The final hours of Brittany Moscatelli’s life remain a mystery, but what killed the 19-year-old is certain — an opioid overdose.
Moscatelli’s body was discovered in a Wilkes-Barre area hotel room on Sept. 14, 2017. She had no ID on her, none of the jewelry she usually wore, no cellphone, and no cigarettes or lighter, despite her smoking habit.

Brittany Moscatelli, a 19-year-old from Pittston who died of an overdose Sept. 14, 2017.

The next day, police confirmed her identity in a phone call when Brittany’s mom described her tattoos, according to Brittany’s sister, Kayy Moscatelli.

Earlier that day, before Kayy’s mom received the call from police, Kayy opened Facebook Messenger on her cellphone, clicked on her sister’s chat head and saw the message: “Active five hours ago.”

“Her body was found the day before. Someone was on her Facebook five hours before I got the call that she was gone,” said Kayy, 18, of Wilkes-Barre. “There was supposed to be an investigation.”

But police turned up nothing. The only thing Kayy knows for sure came from the Luzerne County coroner — that a mixture of heroin and cocaine caused Brittany’s death.

Kayy wants people to know that her sister was a good person who was robbed of her hopes and dreams by an addiction that possibly could have been prevented.

She hopes her insights might help spur change that could save some lives, or maybe give just one person the push needed to reach out for help before it’s too late.

A free spirit

Brittany, who had been living in Pittston, was a free spirit and an animal lover who enjoyed cooking, baking and watching cooking shows. When she was sober, coloring in adult coloring books was her escape, Kayy said.

“We used to sing and dance. We sounded horrible — the neighbors probably thought we were killing cats or something. We’d get in such great moods and run around the house singing and dancing. Granted, it was like 2 o’clock in the morning, so my mom would yell at us, but we’d always be there, and my mom sometimes would just jump in and start singing and dancing with us,” Kayy recalled.

“She was a good cook, too. She used to bake cakes for my mom every year on her birthday. Growing up, we had kind of a rough childhood and she was the one who always made sure we were OK,” Kayy said.

Brittany had a handful of “true friends who were there for her,” Kayy said. “She was the one they would call if they were ever in trouble. She’d be there in a heartbeat.”

And Brittany had plans for the future.

“She wanted to either be a veterinarian or a baker. She wanted to get out of this town and she wanted to do something with herself. But like everybody else, she just fell into (addiction). She got, like, grasped by it,” Kayy said.

Kayy Moscatelli talks about the life and death of her sister, Brittany Moscatelli, a 19-year-old from Pittston who died of an overdose Sept. 14, 2017.
Warren Ruda / The Citizens’ Voice

‘I think it was her mental health’

Although Kayy doesn’t know the specifics surrounding her elder sibling’s fatal overdose, she has theories about what led to Brittany’s drug use.

“I think it was her mental health. All three of my mom’s children have been diagnosed bipolar,” Kayy said. “I had my way of dealing with it. I went and I got the help. She didn’t really know exactly how to face it and how to deal with it.”

Kayy said Brittany began smoking marijuana when she was 12 or 13. When she was 14, she was diagnosed with severe depression.

Brittany got pregnant when she was 15 and gave birth to a son the day before her 16th birthday.

“The father of her baby was there the whole pregnancy and then left and said he didn’t want to be a part of it,” Kayy said. “I think that really affected the postpartum and the depression she had along with the bipolar, because she just said, like, ‘Why does everybody else get to walk out? Why do I have to do this alone?’”

She knew she had a problem

Sometime after her pregnancy, Brittany tried “spice” — a form of synthetic marijuana. “When she got a taste of the spice and she saw how easy it was for her to escape, that’s when she started using,” Kayy said.

After a “bad high,” Kayy said, her sister ended up in a mental hospital for about a month “because of the effects that the spice had on her brain.”

When Brittany was released, she was doing well, but her sister believes she was struggling mentally with what the spice had done to her.

“I don’t know exactly when she got into the heroin and everything else, but it happened a short time after that,” Kayy recalled.
And Brittany knew she had a problem.

