Get unlimited digital access to baltimoresun.com. $0.99 for 4 weeks.
News

The repeat offender

ELDERSBURG -- It's a rather steep drop from the ridge of trees off State Road 26 to the open field and woods in this parcel of Carroll County. But serpentine footpaths and beer and liquor bottles prove people have made their way down off the highway and into this wooded cover, where a woman could hide, if not from herself.

Twenty-two minutes, the police report noted. That's the time Brenda Sawyer spent in these woods Nov. 27 near the scene of her 10th arrest for driving drunk. Shoeless, apparently intoxicated (white zinfandel again?), covered in dirt, eyes bloodshot, Sawyer had to come out sooner or later; a K-9 unit had been called to flush her out.

They didn't need the dogs.

Sawyer stumbled out, protested her innocence, then broke into sobs. She was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, driving with a revoked license, rear-ending a trooper's parked cruiser and running from the scene of an accident, among other charges. She became front-page news. It's an outrage -- she could have killed someone, many would say. Wasn't a Baltimore woman charged with drunken driving and killing a 7-year-old girl crossing Moravia Road just days before Christmas?

Twenty-two minutes in the woods. Were they Sawyer's lowest point in a 21-year span of drunken-driving arrests? "Everybody has a different rock bottom. For some, it might be losing their house or getting a DUI and going to jail," says Danean O'Haver, an addiction counselor in Frederick County. Spending four months in jail before her latest arrest apparently wasn't Sawyer's lowest low. Addiction specialists say every rock bottom can have a trap door.

Brenda Sawyer's life has been saddled by a recurring prefix: ex. Sawyer has ex-jobs, an ex-husband, an ex-boyfriend, ex- friends, an ex-home. Alcoholism has cost her almost everything, except the love and support of her parents and yet another chance at recovery and redemption.

There is another side to the 42-year-old Sawyer: the sober side. That's the Sawyer who would work at soup kitchens or buy needy families toys and clothes at Christmas time, a woman who might finally realize she has a serious problem. When sober, what an earnest person and loyal friend, a treasured daughter and sister, a workhorse, people say. When sober.

Alcoholism not only runs in Sawyer's family, her mother says, it's continued to run over her daughter's life. "Brenda is very ill," says Glenda Sawyer of Virginia. "She is not a criminal."

Her daughter awaits trial in May. As a nonviolent repeat offender, if she serves only one year in jail, it will still be her longest time behind bars. Alcoholism might be a seductive disease, "but there's still not a disease that makes people drive," says the prosecutor in Sawyer's case, Senior State's Attorney David Daggett of Carroll County. "I don't have any sympathy for her."

A homeless and unemployed Sawyer rang in the New Year in a drug treatment center in Sykesville. She called her estranged 17-year-old son, Joe Kennelly, who lives with Sawyer's ex-husband in West Virginia. It was a short conversation, as usual. She told him she wants to go to school and become a drug counselor.

"The way she was talking, it sounds like she's doing better," Joe says. "But that's nothing she hasn't said before."

Maybe Sawyer is serious about recovery this time. Maybe she hit bottom in those 22 minutes before she emerged from the woods last November. But, in a sense, Brenda Sawyer has been lost in the woods for a long time.

A 'BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL PERSON'

"These people are usually not the subject of public notice or concern. But each one of them is a precious soul who was once a little girl or boy filled with promise and dreams."

-- Former U.S. Sen. George McGovern, writing in his 1996 book, Terry: My Daughter's Life- and-Death Struggle with Alcoholism.

A subject of public notice, Brenda Sawyer declined several requests to be interviewed. Court records, accounts from family members, friends, former co-workers, attorneys, addiction specialists and researchers, law enforcement officials and newspaper articles were used to create this portrait of a drunken-driving repeat offender.

Brenda Lee Sawyer was born June 3, 1959, in Jacksonville, Fla. Her father, William, was in the drywall business; her mother, Glenda, a homemaker. After moves to Indiana and Texas, the Sawyer family settled on a 100-acre farm near Rochester, N.Y. There, in the 1960s, Brenda Lee grew up alongside her two younger brothers, Robert and Edward, and her older sister, Debbie. The farm served as one big playground.

Sawyer was an average student who loved playing baseball and riding horses. She still keeps the blanket from her old horse, Gambler. She had a fine singing voice and would enter local beauty pageants, her mother remembers. Brenda was fearless, her family says. Her grandfather nicknamed her "Steeplejack" because no tree was too high for Brenda to climb.

