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"They really didn't have any solutions," John III says. "They had remedies, and some of them were harmful."
The Jardines were advised to place Johnny in the state hospital, 150 miles distant, when he was only 7. Johnny actually wanted to go, because he wanted desperately to get better. He was housed with adult men and older children. The Jardines were not allowed to see him for a month after his arrival there.
"We went back in 30 days, and Johnny walked right by me -- I didn't even recognize my own son," Debbie says. "He had gained so much weight and they had shaved his head. He was heavily drugged. All his new clothes had been stolen, and they had him in a pair of jeans that would fit his father today."
John III says, "The first few months there were just horrific. You'd go up there and visit and leave and you'd cry all the way home."
Johnny eventually returned home, but his seizures and the medication designed to curb them governed his life. When he was 14, Johnny decided to undergo a temporal lobectomy at Johns Hopkins University Hospital. That surgery, designed to excise the portion of the brain triggering seizures, improved things for a few months.
Johnny managed to get his high school diploma, attending regular classes. When he was 18, he had a second lobectomy. This one was performed in Montreal, and the results were much better. Though the neurosurgeries undermined his small motor skills, Johnny was free of seizures for 12 years. Living on his own, he got a degree from a vocational school in Minneapolis. He got his own car.
John III retired from his job at an office equipment company, and the Jardines relocated to Florida. Johnny joined them there. Not long after arriving, he suffered his first seizure in many years. They would occur infrequently, though.
The Jardines moved to Arizona in 1998. Their daughter Maryanne lives in Nevada, and they wanted to be closer to her and their grandson, Joey. They had friends in Sun Lakes, so that's where they settled.
Johnny, meanwhile, was more driven than ever. He researched university programs that offered special assistance to disabled people. It seemed serendipitous when ASU responded amicably to Johnny's inquiries, and encouraged him to apply under its Disabled Student Resource Program. They promised to accommodate his disabilities -- giving him more times to take tests, for example.
"Even at 37, he wanted to take the world on and make it better," John III says. "When he got the letter of acceptance from ASU, he immediately went and got it laminated, and brought it over to show us."
Johnny came to Arizona ahead of his parents. When he learned that there was a long waiting list for disabled housing, he contacted the office of Senator John McCain. Johnny had a place in downtown Phoenix within days. He got something he'd always wanted, a cat.
Once enrolled in the fall of '98, "He bought all the ASU tee shirts, sweat shirts, the license plate, everything," his father says. "He was so proud that he was part of that. He was going to be something, do something with his life."
Those goals were shattered on March 30, 1999. The Jardines believe the rescue personnel thought he was another college kid on acid.
"It kills me every day of my life that he died like a common criminal," his mother says.
Onto Part 2: Allegations of a cover-up..