Death by drink didn't shock Mankato cops

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 1, 2007 - 9:15 PM

Amanda Jax's death from drinking too much during her 21st-birthday celebration may have shocked her family and friends, but Mankato police say they're not surprised that such a thing would happen.

"Binge drinking ... has been a problem for some time," Matt Westermayer, deputy director of public safety for Mankato, said two days after Jax died in a Mankato apartment.

"Ms. Jax's death is a complete tragedy," Westermayer added, "but is not anything we were surprised by. ... We expected that we would be faced with this eventually."

Westermayer added that trying to turn the tide on alcohol abuse "has been pushed off on law enforcement." He sees it more as a problem for all segments of society to confront.

"Quite frankly, I think the public is sick and tired of law enforcement talking about this," he said. "We can't change this."

He emphasized that other college towns are also struggling with the sometimes deadly consequences of heavy drinking among college students and others. He pointed to St. Cloud and La Crosse, Wis., where several intoxicated young adults have drowned in recent years.

The final hours of Jax's life are being pieced together as police try to learn more about the death of the woman whom police believe drank herself to death the night of her 21st birthday, the first day she could drink legally.

Police are trying "to create a time line in what Miss Jax did in the last hours of her life," Westermayer said.

Otherwise, he said, "We're in a holding pattern, simply waiting for the [Blue Earth County] medical examiner's report" on the cause and manner of Jax's death. That report is not expected to be released for at least a week, he said.

After receiving a 911 call early Tuesday, officers and firefighters found Jax, of Mayer, Minn., dead on a bed in an apartment near Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Police said it "appears that alcohol played a significant role in the death of Ms. Jax" after she "became quite intoxicated."

Jax was in town to celebrate turning 21 on Monday. She was a pre-nursing student at the university between 2005 and this summer and had been accepted into the nursing program next spring, a university spokesman said.

Services for Jax are scheduled for 11 a.m. today at St. Boniface Catholic Church in St. Bonifacius, Minn.

Emotional tributes, photographs and fond recollections mounted by the dozens on a Facebook Web page created in her memory.

"It was just last Sunday before her b-day that we got into deep conversations about our hopes and dreams and aspirations," one friend wrote. "She talked about her plans for the future, how excited she was that she just got accepted to nursing school, and the family she wanted to start to make right after graduating."

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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