“In The Heat Of The Night” star Carroll O’Connor and his wife Nancy adopted their son Hugh when he was a baby in Rome. The couple saw their only child through his battle with Hodgkin’s disease, which he conquered at 16 years old.
Unfortunately, conquering an illness did not turn Hugh’s life around for the best like most people. Instead, he picked up a drug problem that would affect him for the rest of his life.
Although O’Connor’s son had been addicted to drugs since he was sixteen, the actor never gave up on him. O’Connor employed his offspring to work on set with him and even landed him a role in “In The Heat Of The Night.”
Plenty of O’Connor’s co-stars can attest to how much he loved his son by watching them interact at work. Consequently, O’Connor was completely heartbroken after learning about his son’s state before his passing.
Hugh’s widow, Angela O’Connor, opened up about her troubled husband’s tormented last few days during a court hearing in 1997. Angela tearfully recalled the day of her husband’s suicide, which was also their third wedding anniversary.
She revealed that she had called the 32-year-old to gauge how he was doing. At the time, Angela and her son had been living with her in-laws, so she could only tell that Hugh was not okay through their telephonic conversation.
Angela shared that her late husband was experiencing hallucinations during their phone call, a side effect of drug abuse. She also revealed that Hugh’s hallucinations were so bad that he thought their conversation was being broadcasted.
Unfortunately, Hugh’s unsettled state only became worse, and he called his father soon after his conversation with Angela. O’Connor later revealed that his son had called to announce he was going to shoot himself.
The actor alerted the police of his son’s state and intentions, but they, unfortunately, did not get there in time. Hugh’s passing was ruled as a suicide by authorities, who reportedly found a note to corroborate their conclusion.
As expected, O’Connor and his family did not take Hugh’s death lightly, encouraging the actor to seek justice for his son. Addiction ruined Hugh’s life, and the father of one was determined to fight it on his behalf.
Consequently, O’Connor sued a young man he and Angela alleged was his son’s cocaine dealer. The man in question is songwriter Harry Perzigian, and he claimed to be close friends with Hugh, despite the accusations.
Perzigian denied ever selling Hugh cocaine and alleged that the two split the cost for drugs instead. However, O’Connor still publicly called the musician a “partner in murder,” resulting in another lawsuit between the two.
Perzigian sued the actor for slander and sought $10 million in damages for his comments. Nonetheless, O’Connor stood firm in his stance as a way to make his stand against drug abuse and distribution.
O’Connor also made it clear that he did not blame any of his son’s close friends for his passing, even if they did drugs together. He revealed that many of his son’s friends had been in touch with him to apologize instead.
While Hugh’s entire story is devastating, the “All In The Family” star revealed one of the worst things about the incident. He shared that Hugh’s death finally concluded all of the fears he had for him while he was fighting addiction.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org.