When they found out she would be buried at 10 a.m., April Carpri’s friends quickly made a memorial to place at the head of her grave.
A basic black frame contained a wallet-sized photo of the former social worker surrounded by tributes to her counseling skills. The three women at the gravesite all worked with Carpri at the Shelby County Treatment Center, a clinic that specializes in treating people addicted to opioids. The memorial cited her warmth, humor and even her diligence with patient charts.
The picture brought smiles to the faces of her former coworkers. They vanished when a cemetery worker gently told them that no markers could be placed at the Jefferson County Cemetery – a pauper’s graveyard where plots are marked with numbers instead of names.
Her former boss, Susan Staats-Combs, hesitated with the picture and then threw it into the hole, where it landed on top of the casket. Nearly a month later, Capri’s friend and former colleague still remembered the clap of the frame against the wood.
“That thud,” Jenny Thomas said. “It still makes me want to vomit.”
Her friends have struggled to comprehend how Capri ended up in an anonymous grave. As recently as four years ago, the University of Alabama graduate had a professional job, a house in the suburbs, a husband and a child. She lost it all to heroin – a substance she helped so many to quit.
Capri is one of more than 150 people who have died this year in Jefferson County from drug overdoses, according to Deputy Coroner Bill Yates. Most died from heroin or fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.
Capri worked at the Shelby County Treatment Center from 2011 to 2013 and spent much of her time counseling heroin addicts. She came to the center from the Shelby County Department of Human Resources, where she worked on cases of child abuse and neglect.
Capri met Janee Dickinson at Shelby County Department of Human Resources. Both women started at about the same time and immediately hit it off. Capri made waves in the office with her unusual style, Dickinson said. She sometimes appeared in court in brightly colored, shimmery dresses and stood out among her colleagues.
“She looked very punk rock,” Dickinson said. “She had this flaming red hair. She had lots and lots of tattoos. That’s not so typical for a social worker at the DHR.”
The pair developed a quick rapport. After several exhausting years at the agency, they even quit on the same day.