Her brother Edward remembers going exploring with Brenda one day when he was 7. Out in the woods, Ed fell into a pit -- the bottom of which was home to a hornet's nest. Stung more than a hundred times, he screamed like mad as 9-year-old Brenda reached into the buzzing hole, pulled him out with one hand and carried him a half-mile back to their home. Nothing could stop Brenda, her young brother believed.

"Alcohol is the only thing that has ever whipped her," says her 65-year-old mother, Glenda. "It has robbed us of that beautiful, beautiful person."

The Sawyers were members of the Worldwide Church of God, a small, fundamentalist Christian group started by a former advertising salesman from Oregon, Herbert W. Armstrong. His sect's beliefs included home births and schooling, faith healing and 30 percent tithing from its members, who were encouraged not to celebrate Christmas, Easter or any conventional religious holidays. Children were also discouraged from celebrating birthdays, and their diet and schooling were often strictly controlled. For many years, cult specialists followed the group. (Most of Armstrong's teachings were renounced by members after his death in 1986.)

The effect, if any, of Sawyer's childhood religion on her subsequent drinking is open for speculation. Glenda Sawyer, who is still a member of the church, says, "Brenda loved the church when she was growing up." But Sawyer confided to a longtime friend, Rosita Underwood, that she had problems with her religious upbringing.

As a child, "Brenda felt she wasn't normal," Underwood says. In grade school, Sawyer would want to draw pictures of Santa during the holidays, but she knew it was against her religion and against her parents' beliefs. Years later, Underwood would recall the touching scene of Sawyer celebrating her first Christmas as an adult. The two friends, both single, spent Christmas together in Rockville, with Brenda busily buying ornaments and trimming her first tree.

After Sawyer graduated from high school, she left home to attend Ambassador College, a now-defunct California school founded by the Worldwide Church of God. A phone call she then placed to her mother came back to haunt the family. "Mom, there's something wrong," Sawyer had said. "I can't drink -- and I can't quit." She lasted one year in college.

She moved to Rockville to live with her "favorite aunt," Barbara Sawyer. Brenda spent four months with her aunt and was employed as a temporary office worker until she saved enough to get her own townhouse. Single, hard-working and attractive Brenda Sawyer was on her own.

"Brenda was a decent, sincere, churchgoing, country girl -- and drop-dead gorgeous," says Brian Kennelly, Sawyer's ex-husband. Now 46, Kennelly lives in West Virginia with their two teen-age sons. They met in 1978, after a friend suggested Kennelly attend a Worldwide Church service just to meet Brenda.

Brian and Brenda married in 1982, and honeymooned in Knoxville, Tenn., so they could attend the World's Fair. Sawyer continued temp work and also worked in restaurants as a waitress and manager. She developed a keen eye for collectibles and antiques. The couple liked their country music and saw the Oak Ridge Boys at Merriweather Post Pavilion. They enjoyed spontaneous day trips, with Brenda riding on the back of Brian's Yamaha 650. Sometimes, they'd motor as far as Myrtle Beach, S.C., or the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

After she was married, Sawyer stopped attending church. She would talk about how the controlling church "screwed up her life," Kennelly says. "I heard stories from her about how the church took everything away from her." Everything being? "Her childhood," he says.

Their marriage was tempestuous. The couple would drink together, but Sawyer's drinking got out of control, Kennelly says. She was a binge drinker -- going sometimes weeks without alcohol then drinking like she couldn't get enough, he says. They'd go out to clubs and drink together, but he'd want to come home; she wouldn't. Sawyer started bartending "and that," Kennelly says, "wasn't a good thing."

By the mid-1980s, the couple had two young boys, Joseph and David. Sawyer started to sneak out through the back window of their home to find alcohol, Kennelly says. She had drunk everything in the house and would take the car to get more. Wine was her drink of choice.

"With Brenda," Kennelly says, "alcohol means: 'Let's drive.' " He would wait at home for her return -- if she returned.

He remembers going to the police station, baby boys in tow, to bail her out after three drunken- driving arrests. The early-morning phone calls from the police station became too frequent. One night, Kennelly remembers locking himself in their guest bedroom as his drunken wife upended furniture and tried to pry the door open with a crowbar. He remembers feeling rejected because she'd rather go out drinking than be with her family. Kennelly remembers telling his wife that if she got arrested again for drunken driving, she was gone.

She did, and in 1986, the couple split. The boys were 2 and 4. The oldest, David, now 19, lived on and off with his mother, including a few years with her recently in Carroll County. Joe has always lived with his father. The couple's children have already had their share of challenges. David was sent to a Carroll County hospital for a drug overdose last year, his father says. Joe, 17, says he doesn't drink "as much anymore."

"I've had enough to base that decision on," he says.

A FAMILY TRAIT

Brenda Sawyer's addiction, some might say, didn't begin in college or because her family was involved in a fundamentalist religion. Her drinking problem, some would say, began the day Brenda Lee was born.

"Brenda inherited alcoholism," says her mother, Glenda, over lunch one day in Frederick.

Alcoholism does tend to run in families, says the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, but the child of an alcoholic parent doesn't automatically become an alcoholic; conversely, children who become alcoholic don't necessarily have parents who are alcoholic. "Risk is not destiny," says the institute's Web site.

At the University of California, San Francisco, researchers are studying alcoholism and genetics. The purpose is to locate the genes, if any, that may play a role in an increased risk of the disease. If a key gene or genes could be found, perhaps a related treatment could be developed. More than 1,800 people have been interviewed since the study began in 1995.

"What has surprised me the most," says the study's co-director, Dr. Cassandra Vieten, "is the degree to which alcoholism destroys people and families."

Many researchers, Vieten says, believe the factors causing alcoholism are roughly 50 percent genetic and 50 percent environmental -- peer pressure at school, romantic or social relationships with other drinkers, known as enablers. In some individuals in alcoholic families, however, the genetic influence could be stronger, she says.

Glenda Sawyer says alcoholism runs in the family on both her side and her husband's side, although she and her husband do not drink. Three of their children, however, have struggled with drinking. Edward, 40, with three drunken-driving arrests, says he recently received his six-month chip of sobriety from Alcoholics Anonymous. He had stayed sober for 12 years but relapsed. A hit-and-run arrest last year was his rock bottom, he says.

His brother, Robert, was a recovering alcoholic before his death in January. Before Ed's relapse last year, both brothers had been sober a dozen years. They had helped each other achieve sobriety, and both relied on AA, which has a saying: Drinking only leads to jail, institutions or death. Ed Sawyer refers to another AA catch phrase: People who are allergic to alcohol break out in handcuffs. He has -- and so has his sister.

Other factors besides genetics can contribute to alcoholism. If the person has a mood disorder, predisposition to alcoholism can also increase, says Vieten. Sawyer's mother says Brenda has probably suffered from manic depression for many years but was professionally diagnosed only three years ago.

But genetics and psychological disorders do not force a drunk person to get behind the wheel of a car, some argue. Assuming personal responsibility remains a factor in that decision. "But keep it in context of some really biological internal drive to drink," suggests researcher Vieten.

And free will?

"There's a choice involved in there somewhere," she says.

TRAP DOORS

After her divorce, Sawyer moved to Gaithersburg and into her own townhouse. Her efforts to stay sober failed. By the start of 1995, she had amassed seven drunken-driving convictions in Montgomery County; the punishments included one 60-day weekend placement in an addiction program, probation before judgment, six months of home detention, and three suspended sentences. Sawyer's hunger for alcohol continued to defy common sense and the law.

In May 1995, a patrol officer noticed a Ford Tempo crossing the centerline of a Gaithersburg street at 2 a.m. Brenda Sawyer was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. Again, no one was hurt.

At her sentencing in December of the next year, a handful of "soccer moms" -- friends of Sawyer's -- came to court on her behalf. They testified they had no reservations about allowing their children to ride in Sawyer's car. The mothers' testimony and Sawyer's apparent sobriety since her arrest impressed the court, says Sawyer's lawyer, Patrick Smith.

It was her eighth drunken-driving conviction, and Sawyer received another suspended sentence and three years of probation. Circuit Judge Nelson W. Rupp Jr. in Rockville ordered Sawyer to attend three Alcoholics Anonymous meetings per week for three years. A device was installed on Sawyer's car that required her to essentially pass a breath test before it would start.

Three years later, Judge Rupp wrote Sawyer to say that her final court appearance would be canceled. Based on a talk with Sawyer's AA sponsor, "I am satisfied from your efforts ... that you are continuing to maintain sobriety," the judge's congratulatory letter said. "You deserve credit for the success you have achieved." Sawyer had again avoided jail time. More important, family and friends hoped that this time she would stay sober.

