Teen charged in drug death

Garner girl went into convulsions

Staff WriterJanuary 25, 2006 

Erica Hicks was declared brain dead Oct. 3.

CARY -- Police on Tuesday charged a 15-year-old boy with second-degree murder, saying he supplied a 16-year-old friend with a lethal mixture of drugs at a birthday party in the fall.

Erica Hicks of Garner died Oct. 3 after she ingested a toxic mixture of methamphetamine, cocaine and ecstasy, according to an autopsy.

A few hours after taking the cocktail, Hicks began vomiting and convulsing, according to an investigative report that accompanied the autopsy. She collapsed a few hours later on Oct. 2 and died at WakeMed the next day.

Assistant Wake District Attorney Howard Cummings said he thought the case was the first time Wake County prosecutors have charged someone with murder for supplying drugs. Prosecutors say they expect to ask the court to try the teen as an adult.

State law allows prosecutors to charge a person with second-degree murder if that person illegally distributes drugs such as opium or cocaine and the ingestion of those drugs results in death. The law was amended in 2004 to include methamphetamine.

Cary police also charged the boy with knowingly delivering a controlled substance and with possession of ecstasy with intent to sell and deliver, Capt. Dave Wulff said. Ecstasy is a synthetic drug that acts as a stimulant and a hallucinogen.

Police did not release the boy's name and address because he is younger than 16. Cary police referred questions about the case to Cummings, who declined to elaborate.

Students at Southeast Raleigh High School, where Hicks was a junior, said the boy attended a different high school. Police said Hicks and the boy were acquainted but were not dating.

Hicks attended a birthday party the night of Oct. 1 where drugs were being shared, according to the investigative report. Afterward, Hicks and at least one friend went to the boy's house in Cary.

About midnight, Hicks started to vomit and convulse before she collapsed, the investigative report and autopsy said.

Rather than call 911, the boy called a family friend, Lawrence Kass, and asked for help, Kass said in an interview Tuesday.

When Kass walked into the boy's house, Hicks did not appear to be conscious or breathing, Kass said. He quickly called 911.

"All I know is that there was someone in distress and I went over to help out," Kass said. "I was just there momentarily."

Hicks was taken to WakeMed and declared brain dead Oct. 3, the investigative report said. The medical examiner's office concluded that the amount of each drug was not enough to kill Hicks, but the combination was lethal.

Police seized a plastic bag, which contained a white, powdery substance, and a Gateway computer from the boy's house shortly after the October incident, according to an incident report.

A popular junior at Southeast Raleigh, Hicks played softball and soccer and had been a member of the school's cheerleading team.

"She was a very outgoing person," her grandmother Betty Foster said. "She would just come out here bouncing off the walls."

Hicks didn't like vegetables, but nothing came between her and Foster's mashed potatoes.

"As a child, she could put away the mashed potatoes," Foster said.

Friends described Hicks as vibrant and personable. Her parking spot at Southeast was saved in her memory, and friends still get upset if someone parks in it.

"A lot of people knew who she was," said Ashley Hawkins, a senior. "She was involved in the school. She had a lot of close-knit friends who miss her."

Hicks' death shocked her friends, but her drug use was no secret. Some peers even referred to it in posts left on Web logs.

"We knew she was using," said Ashley Beale, a senior who knew Hicks from the cheerleading team. "But we didn't know she would die."

(News researchers Denise Jones and Lamara Williams-Hackett contributed to this report.)

Staff writer Jennifer Brevorka can be reached at 836-4906 or jbrevork@newsobserver.com.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service