Skip to content

Health & Parenting

Font Size

15 Shots Killed Shelby Allen

What's perhaps more shocking is that the 17-year-old drank them at a friend's house, while the parents were home. Here, how her mom is fighting to make sure no other child dies this way

The Legal Loophole continued...

The Allens were deeply disappointed that there was no finding of criminal responsibility for any of the family members, not even a citation for providing alcohol to a minor. They filed their civil suit against the host family last spring; the trial is set to begin in August. Jane's family has denied all allegations.

The lawsuits don't end there: Beasley, the host family's attorney, has filed a counterclaim against Alyssa, blaming her for the tragedy that unfolded that night, alleging that Alyssa should have sought help for Shelby and, by not doing so, contributed to her death. Alyssa has denied those allegations.

A Mother's Mission

The Allens say the suit is not about retribution. It's about finding meaning and doing some good in the wake of Shelby's death. The germ of an idea took root in Debbie's mind soon after her loss. What could others learn from this tragedy? How could she help other teens and parents as the legal process took off on its own track? The idea of sharing the sad lessons from that night took shape, and by the time of Shelby's funeral - held the weekend after her death - information about what Debbie called "Shelby's Rules" was available for mourners after the service. Debbie Allen gave her first presentation about alcohol poisoning on January 5, 2009, not quite three weeks after burying her child.

"Life gives you two choices when you suffer a tragedy: Give up or move on. I have a husband and another child to love and take care of. I must move on, for their sake if not mine," Debbie says. "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. 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."

And so Debbie set out to educate students about the dangers of binge drinking and alcohol poisoning through Shelby's Rules, a nonprofit education foundation. "Shelby used to tell me, 'Mom, just tell me how things work. That's how I'm wired,' " Debbie says. "What she meant was, she wasn't going to do or not do something just because I told her my stance on it. She required reasons. Facts. Explanations. I think most kids do.

"If I had told her how alcohol affects the body, how alcohol relaxes every muscle in the body, including the gag reflex, so that if your body is trying to get rid of the booze that's poisoning it, the muscles in the throat may be too slow to respond, and you can choke on your own vomit or not be able to vomit at all...if I had explained these specifics to Shelby, she might still be alive."

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
 
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
 
mother and daughter talking
Tool
child brushing his teeth
Slideshow
 
Sipping hot tea
Slideshow
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Video
 
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
Article
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
 
tissue box
Quiz
Child with adhd
Slideshow