Sawyer eventually left Montgomery County for Carroll County, where she moved in with a boyfriend, Charles Ryan Jr. They lived in his home off Bartholow Road in Sykesville, and Sawyer started an online business, Past-Time Antiques. The couple had met at a Red, Hot and Blue barbecue restaurant in Southern Maryland, says Sawyer's longtime friend and confidante, Rosita Underwood.

"He was going to be the man of her dreams," Underwood says.

Brenda's son, David Kennelly, lived with the couple in the late 1990s. Their neighbor and David's friend, 17-year-old David Beynon, says David was often upset with his mother's drinking. But when she was sober, what a "cool person" she was, Beynon says. If things got tough at his home, Beynon says, he would go to the Sawyers' home and spend the night.

"She was like my second mom," he says. "But she got drunk too much."

Drinking didn't stop Sawyer from working. She continued selling her collectibles online. She could buy something at a yard sale and get triple the price on eBay, says her mother, who was her daughter's online business partner. Sawyer also continued working with her friend Underwood, who runs a concession business based in Howard County that caters to seasonal Maryland festivals. On the weekends, Brenda -- "my right arm" -- would help sell Italian sausages, hot dogs and fries, Underwood says.

Their 20-year friendship has withstood the normal changes in addresses, jobs, boyfriends and spouses. They've been drinking buddies, but, as Underwood says, many people "grow out" of drinking too much. Sawyer didn't. Underwood has done her share of bailing Brenda out of jams, and the women have had heart-to-hearts about Sawyer's bad choices.

"People ask me how can I do this for 20 years," Underwood says. "But she was there when I needed a friend. How can you turn your back on someone who is sick?"

In Carroll County, Sawyer eventually would be arrested for the ninth and 10th times on drunken-driving charges. Her rock bottoms apparently had trap doors.

"Someone needs to help her," says 17-year-old David Beynon.

"She's a person," says ex-husband Brian Kennelly. "She has her demons to deal with."

A MAGNITUDE OF PROBLEMS

Carroll County attorney Louie Shaw has represented hundreds of people charged with drunken driving. She's not a psychologist, but Shaw says her clients generally fall into two camps: the ones who drink too much at a party, stupidly drive, get caught, and are so ashamed they never appear in court again, and those that are addicted to alcohol. For the latter, rationality is skewed.

"I don't think alcoholics think, 'Hey, I'm going to go out driving drunk and hit a child,' " Shaw says. "I think they just don't think."

It's legal to be drunk. It's illegal to drive while impaired, which in Maryland is defined as having a blood alcohol level of .07 to .08 percent. The state's more serious companion charge, driving under the influence, requires a level at or above .08 percent. In 2000, the state had 588 highway deaths; 225 were alcohol- related.

Shaw has endured the holiday phone calls where she learns a client has overdosed on drugs or has died because of alcoholism. She's learned she can defend them but cannot save them from themselves. Then, there's Sawyer's case. "I never had a client with the magnitude of Brenda's problems," she says.

In February 2000, Sawyer was charged with driving under the influence after her red Nissan struck a curb near Taylorsville. She refused a sobriety test and refused to produce a driver's license. It was her ninth drunken-driving arrest.

In June 2001, Carroll County Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. did something no other judge had done: He sentenced Sawyer to a year in jail, with six months suspended -- the last two months of which were to be spent on work release.

"She was so earnest. I thought we did everything we could to rehabilitate her," says Shaw. "I was shocked to hear reactions from some of my friends. They were almost blaming me for representing her."

Given it was Sawyer's ninth conviction, her six-month jail sentence was lenient, Shaw says. Yet, Sawyer wanted more -- and less. She wrote brief, courteous letters to Judge Burns in hopes he would modify her three-year probation. The requests were denied. Then, Sawyer wrote Shaw to say she couldn't afford an attorney any more.

On Nov. 8, Sawyer was released from jail after serving a little more than four months. She found a job as a waitress at a Bob Evans restaurant in Carroll County. There she met two other waitresses. The three women apparently hit it off.

"She was a wonderful person and so dependable," says Nicole Flanary. "She was kind of like the Rock of Gibraltar." Another co-worker, Jackie Maize, says, "I just thought this is a girl who is trying to get her life together."

