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As two face charges in Clifton Park teen’s death, the victim’s family speaks

As two face charges in Clifton Park teen’s death, the victim’s family speaks

Liam McGlinchey's family continues to come to terms with his death
As two face charges in Clifton Park teen’s death, the victim’s family speaks
Ruth Savastio stands next to the tree where her grandson, Liam McGlenchey, was left to die in August 2017.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber/Gazette Photographer

CLIFTON PARK - "I just don't understand why no one called 9-1-1."

Liam McGlinchey's mother, Helen Savastio, still doesn't know exactly what happened the night her son died on the lawn of his grandmother's home in Clifton Park almost two years ago.

But she does know this much: If one of her son's companions, who allegedly brought the highly-intoxicated McGlinchey home after a night of drinking, had at least knocked on the door of the house or called an ambulance instead of leaving him outside, he probably wouldn't have died, alone, under a tree. His lifeless body was discovered by his grandmother, Ruth Savastio, the next day.

McGlinchey was 19 years old when he died in August 2017. Police said toxicology reports revealed McGlinchey’s blood-alcohol content at the time of his death was .40 percent -- a lethal level of intoxication.

When two men were charged with criminally negligent homicide in connection to his death in early March, Helen Savastio said it felt like losing her son for a second time.

McGlinchey's death cut short the life of a young man who, according to family members, was bright, funny and, above all else, kind. Helen Savastio, who resides in Ireland, which is where McGlinchey also lived until a few months before his death, has no doubt in her mind that her son would have helped someone who found themselves in the situation he was in instead of walking away.

At Liam's memorial service, the mother of one of his friends told Helen Savastio a story. Their sons had been out drinking, and when McGlinchey noticed his friend struggling to stand, he immediately called her to come pick him up.

"He was that kind of kid," Helen Savastio said. "Really smart and kind."

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McGlinchey had close friends in Ireland who would have helped him, she added, but naively believed that the two people he was with the night he died, whom he didn't know well, would act the same way.

"In that moment in time, those kids had the chance to be my hero," she said. "They ended up villains...."

McGlinchey was born in New York City. His family moved to Ireland in December 1998, where they stayed for two years before moving back to the United States.

Eventually, they returned to Ireland in 2013, and McGlinchey went to high school there. He moved to Clifton Park, where his mother grew up, in March 2017 to visit friends and to work on getting his GED.

An outgoing child, McGlinchey was called "Lovable Liam" by family members, Ruth Savastio, 93, said. Her grandson was very smart and well-spoken from the time he was a child, she said, recalling one incident during which a 3-year-old McGlinchey was drawing on the wall with a crayon, and she took the crayon away from him.

"Grandma, that's inappropriate!" McGlinchey said.

After overcoming her shock at the small child in front of her who knew how to speak like an adult, she said, "No, Liam, what you're doing is inappropriate!"

More recently, during the brief time in which McGlinchey lived with her, he was working at a local Hannaford store. Ruth Savastio bought her grandson a bicycle to help him get around.

When he received his first paycheck, McGlinchey handed her the entire thing and gave her a hug to repay her for the bicycle.

"He was a rare person," she said.

The GED was McGlinchey's first step in following his dream of becoming a screenwriter, his mother said. With a talent for telling engaging stories that made people laugh, his goal, she said, was to leave a mark on the world that would make people remember his name, like his hero David Foster Wallace. He wanted to learn and he wanted to teach people.

"He wanted to make people think," Helen Savastio said. "He was very wordy from an early age. He was so unique. He read books that people my age wouldn’t be bothered to read."

"He was fascinated with the pyramids and was a real history buff," she added. "He was at my brother’s house a couple of days before he died and was talking to a friend of my brother who was a history teacher and he was blown away by not only his knowledge, but his ability to hold a conversation with someone who was in his 50s."

History wasn't his only passion though. He loved Batman, Spider-Man, Pokemon and Star Wars. His favorite music included David Bowie, Radiohead, The Flaming Lips and Neutral Milk Hotel, and his family sang the hit single from that band, "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea," at his funeral.

He also liked the hit HBO series "Game of Thrones," and one way that Helen Savastio's son continues to influence her everyday life almost two years later is the sense of sadness she feels when she remembers that he will miss the final season of the show, set to return in April.

Other members of McGlinchey's family, including his sister, Charlotte, are urging people to approach those who need help with kindness. She acknowledged that, while one should take personal responsibility for his or her own actions, oftentimes making the decision to help someone if there is a chance to do so can be the deciding factor in whether a situation becomes deadly.

"Let our grief be your lesson and wake-up call," Charlotte said. "Justice won't bring Liam back, but if awareness of his situation can save someone else's life, then that is all I can really hope for."

One thing Helen Savastio does know about the night she lost her son is that he was out celebrating because he had successfully obtained his GED. The trial over her son's death will begin on July 29, she said, and she will travel back to the U.S. for it.

For now, she's going to get through the painful months of waiting for the trial by remembering happy times with her son.

"I remember when Liam and I were driving, Liam yelled to stop and he jumped over a fence to put a sheep that was on its back onto its feet because it would have died if it had stayed on its back," Helen Savastio said. " Also, when we were alone in the car we would just throw words at each other that we liked the sound of. He really was just a sweet kid who wanted to make people laugh and to make them happy."

 

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