Officials investigate teen suicide
April 16, 2002
The circumstances of a teenage mother’s suicide in Basalt remained under investigation Monday as many midvalley residents, particularly Latinos, grieved over her death.
The woman was identified Monday as Diane Diaz-Ayala by the Pitkin County coroner’s office.
Diaz-Ayala, 15, was found dead in her apartment at 23284 Two Rivers Road at 3:50 p.m. by her boyfriend and another roommate, according to Basalt Police Chief Keith Ikeda. Authorities said she hung herself. She was last seen alive at 5:45 a.m. when her roommates went to work.
Two sources said her baby, who turned 1 year old about a month ago, was in the apartment at the time. Basalt police wouldn’t confirm that information, but detective Steve Wilson said the baby was unharmed.
Wilson confirmed that there were rumors among Diaz-Ayala’s friends that the baby was going to be taken away from the mother by Eagle County Social Services. He hadn’t been able to verify that information as of noon yesterday.
Civic leaders in Basalt concentrated Monday on helping Diaz-Ayala’s friends and family cope with the loss. Extra school counselors, as well as Basalt clergy, went to Basalt High School to work with students who wanted to talk, according to principal Jim Waddick.
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Diaz-Ayala was a sophomore at Basalt High. She was part of a tight-knit group that had been together since at least sixth grade, he said. A favorite middle school teacher of that group of kids came to the high school yesterday to assist her former students.
“I think it went well for them today. This was a good place for them to be,” said Waddick.
The grieving was more widespread Saturday night at the Manos Unidos/Hand-in-Hand event, designed to bring Anglos and Latinos together. A group of Diaz-Ayala’s friends spoke in Spanish and English about her death. A poster and collection box to benefit the baby and family were set up at the event.
Authorities said Diaz-Ayala’s mother and younger siblings live in Basalt. They also reported that Diaz-Ayala had received “emotional counseling” prior to Friday from Eagle County Social Services case worker Jennifer Worcester.
“Jennifer had been in contact with the decedent and was concerned about her condition,” said Ikeda.
Worcester didn’t return a message left on her voice mail Monday. Her boss, Eagle County Health and Human Services director Kathleen Forinash, wouldn’t confirm or deny any contact with Diaz-Ayala. She said her department cannot disclose its case work.
Speaking in general terms on policy and not on a specific case, Forinash said her case workers do everything possible to make sure the families are thoroughly cared for when contacted by Social Services – parents as well as children.
She wouldn’t comment on what precautions are taken specifically with mothers who may face having their children taken away from them.
Details of Diaz-Ayala’s contact with Social Services may come out in a standard report performed by the Colorado Department of Human Services.
Department spokeswoman Liz McDonough stressed that she wasn’t confirming that the Eagle County office had any contact with Diaz-Ayala.
However, in general, when there is a death involving a minor that has been in contact with Social Services, the state’s rules and regulations define a specific procedure that must be followed.
The county Social Services office must file a written report with the state office within 45 days, detailing any contact with the family. The state office conducts its own investigation at the site, then issues its own report.
McDonough said it is possible that portions of that type of report, called a Child Fatality Review, will be available to the public.