“She talked to me about it,” Kayy recalled. “She took care of her son; she loved him, endlessly, but it was so hard for her. She didn’t want her son to be around what she was struggling with until she got herself better.”

So Brittany placed her son with his paternal grandparents.

She tried to get well, but “it went downhill pretty quickly,” Kayy said.

Starting in July 2016, Brittany was arrested six times in eight months for crimes ranging from retail theft and criminal trespass at a Walmart to possession of drugs and paraphernalia.

“I told her, ‘I could get you the help; we could figure this out together.’ She said she just wasn’t ready to face whatever it was that she was running from,” Kayy said. “I believe there was stuff that happened to her that she never wanted to talk about, that she couldn’t talk about.”

Kayy said her sister was too independent to ask for help, “even though we were throwing it at her. She didn’t want to put the burden on anyone else (so) she distanced herself from us.”

Sister’s death was a shock

Although she knew her sister was addicted, Kayy said Brittany’s death came as a shock.

“She had just gotten out of jail a week previously, and she was doing really, really, really well,” Kayy said.

“When you have someone in your family that’s an addict, you think in the back of your mind that one day, you’re going to get a call. And when I was talking to her when she got out of jail, I never thought I’d get the call because she was going to meetings … she was living with her boyfriend, she was working on getting a job, she had her GED, she was trying to get her son back,” Kayy said. “Then, I don’t know. She went out one night, and I guess she did too much of what she usually did. And that was it.”

More resources needed

Kayy believes that if more resources were available, if some people had acted earlier, Brittany and other overdose victims might still be alive.

To start with, she said, there needs to be better mental health education and better access to mental health providers.

“If there were more resources back when she was 10 to 14 to help her with her mental health than there are now, I feel she could have been helped,” Kayy said, adding that there should also be more — and better — rehabilitation centers.

Kayy said one center sent Brittany packing after three days because of a clash with another patient.

“This girl just kept harassing her, throwing food at her, threatening to beat her up. And the rehab removed my sister instead of the person causing the problems, because the person who was causing the problems had been there longer,” Kayy said.

Another problem, Kayy said, is that “you could get drugs in (some) rehabs … and jails quicker than you can get drugs on the street.”
Kayy believes people’s attitudes and focus need to change as well.

“If people focused on mental health and more on ‘Why are you an addict?’ and ‘What is it that you’re running from?’ instead of ‘I don’t want to speak to you because you have a problem,’ if people focused more on what it is that causes them to do drugs, I think we’d have less of an epidemic,” Kayy said.

Family torn apart

Kayy said Brittany’s death and some people’s reaction to it have torn her family apart.

“I speak to my grandmother and my mother and two or three of my cousins. I don’t speak to anybody (else) because they’re convinced that I or my mom or someone else is to blame,” she said.

“Addiction doesn’t just tear the person apart, it tears apart the family and the people who care about them. Her best friend, she messages me from time to time about how much she misses her. I see her friends and how it’s affected them and it’s heartbreaking because I know what they’re feeling,” Kayy said.

Now, when she looks at photos of Brittany, it’s the good memories that fill Kayy’s thoughts.

An undated family photo of Kayy Moscatelli and her sister, Brittany Moscatelli.

“I see her holding me after a nightmare, I see us playing in the lake, I see us at my cousin’s cabin. I see us always having fun. Of course, we fought. We were sisters; we were 18 months apart. We liked the same guys; we liked the same clothes. We fought. But at the end of the day, she was always right there,” Kayy said.

“And that’s what I see when I look at her picture — I don’t see an addict, I don’t see her issues because, the past few years, that wasn’t my sister. That was her addiction, that was not my sister,” she said.

Kayy smiled as she looked at a photo of Brittany onto which she added angel wings for Brittany’s memorial service. She keeps the photo on a bedroom shelf “just to remind me my angel’s always there, my angel’s always watching over me.”

“When I look at that picture, I see my sister,” she said. “I see the memories of who she was before she fell into the addiction.”

Contact the writer: