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2 Girls Drown; Mother of One Jailed

Deputies say woman was high on meth as the pair died in a backyard pool in Morongo Valley.

September 01, 2004|Sandra Murillo | Times Staff Writer

MORONGO VALLEY, Calif. — Two 9-year-old girls drowned in a small aboveground swimming pool Monday evening while the mother of one of them was high on methamphetamine inside her home just a few feet away, San Bernardino County deputies said.

They arrested Tracy Toca, 48 -- on suspicion of being under the influence of a controlled substance and possession for sale of a controlled substance -- after attempts to resuscitate her daughter, Nicole, and her best friend, Anita Buzzard, failed.

A family friend also was arrested while trying to leave the house carrying methamphetamine, officials said. Sheriff's investigators believe the girls were playing on a pool cover when they became entangled and drowned.

The pool was about 30 inches deep, authorities said.

Kathy Buzzard, Anita's mother, said the girls were elementary school classmates.

"I guess there was nobody out there watching them, but they've been swimming out there by themselves all summer," she said, in tears.

"I'm just really dumbfounded right now."

Several neighbors in the 11000 block of Mescalero Avenue said a family friend discovered the girls in the pool, pulled them out and called for help about 7:30 p.m. Neighbors administered CPR until paramedics arrived.

"Somebody yelled for help, and we all came running," said neighbor Lori Weeks, who said she was the second person to arrive at Nicole's side. "There was two certified CPR people on each child from the moment they got pulled out."

The children were unresponsive when paramedics arrived. They were airlifted to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, where they were pronounced dead.

Toca's friend, Daniel Godley, 54, was trying to leave the scene with the methamphetamine that had been in the house, deputies said. They searched the home and found narcotics paraphernalia and evidence that someone had been selling drugs, said Chip Patterson, a sheriff's spokesman.

Godley and Toca were booked into the Morongo Basin Station jail, with bail set at $15,000 apiece.

The district attorney's office had not decided whether to charge Toca and Godley with child endangerment, Patterson said.

Buzzard said she was surprised that deputies said Toca was high when the children drowned. She described Toca as an overprotective mother who would not let Nicole walk to the corner by herself.

"I don't think drugs had anything to do with it. It was a very bad accident," Buzzard said.

She questions why a cover was on the pool and why it took so long for anyone to notice they were missing.

"How come there was no one there?" Buzzard said. "No one's come to explain what happened."

By Tuesday afternoon, friends had erected two wooden crosses as a memorial.

Their school, Morongo Valley Elementary, was accepting donations for their burial, and a local church was planning a car wash to raise money for the service.

"The whole town is in mourning," said neighbor Petra Abell.

Nicole and Anita were playful, talkative and inseparable. Anita played the piano and had boasted to her mother that her skills would someday make her rich enough to buy her mother a Lamborghini car, Buzzard said.

On Monday, Buzzard said Nicole came over and invited Anita to her house. Buzzard told her daughter to be home by 7:30 p.m. She had almost fallen asleep when someone banged on the door and told her there had been an accident, she said.

"I thought she'd fallen, bumped her head or something," Buzzard said. "I get over there and they tell me she'd been under water for 10 minutes."

Like many little girls, Nicole and Anita had planned to be friends forever, said Anita's 12-year-old sister, Heather.

"Anita always said, 'Me and Nicole want to live with each other and be roommates when we grow up, and when we get old, we'll die together.' "

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