Family Says Questions Still Unanswered in Man’s Death at Sober Living Home

STOCKTON -- Jeanne Januvil wanted to do for her brother what he'd always done for her.

"I never missed a birthday from him without getting a phone call. I never missed a Mother's Day and that went for all of us girls," Januvil said as tears rolled down her face.

That's one of the memories of her brother, Raymond Gowan, that made Tuesday so hard for Januvil.

It was Gowan's 40th birthday and instead of throwing a birthday party for him, his sister was hosting a memorial.

"It's been very hard. I don't know how long he sat there alone," Januvil told FOX40. "I don't know if he was in pain. I just know they never checked on him."

Her brother died right when everything in his life was turning around for the better.

Gowan graduated from the New Directions drug treatment program and instead of paroling to the streets he sought out sober living at Stockton's Celia Way facility. He became a resident there March 24, just three days before being found dead in his room.

"We have a government-funded program, a sober living house and then we have a coroner's office," Januvil said. "Somebody should be able to tell us what happened. Somebody should be able to tell us something."

Two and a half months later, there still have been no answers.

Loved ones had called to check on him and say staff told them he'd disappeared but no one opened his door until a foul odor was noticed coming from his room on March 27.

As they try to understand all they've lost, family and friends can't understand the circumstances surrounding the death of the Bible-loving father and former youth pastor, who was coming back into his own.

The coroner has yet to release a cause of death and Januvil says the home's house manager, Phil Hammons, hasn't been helpful.

"The last time I went I was able to speak to Phillip Hammons. He offered me no apologies, just very defensive," she said.

"I was in utter disbelief," said Brett Keleher.

Keleher lived right across the hall from Gowan at New Directions and now clings to one of the biggest lessons Gowan taught him -- stay humble.

"I had a lot of entitlement issues. I thought I deserved a lot of stuff and you gotta work for it, and you gotta get on your knees, and you gotta pray," he said.

Now, loved ones are praying that they can get answers from an industry that's loosely regulated and rarely undergoes inspection. The president of the California Association of Alcohol and Drug Program Executives has told FOX40 those issues are some of what makes incidents at sober living homes so hard to deal with.

FOX40 reached out to the directors of Celia Way shortly after Gowan's death and again after his memorial but got no response.