Early Wednesday, William Earle II's 13-year-old sibling climbed downstairs to the basement of his family's Elmont home to look for something and found his 22-year-old brother dead on the basement floor.
Nearby, police said, lay another dead person, a 20-year-old woman whom Earle told loved ones he'd met this week in a drug rehab center.
The deaths, which police believe were from heroin overdoses, were declared at 8 a.m. and have triggered an investigation by the Nassau police narcotics squad into where the pair obtained the heroin, police said.
Police spokesman Det. Sgt. Anthony Repalone noted that people who take drugs sometimes do so in pairs, but it's rare for two people to die of overdoses in the same place at the same time.
As police investigate, the young man's family is grappling with how, they say, Earle transformed from a vibrant young man who once loved to play basketball into a gaunt addict with needlemark-covered arms. Just hours before Earle and the woman were found dead, the two had left a rehab center, the family said.
" 'I'm a kid, I want to have fun,' " his aunt Nadine McPartland said her nephew would say about his drug use.
"Do you wanna die?" his grandfather, William Earle, recalled saying to his grandson too many times.
"Well, it didn't make a damn bit of difference because he died," the grandfather told a reporter Wednesday at the family's home. "He couldn't stop."
The grandfather, 74, said they found out about a year ago that his grandson had been using heroin, and they watched him bounce in and out of rehab and detox centers. His latest admission was early Sunday morning, to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, according to hospital paperwork the family showed Newsday.
Hospital spokeswoman Shelley Lotenberg said because of privacy laws, she couldn't comment - or confirm whether anyone had been admitted or discharged.
Police have not released the name of the young woman.
Inside the Earle home, police found drug paraphernalia such as syringes, said Det. Sgt. Robert Galgano of the Elmont-based Fifth Squad detectives.
The family said that Earle came home in the middle of the night with the young woman, whom he said he'd just met. "We had a conversation, and he said, 'I'm done with this. I'm sober,' " the grandfather recalled Wednesday. "And she said, 'I love life.' He said he was clean. He said, 'I'm not going to do it no more because I gotta get my life together.' "
Then Earle and his new friend went down to the basement.