Nov. 10: Massive blood alcohol level may lead to charges in woman's death

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 27, 2007 - 9:56 AM

Authorities are considering the possibility of criminal charges in the death of Amanda Jax, whose blood alcohol level was nearly 0.46 percent -- more than five times the legal driving limit -- when she died after a night of drinking to celebrate her 21st birthday.

Jax, of Mayer, Minn., drank "copious amounts of alcohol in a short frame of time" on the night of Oct. 29, Mankato Deputy Public Safety Director Matt Westermayer said Friday. The Blue Earth County medical examiner's report put the blood alcohol reading precisely at 0.4594 percent.

A civil suit or criminal charges are "a definite possibility," Westermayer said. The police investigation will now be turned over to the city attorney's office, he said.

The Mankato Free Press reported Thursday that Jax spent the last night of her life drinking heavily at the Sidelines Bar & Grill in downtown Mankato.

The newspaper, citing an affidavit filed in Blue Earth County District Court, reported that Jax drank one beer at an apartment before heading to Sidelines with friends. She then spent two to three hours at the bar drinking "Long Island iced tea" cocktails and four different shots of liquor, the paper said, citing the affidavit. The document added that Jax had to be helped out of the bar about 11:45 p.m. Oct. 29 and that friends said she was still alive at 2:30 a.m. on Oct. 30.

Serving alcohol to someone who is clearly intoxicated is a gross misdemeanor.

Westermayer said that in his 21 years in law enforcement he has "maybe once" seen a level of intoxication this "incredibly high."

When she last was issued a driver's license, in March 2006, Jax listed herself as being 5 feet 5 and 105 pounds.

A Wisconsin Department of Transportation Internet calculator shows that a 100-pound woman would have to drink 10 12-ounce beers in two hours to reach 0.433.

"The death of Amanda Jax is a tragedy ... that should have never occurred," Westermayer said. "Binge drinking ... is a very serious problem with devastating effects as the death of Amanda Jax so clearly and cruelly illustrates."

He added that only through "awareness, response and involvement of the community as a whole" can this behavior be successfully fought.

Jax was in Mankato to celebrate turning 21. A pre-nursing student at Minnesota State University, Mankato, between 2005 and this summer, she had been accepted into the nursing program in the spring.

After the celebration, Jax was taken to a friend's off-campus apartment. When friends found her to be unresponsive in the morning, they called 911 shortly after 7 a.m., police said.

About 1,400 students a year suffer drinking-related deaths, with fewer than 300 of those from alcohol poisoning or choking in their sleep, a 2002 federal study showed.

State crime records show that Jax, while enrolled at Mankato and still too young to legally drink, was twice convicted of drunken driving: once in 2005 in Hennepin County and in 2006 in McLeod County.

A Facebook page has been operating since Jax's death, including dozens of photos and messages filled with memories. Several writers were angered by the characterization of Jax as a binge drinker and the reports of her previous drunken-driving convictions.

"It just bothered me so much that they tried to make an example out of Amanda," one person wrote Thursday, "when she was mearly [sic] doing what others have done on their birthday."

Star Tribune researcher Roberta Hovde contributed to this report. Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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