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Boy, 14, Held in Overdose Death

June 29, 2003|Wendy Thermos and Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writers

Police arrested a 14-year-old boy on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter Saturday after a female schoolmate fatally overdosed on cocaine he allegedly gave her so the two could get high together, authorities said.

Jennifer Melendez, 15, of Van Nuys died at a local hospital about 14 hours after going into convulsions on a rubble-strewn railroad right of way in that community, police said.

The girl's parents told police that their daughter was an A student at Van Nuys High School who did not miss classes. Det. Al Aldaz said the boy attends the same school.

"This whole thing is tragic," Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Jack Richter said. "A very young girl has lost her life due to the horrors of drug use."

Richter said the boy, whose name was withheld because he is a minor, was arrested because he gave Melendez the cocaine and was with her when she ingested it. The teenager was being held at Juvenile Hall in Sylmar.

He told detectives the pair had been using cocaine for two to three months, authorities said. But the girl's parents, whose names were not released, said there was no indication that their daughter was a drug user, Aldaz said.

An ambulance was dispatched after a report about 12:15 p.m. Friday of a possible drug overdose near the 6100 block of Costello Avenue, authorities said.

Paramedics and police found Melendez unconscious and administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation, authorities said.

The boy was arrested at the scene.

The 100-foot-wide railroad right of way near Hazeltine Avenue is flanked by apartments, auto repair shops and houses but hidden from view by a tall fence.

"Sometimes kids come here to do drugs," said Paul Jeters, 75, who lives nearby. "I didn't know her, but I saw her on the corner, talking to some other kids, about a half hour before the ambulance came. It's such a shame."

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