Brenda Sawyer was a free woman again. Maybe this time would be different.

A REPEAT OFFENDER

Glenda and Bill Sawyer had all their children together for Thanksgiving last year at their home in Leesburg, Va. The cousins were there, too. Brenda was just out of jail, and Ed was sober again. Maybe they were all out of the woods this time.

"Brenda was fine," her mother says.

"She wasn't fine," Ed says.

The sister he saw was barely hanging on. Just the way she kept saying, very quickly, "I'm fine, I'm fine," tipped off her brother, an AA veteran. The textbooks call it denial. Brenda, Ed believed, would soon drink again. "Life was becoming impossible for her," her brother says.

Four days after Thanksgiving, Sawyer and her boyfriend went to a friend's house to shoot pool and have a few beers. To an alcoholic, there's no such thing as a "few beers." Sawyer wanted and needed more alcohol, says her friend, Rosita Underwood. Later that night, on State Road 26 in Eldersburg, a state trooper had pulled onto the shoulder of the road. The parked cruiser was struck by a Dodge Caravan; the driver, Brenda Sawyer, fled.

After emerging 22 minutes later from the nearby woods, Sawyer was arrested and charged with rear-ending the trooper's cruiser, leaving the scene of an accident and driving drunk. Talk-show hosts, editorial writers and Mothers Against Drunk Driving soon weighed in: She's lucky to be alive; she's lucky she hasn't killed anyone; imagine how many times she has driven drunk and hasn't been caught! Louie Shaw saw her ex-client on TV. "It seemed like such a shame to me," she says. But she was not surprised.

At her arraignment, Sawyer was back in leg shackles and wearing a jail-issued orange jumpsuit. The defendant told the court: "I need help desperately. I don't want to be in trouble any more in my life."

Some dismissed her weepy plea for help as a familiar ploy. "She does well in court. She knows how to say the right things," says Lt. Terry Katz of the Maryland State Police in Westminster. His colleague, Trooper Rebecca Bosley, suffered minor neck injuries when Sawyer's minivan struck her cruiser. "With people like Sawyer, they learn the system. They have more experience with DUI than some police departments."

Sawyer's bail was set at $250,000, then reduced to $10,000. Sawyer called Underwood, who refused to bail her out. Instead, Underwood told her friend she would find a rehabilitation center for her. It was not what Sawyer wanted to hear.

She contacted her waitress friends, who agreed to post bail. "We assumed," Flanary says, "she would try to settle something in her life." Maize, who has six drunken-driving charges, was trying to settle her own life.

Sawyer was again free, pending trial. But she had nowhere to go. After six years, her boyfriend Charles Ryan Jr. had asked her to leave their home, Assistant Public Defender Judson Larrimore told the court in December. Ryan did not respond to several requests to be interviewed.

The couple had talked of marriage; Sawyer even occasionally went by the name Brenda S. Ryan, records show. She was hoping, her mother says, to get a marriage commitment. Instead, their relationship ended in a heap, her belongings piled outside her ex-home. Her mother came later to put her daughter's collectibles and antiques in storage. The phone in her name was shut off.

Sawyer also lost her part-time job at the Bob Evans restaurant, where a cheap-shot joke went around about the waitresses having to pass breath tests. Her former co-workers, Flanary and Maize, wondered what happened to their friend. They found out. In early December, she showed up on the doorstep of Maize's Westminster apartment. Could she stay a few days? Sure, said Maize.

The three women went out one night to a steakhouse in town, where Sawyer started drinking many White Russians, says Maize. Brenda's lack of remorse about the latest incident surprised her, she says. "She acted proud that she hit a cop."

Maize says that Sawyer approached strangers in the restaurant's bar, asking them if they had seen her picture in the paper next to stories about the Taliban. She asked if they wanted her autograph.

"I'm the notorious B.L.S.! I'm the notorious Brenda Lee Sawyer!" she bellowed, Maize says.

Sawyer stayed with Maize for only three days, but it was more than enough for her host. On Sawyer's last night in her home, Maize woke up after hearing someone in her bedroom. Sawyer was going through Maize's purse, looking for money and for something else, Maize believes. "She'd gotten my car keys."

This time, Sawyer was stopped.

