On the afternoon of June 14, Max Dobner called his oldest brother, Justin.
"I smoked that legal stuff and my heart is pounding and I’m having a panic attack," Max told his brother, according to his mother, Karen Dobner.
Justin told him to take a shower and lie down and that he would be OK. Fifteen minutes later, they spoke again.
Justin asked his brother if he was OK. He got a curt "yes" before he hung up.
Later in the afternoon, Max apparently got into his car and drove from Aurora to Batavia Township. His car was seen driving at a high rate of speed. He died after the car crashed into a two-story home.
"I had no idea what the legal stuff was," Karen Dobner told Batavia Patch on Tuesday. "It took me awhile to find out what he was referring to."
Dobner suspects that a legal potpourri substance might have played a part in the June 14 Batavia Township crash that killed Max, her 19-year-old son. She doesn't know for certain, but she is trying to find out.
A Mother Speaks
Dobner told Batavia Patch that her son smoked some potpourri, known as iAroma or Iaroma, hours before the one-car crash which happened east of the Route 31 and Mooseheart Road intersection.
Dobner has decided to talk to the media about what happened to her son, Max, while authorities continue to investigate the incident. Dobner said she will likely appear on the NBC Today Show Thursday to talk about the dangers of iAroma.
Max was in a 1999 Chrysler Cirrus June 14 traveling eastbound on Mooseheart Road at a high rate of speed. The Cirrus and eventually crashed into a two-story home that faces the intersection, according to police.
Max was later pronounced dead. in the crash. For more about what happened, click .
The potpourri known as iAroma appears to act as synthetic marijuana, but results in a high more intense than marijuana when smoked, Dobner said. She said her attorneys are researching the product.
Dobner is convinced her son would not have smoked the substance if he knew how much it would affect him.
"Knowing my son, he would have never, ever done it if it was dangerous," she said Tuesday. "He was healthy, he wanted to stay clean."
The Sheriff's Office has an investigation open on this case, Pat Gengler, a Sheriff's Office spokesperson, told Batavia Patch Tuesday.
Dobner suspects that the iAroma was involved in her son's death based on the information she received about what he was doing June 14.
Dobner found out that her son was with a friend on the afternoon that he died. The friend and Max purchased iAroma at 2:33 p.m. at a tobacco shop in Aurora. They walked through the mall, then drove away and smoked the substance in the car, Dobner said.
Max was dropped off at home at about 3:30 p.m.
Later that afternoon, Dobner received a call from an officer. The officer told her that he was in her home and that the front door, back door and a sliding door had been left open. Max Dobner was the last person in the house.
"He would never run out of the house and leave the doors wide open," Dobner said. "He’s very conscientious, very careful. He’s a very mature boy. He would never run out like that. He wasn’t a pot smoker. He wasn’t a druggie. None of that."
A lab is testing Max's bodily fluids to see if it contains traces of substances found in synthetic marijuana, Dobner said.
Gengler of the Kane County Sheriff's Office said there is a general perception that if items are sold in stores, then they are OK to consume.
"This is so new, a lot of people might not even know," Gengler said. "It might affect them in different ways."
An Incomplete Investigation
The Kane County Sheriff's Office is still waiting for Max's toxicology reports, Gengler said. He speaks for the Sheriff's Office but is not the lead investigator into Dobner's case.
"We can’t say he was under the influence," Gengler said Tuesday. "We don’t know … if you listen to some of the statements the mom’s making, it sounds like there is a possibility of that."
Gengler did not dispute what Karen Dobner told Batavia Patch about the potpourri or the calls to his brother, Justin.
Authorities did not mention the brothers' phone calls to reporters during of the case.
"We keep that back until we have the whole picture," Gengler said. "One person may say something. How does that single statement fit into the whole investigation? Usually we will wait until the end of it."
Gengler said nothing tied to the iAroma potpourri substance was recovered from the car. He is not sure if the iAroma packaging advises against smoking the substance.
Gengler has worked on narcotics cases for several years. The iAroma substance is fairly new, he said.
The iAroma substance is sold legally in stores and online. Gengler said companies try to change a product's ingredients in such a way that it falls under legal guidelines, but can be consumed in a way to produce a high.
Law enforcement plays catch-up to the latest drugs, Gengler said. Cocaine and ecstasy were available in legal forms at some point before they were outlawed, he added.
A Teachable Moment
Gengler said the potpourri may have played a role in the crash, but investigators won't know for certain without the toxicology reports. What he does know is that people can learn to stay away from harmful substances, even if they are openly sold in stores.
"People who are doing it, we are encouraging them to stop," Gengler said. "We would hate to see another life lost because of this."
Dobner wants to help spread the message about products similar to what her son smoked. She recently started the To The Maximus Foundation, which is geared towards educating and informing teens on dangerous substances and promoting legislation to ban these products.
"I don’t want any family to go through what my family went through," she said. "I don’t want any kids to have to go through what my son was going through."
Karen Dobner said footage taken at her home on Monday and a live interview with her will likely air on Thursday on NBC's Today Show. The show airs in the Chicago area from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Ch. 5. Check local listings for details and your area's specific airtime for the show.
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