Witness: 11-year-old partied with older guys
South Lake Tahoe police are still examining the circumstances around the death of a South Tahoe Middle School sixth-grader.
According to police reports, 11-year-old Claudia Torres was taken to Barton Memorial Hospital at around 1:30 a.m., March 27. After medical treatment failed, Torres was pronounced dead at 2:08 a.m.
Officers investigating “suspicious circumstances” at the hospital could not determine who the girl was and therefore had to authorize her medical treatment. Investigators later learned Torres’ name by talking with friends and family.
Statements made to the Tahoe Daily Tribune by people who knew Torres suggest that she died of a drug overdose while attending a gathering of approximately 15 people the evening of March 26.
A close friend of hers, Jane, who is having her name withheld due to her young age, said Claudia’s last day was a typical one for the middle school student. Her mother was at work, working double shifts to help support her children.
Later that evening, when the two girls decided to go to a party, Torres went to her father’s home to ask him for money. According to Jane, he gave Torres $20 and she and her friends headed to the party.
They had partied with the group before and had not seen them since they had moved to their new apartment at Heavenly Valley Apartments.
Once they arrived at the apartment, the host allegedly offered them a choice of appetizers and drinks – among the choices were powdered cocaine and beer, Jane said.
All the kids in the group declined the invitation with the exception of Claudia, Jane said.
A majority of those in attendance at the party were in their late teens or early 20s, Jane said.
Police are waiting for toxicology and autopsy reports before deciding whether to pursue charges. They have not determined whether any criminal activity was involved in the death.
“We’re not ruling it out,” Sgt. Tom Conner said. “There are a couple of people that were at the party that we are looking at. There could have been (criminal activity.) (The cause of death) is still an unknown. We don’t think it was a congenital problem.”
Conner said the autopsy report may not be available for weeks, though the toxicology reports may be back within days. Conner said the police are frustrated that the results of the post-mortem examinations take so long to be returned.
“They can test the blood relatively fast, but some of that stuff has to get sent back to the Midwest (for processing),” Conner said. “We are looking at a six-week turn around. This is unacceptable, and it is one of those things that we have been fighting. I am not really happy with them. They do a good job but it just takes them forever.”
While police are uncertain whether charges will be filed, Conner said the speed at which the post-mortem examination results are available could play a role in arresting anyone who may be responsible.
“In a case like this, six weeks down the road, whoever may be responsible may have gotten a little antsy and gone to Canada or Mexico or wherever,” Conner said.
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