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
Shelby Allen's parents are devastated to learn what happened to their daughter continued...
Debbie and Steve slept in Shelby's bed the night she died, in an effort to feel closer to her spirit. After that, Steve couldn't go into his younger daughter's room for months. "The house was just a dead house," Debbie says. "I don't know how else to describe it. And I was left to deal with the worst kind of anguish: that I wasn't able to comfort my baby when her body was dying. I didn't get to hug her, kiss her, hold her, keep her warm...how could this be true?"
Overwhelmed by misery, the Allens struggled to make sense of what had happened. "We second-guessed everything we did that day. If only we had said she couldn't spend the night at Alyssa's house. If only we had banned sleepovers altogether," Steve says. "If only Debbie had taken her shopping in Sacramento that day, as originally planned. If only we had checked up on her, as we had in the past...if only we had known more about alcohol poisoning and binge drinking so we could have educated her...all these things go through our minds, to this day."
Wondering how a night at a friend's house, with parents present, could have gone so terribly wrong, Steve thought to check his daughter's cell phone for clues. The palm-size gadget, complete with incriminating texts sent to high-school pals and photos snapped, provided a heartbreaking but detailed record of what had happened that night.
It also raised some troubling questions: Why hadn't the parents intervened when Shelby was drinking so many shots? Why had no one called the Allens to report Shelby's behavior, so they could come get her? With adults in the home (the parents and two older daughters, plus their friends), why had no one tried to help the Allens' daughter when it had become clear she was in trouble?
"When we asked the family for details, we were met with a wall of silence," Debbie remembers.
The Allens handed the cell phone over to investigators. "We realized the only way we were going to get our questions answered was to go to law enforcement," says Debbie.
Police were already investigating Shelby's death as a matter of procedure. "It became clear to me that negligence had occurred," recalls Gerald Benito, who served as Shasta County district attorney at that time. "When I first saw the photos of Shelby's body, I thought she had been strangled. There was a massive bruise on her neck from the hours leaning against the toilet rim. There was blood all over her face. And the cell phone texts and pictures made it clear that Shelby had been in trouble for hours, and nothing had been done to help her."