Robyn Leslie Hatcher was musically gifted and honed her talents on more than five different instruments, traveling across the country to satisfy her free spirit.
However, a rough start in early childhood and a series of severe bullying incidents in Eugene schools led her to seek out drugs by the age of 12. Hatcher was 23 years old when she died Dec. 11, 2023, in Eugene.
Hatcher was born on May 12, 2000, in McMinnville, though her family moved to Eugene — her mother’s hometown — when Hatcher was still a baby.
Hatcher’s parents, Theresa Hill and Mark Hatcher, met at a Rainbow Gathering, and they continued participating in drum circles throughout their time together. The djembe drum circles were Hatcher’s introduction to musical instruments.
“She did it with us. It kind of depended on what the other kids there were doing,” Hill says. “Sometimes she’d just be hanging out with them or sometimes they’d all join in with us and drum and sing and dance.”
Hatcher went on to play the clarinet, which her grandmother rented for her. She later learned to play the guitar, violin, fiddle, banjo and ukulele.
Hatcher attended Adams Elementary School and Jefferson Middle School, Hill says, before she left after three unjustified out-of-school suspensions. She says Hatcher was being bullied by a group of students who made false reports about her to the principal. Hill sent her daughter to be homeschooled by her aunt.
“My sister and my brother-in-law had military training,” Hill says. “I thought their discipline skills that they learned would be helpful, and it was just supposed to be temporary.”
Hatcher ran away for the first time when she was 12 years old. She was an adventurous spirit like her father, Hill says.
“He always had itchy feet,” she says. “He would give away all of his stuff and say, ‘I have to hit the road.’”
Hatcher was institutionalized in Corvallis, where Hill alleges her daughter was abused. Hill says that she didn’t know how to get Hatcher out of the facility without risking her daughter’s being taken away by a social worker. Hatcher was there for approximately nine and a half months.
“They overmedicated her, too,” Hill says. “She was having a hard time being a kid again [after she got out].”
Hatcher returned home for a few weeks at age 13 before she left again, this time making it out of the state. She traveled by hitchhiking and train hopping, Hill says. She didn’t see her mother from the ages of 14 to 19, when she almost died of hypothermia in Chicago.
Hill and her family pulled together the resources to bring Hatcher back to Eugene in 2019, but she left for California soon after. There she was life-flighted to a Sacramento hospital due to kidney failure, Hill says, after years of drug abuse.
“Predominantly, she used heroin,” Hill says. “But in the last year or two she switched to fentanyl. I know that’s what really got her.”
Hill lives in Section 8 housing, so when Hatcher returned to Eugene on July 1, 2023, she could not immediately live with her mother because Hill had to get approval for Hatcher to move in, and the loss of Hatcher’s social security card made that near impossible. In the meantime, Hatcher had been car camping nearby. By the time that Hill’s housing authority began to communicate with her, she says, it was too late.
“My daughter had one miserable, really messed up life. I think it’s no wonder that she took so many drugs to stay numb,” Hill says. “And all the time I was doing everything I could, all by myself, to try to help her.”
Hatcher passed on Dec. 11 due to complications from substance abuse. Her fiance was with her when she died.
“He did the CPR correctly. He did continue doing it until the paramedics came,” Hill says. “He saw the lights going out in her eyes.”
Hatcher is preceded in death by her brother, Andrew Hatcher. Besides her parents she is survived by her grandparents, Linda and Mike O’Connor; her sister, Rebecca Carney; and her brothers Julian Fleck and Addison Hatcher.