Girl dies after possible alcohol poisoning at sleepover

July 11, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The death of a 14-year-old girl at her own slumber party has devastated a neighborhood in Sonoma County. Police believe the girl died after she apparently drank a soda spiked with alcohol with her friends.

Friends say Takeimi Rao was outgoing and sociable. She loved music and the theatre and had just graduated from Rincon Valley Middle School and was looking forward to high school.

Rao lived with her mother and stepfather in an exclusive gated community on a private street in the hills of Santa Rosa. On Saturday night, Rao invited three friends for a sleepover.

Assistant Sheriff Lorenzo Duenas says her mother was awakened in the middle of the night.

"About two a.m. in the morning they woke up, two of the girls were ill and vomiting; the mother cleaned them up and didn't realize it was nothing more than, thought it was food poisoning," Duenas said. "They went back to sleep and the next morning she tried to wake up her daughter and she was unresponsive."

Investigators say they found evidence that the girls were drinking sodas mixed with alcohol.

"It was a bottle, a vodka bottle, it was located inside the residence," Duenas said.

Police say Rao's mother found her unconscious on her bed Sunday morning. She died later at the hospital.

A school district survey shows there is a growing alcohol problem among students at younger ages. Each school is now reaching out to students with a best behavior program.

"These discussions are held about drugs and alcohol usage and drugs and life and making good choices and making good decisions," Santa Rosa City Schools Superintendent Sharon Liddell said.

But at least one teen says there is still a lot of drinking.

"I mean it's around everywhere, all kids are drinking, real underage like just 13 years old," the student said.

High school student Isabel Davis says she is very careful at parties.

"I have a lot of friends who drink so when I go their house I have to bring my own bottle of water or I just drink water," she said.

The other three girls at the sleepover were taken to the hospital where they were treated and released.

Even small amounts of alcohol are dangerous for children 14 and under because their livers are not yet mature and the enzymes do not synthesize alcohol as well.

Experts say parents can prevent alcohol use by teens through clear communication, adequate parental supervision and education about appropriate ways to manage stress.

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