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...
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."
The "Safe Home" Hoax
Through interviews with local teens and parents, investigators learned that the house where Shelby died had a reputation as a "safe home." Says Benito: "Parents in the community told us that the parents allowed what they called 'responsible drinking.' [Parents like these] believe that underage drinking can be done safely; that even if teens overdo it, as they often do, as long as they are being chaperoned and not driving, nothing tragic will happen. They believe kids are going to experiment with drinking anyway, so it may as well happen at home, with adults present." (Jane's father told police he didn't allow other people's children to consume alcohol in his home, although he admitted he allowed his own underage children to drink in moderation.)