Dad seeks answers son's death

How You Can Help

A fundraiser is planned to memorialize Nicholas Austin Kovacs who died of a drug overdose in June.


  • WHAT: Benefit spaghetti dinner and auction
  • WHEN: Noon Nov. 6
  • WHERE: Mineral Ridge Church of Christ, Main Street, Mineral Ridge.
  • PURPOSE: Proceeds will defray costs of burial and a headstone for Nicky. Additional proceeds would benefit needy children in the area in Nicky’s name.

Source: Nicholas H. Kovacs

By John W. Goodwin Jr.


A local father and grandmother are looking for justice in the death of an 18-month-old boy and are hoping for community support to properly memorialize him.

By all accounts, 18-month-old Nicholas Austin Kovacs was a happy, healthy young boy. He loved the sound and display of fireworks. He loved to ride horses on the carousels at amusement parks, and he loved the boxer-mix dog that would lie at the foot of his crib like a protective guard.

Nicholas’ canine companion, however, could not protect him from a small prescription pill that would ultimately take his life.

On June 17, Nicholas was spending the day at home with his 28-year-old mother. She told police she put the boy to bed in a crib at about 2 p.m., but when she checked on him a few hours later, Nicholas was dead.

The mother declined to be interviewed for this story.

The Mahoning County coroner’s office later determined the boy had died of an overdose of Suboxone. Suboxone is used to treat those addicted to opiates such as heroin.

A funeral for Nicholas took place several months ago, but Nicholas Kovacs Sr., Nicholas’ father, and Cathy Debinder, Nicholas’ grandmother, want to erect a headstone commemorating the child’s short life. They hope to have the headstone in place by Nov. 9, which would have been the boy’s second birthday.

To purchase the headstone, the family has planned a spaghetti-dinner fundraiser at noon Nov. 6 at the Mineral Ridge Church of Christ on Main Street in Mineral Ridge. The event will include an auction.

Kovacs said he hopes to raise enough money to purchase the headstone and finish paying some of the final burial expenses for his son, but he also hopes the fundraiser can add a little joy to the life of other young kids.

“The goal is to raise the $4,000 for my son’s headstone, but anything we raise over that will go to needy kids for Christmas in the name of Baby Nicky,” Kovacs said.

Kovacs also is looking for someone to face charges in his son’s death. He said it has been four months, and someone must be held accountable for allowing the young boy to get access to the pills that killed him.

Capt. Rod Foley of the Youngstown Police Department said police investigated the death and turned findings over to the city prosecutor’s office. He said he is waiting on that office to determine if any charges will be filed before any arrests are made.

Debinder has spent the time since her grandson’s death becoming a self-taught expert on Suboxone. She is hoping the drug sees tighter regulations and the taste is changed so that it is not appealing to kids.

“I want something good to come out of this. I want my grandson’s life to have had purpose,” Debinder said. “I think they need to explore this drug more.”

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