The parents of a 17-year-old girl have issued a warning after their daughter died from a night of heavy drinking.
High school honors student Shelby Allen asked her parents in December 2008 if she could spend the night at her friend Alyssa’s house, reports Good Housekeeping. Her mother, Debbie had a reputation in the community of Redding, California, for being one of the “stricter moms.” Debbie had a long career in law enforcement and was always careful to keep her children safe.
She figured that there wouldn’t be any problems letting Shelby have a sleepover at her best friend’s house.
“We knew Alyssa; we knew her parents,” said Debbie.
But Debbie did not know Shelby wouldn’t be at Alyssa’s house at all that night. The teen received a text from another girl, Jane, asking if she and Alyssa would want to come over and drink. Jane said both of her older sisters were home and would let them use the family’s liquor cabinet.
Shelby and Alyssa accepted Jane’s invitation. They began drinking at approximately 1 a.m. that night, after Jane’s father turned in for the night.
That was when Shelby declared she was going to down 15 shots of vodka.
“I honestly don’t know why she got that number in her head,” said Alyssa. “Maybe she saw someone do it at a party. Shelby was an athlete; she had a competitive spirit. We all told her it was a bad idea, but she was determined to make that her goal.”
After one bottle of vodka ran dry, she grabbed another. By 1:58 a.m., she reached her goal of 15 shots. She soon felt unwell, and Alyssa led her to the bathroom. Shelby began throwing up and passed out, propped up against the toilet.
The next morning, Alyssa awoke and ran to check on Shelby. When she entered the bathroom, it was a mess. Good Housekeeping reports that Shelby’s head hung over the toilet bowl and that her face was streaked in blood. Alyssa suspects that Shelby must have slammed her head into the toilet while trying to vomit.
Shelby was rushed to the hospital, but it was too late. She was pronounced dead on arrival.
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Shelby’s parents attempted to file criminal charges against Jane’s parents, but were unsuccessful. They then tried again, filing a charge of involuntary manslaughter against Jane. Debbie says she believes Jane’s actions were criminally negligent and that she should have called 911 the moment Shelby began vomiting.
But, according to court documents, Jane was acquitted on all charges, saying that it was Shelby who was intent on drinking 15 shots of vodka.
“The trial court ruled [Jane and her family] did not owe, or did not breach, an independent duty to Shelby,” the verdict reads.
Now, Debbie is using Shelby’s story to educate teens on the dangers of binge drinking.
“Life gives you two choices when you suffer a tragedy: Give up or move on,” Debbie said. “I have a husband and another child to love and take care of. I must move on, for their sake if not mine.
“But now I also have a mother’s passion to educate teens about the dangers of alcohol poisoning amid this new culture of binge drinking — a danger many know nothing about, and a danger my family learned about in the hardest way imaginable,” she adds. “It’s not a matter of staying strong; it’s a matter of doing what needs to be done, no matter how you are feeling, no matter how sad you are. I believe — and believed almost right away — this is what Shelby would have wanted me to do.”