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Health & Parenting

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
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The Legal Loophole continued...

For the Allen family, District Attorney Benito wanted to seek justice for what had unfolded late that December night. He took Shelby's case to a grand jury, and their stance was clear: Go after the parents in the host family. "But legally I couldn't, because by verbalizing the order not to drink (even though alcohol was easily accessible), by making the 911 call, by performing CPR, and also by not being aware of how severe Shelby's condition was, [the parents] were not legally responsible for what occurred," Benito says. "Initially I thought I could not file charges against Jane. But the cell phone texting indicated clearly that she was present the entire time Shelby was dying. And that Shelby died as a direct result of this girl's failure to provide aid." In the legal system, finding failure to provide aid is based on what is called "creating a duty," or responsibility - in this situation, that means providing the illegal substance (liquor) to the point that another person becomes completely at one's mercy: "As a result, in criminal court, you then have the responsibility to at least seek help on this person's behalf," Benito adds.

His decision to file charges of involuntary manslaughter against 16-year-old Jane was not a popular one in the community. "LEAVE HER ALONE," one blogger wrote angrily. Others accused the Allens of trying to find people to blame for their daughter's death and said it was Shelby who had drunk the alcohol that killed her.

"The district attorney made his decision to prosecute Shelby's friend based on his view of the law," Debbie says. "He spent a good deal of time explaining his legal theory to us, and once we understood why charges were appropriate, we supported the prosecution.... Our laws say you file in civil court to seek compensation for damages caused by others," she explains, then swallows hard and adds, "and my family has been damaged in ways that cannot be described. My life will never be the same. I still feel like I am made of stone - that's how I've felt since the day Shelby died. It doesn't go away. I have derived what comfort I can from my faith, but what a terrible impact this has had on Tera, on my husband, on our marriage."

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