After leaving Maize's apartment in early December, Sawyer spent a night in a homeless shelter. Underwood drove to Westminster to talk with Sawyer again about getting her admitted to a rehab center. But before that could happen, Sawyer was ordered back into custody on Dec. 6. Her 10th arrest had violated the terms of her probation from her ninth. Her binge of freedom was over.

The court sent Sawyer to the Shoemaker Center, a residential treatment center in Sykesville. According to program manager Susan Doyle, patients wake at 6 a.m. and undergo 6 1/2 hours of group and individual programs and therapy every day.

In the United States, nearly 14 million people -- or one in every 13 adults -- abuse alcohol or are alcoholics, says the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. There is no known cure for alcoholism. With any treatment program, recovery is ultimately up to the addict. Relapses and trap doors are all too common. At the Shoemaker Center, roughly 25 percent of the 400 residents routinely won't finish treatment.

"If people don't want to be helped," says Doyle, "we just have to let them go."

PICKING UP THE PIECES

"She's worth giving the benefit of the doubt," says Barbara Sawyer, Brenda's aunt.

Sawyer, a bank manager in Philadelphia, says she has a grown child who is also an alcoholic. After Brenda's ninth drunken-driving charge in 2000 and before her sentencing, she and her parents came to Philadelphia to attend an antiques show and to visit with Barbara and Tom Sawyer and their children -- Brenda's cousins.

One night, as they sat around the kitchen table, Barbara Sawyer brought up the subject of alcoholism. She knew Brenda had a drinking problem and hoped she would advise her 34-year-old son, who had not been "working" at his recovery. Brenda offered to go with her cousin to his Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. She offered to take him home with her to Maryland. Anything to help him.

"We're not bad people -- we're sick. We really have to get help," Brenda told her cousin, her aunt recalls.

"Take my word for it," Brenda said, "get help when you can."

Her family believes Brenda is serious about recovery. At times, her parents have been angry, disappointed, mistrusting and frustrated with their daughter. The hardest lesson a parent of an alcoholic has to learn is this: "You can't fix them. You can just help them pick up the pieces," says Glenda Sawyer.

When Brenda calls on Tuesday nights from the Shoemaker Center, "I hear the old Brenda," her mother says, "the one before the alcohol."

Before Sawyer's brother Robert died of a brain tumor Jan. 3, he had a flash of lucidity the terminally ill sometimes experience just before death. Robert Sawyer, his mother says, had been unable to communicate in the hospital room; then, he called his mother in Virginia to tell her he'd had a good phone conversation with Brenda.

Bobby Sawyer, 13 years sober the day he died, said he heard something in his sister's voice -- a new resolve, perhaps. As his mother recalls, Bobby was satisfied that Brenda finally realized the challenge before her.

"You finally got it, you got it," he told his sister, according to his mother's account. "I can go now. I know I can go now."

Bobby died two days later. His sister could not attend his funeral in Virginia. She was at a treatment center in Maryland.

VALENTINES AND HOPE

By February, Brenda Sawyer had completed two months at the Shoemaker Center. On Feb. 11, she ran into Jackie Maize at an AA meeting in Westminster. The women did not talk. Sawyer eventually was transferred to a Maryland residential treatment center for women in the early stages of recovery. Residents are required to attend individual and group therapy sessions and to find a job in the community to pay for rent and food. The average stay is six to nine months.

Today, Sawyer has been in recovery 120 days and counting -- her longest time in continuous treatment. She has a job and is paying old bills, her mother says. She is not free, however. Her trial is next month.

She had informed her sons of her new address by sending them homemade Valentines. "Her biggest regret in all of this," her friend Underwood says, "is that she wished she was a better mother to her children."

Maybe Brenda Sawyer hit rock bottom when she couldn't attend her brother's funeral, or when she hid in the woods, or when she couldn't spend Christmas with her sons. Maybe Sawyer -- who has lost so much because of her addiction and her choices -- can pull herself up and deal with what her ex-husband called her demons.

Maybe the notorious Brenda Lee Sawyer can save herself and finally find her way out of the woods before someone really gets hurt.

Alcoholism and genetics

Is there a gene linked to alcoholism? Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco are trying to find out.

As part of their research, they are seeking volunteers across the country to participate in a family alcoholism study. The purpose of the research is to investigate the interaction of genetics, personality and alcoholism.

Participants, who are paid, are interviewed about their alcohol and drug use and medical history. They are also asked to give a blood sample.

To inquire about participating, call toll-free, 1-888-805-8273.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
Comments
Loading