daniel Elderkin died in August 2003 after taking cocaine and falling into a Bartlett pond and drowning.

Sue Ter Maat
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Updated 4/4/2014 5:31 PM
Editor's note: This story originally ran on Oct. 26, 2003 as part of the Daily Herald's "Hidden Scourge: Heroin in the Suburbs" series.

When in the full grip of drug addiction, Daniel R. Elderkin would run around, sometimes with knives, convinced someone was out to get him.

Family members said the 22-year-old once called police for help, babbling about the imaginary people he thought meant to harm him.


His problem became so serious, on one painful August day his brother and father wrestled him down onto the kitchen floor of their Bartlett home and forcibly admitted him to a hospital.

When he was released just a day later, his parents declared he was under "house arrest." They took his money and credit cards away and forbid him from driving.

But the craving for cocaine proved to be too much. On Aug. 9, he tricked his parents into believing he was just going to take a walk and instead drove off in his car.

In one of his last acts in his life, Elderkin scored another hit of cocaine. Three days later, a lawn care worker found his body floating in a Bartlett pond.

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"What it comes down to is that cocaine killed our son, who had so much going for him," said his father, David Elderkin.

His last moments

Dan Elderkin, a Elgin High School graduate, had "substantial" levels of cocaine in his system, which caused him to become so disoriented it led to his death, said Jack Eichler, DuPage County's senior deputy coroner.

Eichler said Elderkin drowned, but that cocaine was a contributing factor, meaning that without the drug's influence Dan probably could have pulled himself out of the water and survived.

During the last hours of his life, Elderkin, who had lived in Carpentersville with his wife, left his parents' home, where he was staying to get control of his addiction.

Authorities said he took cocaine and then drove around Bartlett for hours until his car ran out of gas along a street in the Far Hills subdivision, near Route 59 and Schick Road.


Droplets of Elderkin's blood helped investigators piece together what happened next.

After Elderkin's car stopped, he got out and walked to a house where no one was home. He apparently tried to climb up the downspout, because authorities found it was bent and pulled away from the house.

Eichler doesn't believe Elderkin was trying to burglarize the house. But he cut the right side of his head, probably in the mishap with the downspout. He walked around the house, leaving drops of blood on the swing set and patio.

Dan made his way about 100 feet across the street, where a large subdivision pond was at the bottom of a relatively steep incline.

He fell into the pond and died.

A lot to live for

By many accounts, Dan Elderkin was a good kid from a stable family, who had everything to live for at the time of his death.

He married his childhood sweetheart in July and had just begun a job as an agent in a Chicago real estate firm.

He was also looking forward to starting his junior year as a business major at Roosevelt University after attending Elgin Community College.

Elderkin spent the first year of his life in Hoffman Estates, but the family then moved to Bartlett. After graduating from Elgin High School in 1999, he thought about becoming a teacher and worked at a day-care center.

When he married, Elderkin switched to business because he thought it would better help him support a family.

But his life took a wrong turn earlier this year when a friend introduced him to cocaine, David Elderkin said.

Over time, his behavior deteriorated. Elderkin began hallucinating. While cocaine gave him a high, it also changed his personality from a naturally nervous and careful man to one who was experiencing full-scale paranoia.

"He saw people in the same room even though no one was there," according to his father.

During one of his worst episodes, Elderkin was so paranoid he called Carpentersville police about the people who were out to get him.

Upon arrival, police subdued and arrested Elderkin, who was prowling his townhouse, carrying knives for protection.

Elderkin then admitted to his wife and parents that he had a drug addiction. He told them he'd seek help. For a time, it appeared he was recovering without a relapse.

Just days before he died, Elderkin arrived at his parents' house at 2 a.m. after a cocaine binge, claming at least 20 people in the house were trying to hurt him.

Family members wrestled him to the ground and took the kitchen knives away.

Instead of having him arrested, the family agreed that Elderkin should be taken to a hospital, where he was kept overnight.

The next day, the hospital released him. The Elderkins had asked that he stay so that the addiction's cravings could settle down. But Dan wanted out, and the hospital couldn't keep him against his will.

Once home, his parents laid down the law. He was forbidden from leaving the house. But on the pretense of taking a walk, he left in his car.

Police called the family days later, telling them a man's body had been found in a pond. Dan had died less than a mile from where he'd grown up.

"In retrospect, we should have let the police arrest him. The hospital had no choice but to release him," David Elderkin said.

"It's tough being a Monday morning quarterback."

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