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Freshman teen, friend found dead of overdoses in F

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Freshman teen, friend found dead of overdoses in F

BOCA RATON? Florida Atlantic University freshman Nicole Phillips wanted to experience everything college offered.

"She always wanted to have fun," her friend, Jenna Choate, 19, said. "She liked to experiment, but took it a bit too far."

Her experimentation included drugs, and drugs apparently killed her, university officials and her friends said.

The 18-year-old girl and her friend, Richard Cardinale, 19, were found dead Sunday afternoon in her dormitory suite , only a day or two before she was to head home to Weston, Conn.

Her roommate discovered the bodies around 3:30 p.m. on the second floor of undergraduate Heritage Park Towers, home to 350 students. University police evacuated the floor until crime-scene and medical technicians searched the room and removed the bodies shortly before 3 a.m.

Phillips' suite will be closed off for the rest of the year. Her three roommates were moved to other rooms.

"I was every bit shocked when I got word," FAU President Frank Brogan said. "The students are like a family, and it's very difficult."

Autopsies were conducted Monday, but police said they would not release results until toxicology and other tests are completed.

Their deaths – the first fatal overdoses at FAU in four years – prompted the university to send grief counselors to the dormitory and open phone lines for students to call.

Students described a frightening scene in the dormitory as police sealed off Phillips' room and questioned everyone in the area. Many didn't know what had happened until the university sent out e-mails hours later.

"Just the fact that it happened here is so depressing," said Melissa Eckman, an FAU freshman who lives in the same dormitory. "My heart just dropped."

Police declined to say what drugs Phillips and Cardinale used or where they got the drugs. They also would not say whether drugs were found in the room or how long the pair were dead before they were discovered.

On Monday, FAU students said drugs being used on campus include Xanax, methamphetamine and morphine.Illegal drug use has become rampant on college campuses across the country, though overdose deaths remain relatively rare, said Dr. Bruce Goldberger, professor and director of toxicology at College of Medicine at the University of Florida.

Depending on what drugs Phillips and Cardinale used, their deaths could have been caused either by a substantial increase or decrease in blood pressure and in heart rates, he said.

"There's ready access to drugs on campus. You just need to know where to look," Goldberger said.

FAU campuses are no different, Brogan said.

When possible, campus police arrest drug dealers and users, but among the university's strongest drug-fighting tools are substance-prevention programs, Brogan said. Students attend a 50-minute presentation during orientation. Many students also take a college and life-skills course their freshman year. Programs are held regularly in dorms.

Still, Rosemary Dunbar, director of the university's wellness education programs, said she isn't optimistic the deaths will drastically change student behavior.

"They live in a world where this is very commonplace. They remember for a while, and then it gets lost," she said. "This is awful, and we hope it would have a bigger impact, but they're young and they do make really poor choices. They're partying and having fun and don't think through the repercussions."

Funny and outspoken, Phillips, who went by Nikk, grew up as an only child in Weston, Conn., an upscale town of 10,000 residents about 18 miles north of Stamford, friends said.

"She was a delight to be around," said Bob Fuhr, whose stepson, Jarred Fixler, 19, dated Phillips in high school.

She wasn't known for discipline problems, said Rose Marie Cipriano, principal of Weston High School, from which Phillips graduated this year. Her former art teacher was upset to learn of her death "because of her potential," Cipriano said.

Phillips was fluent in Spanish and kept up her grades while playing sports, she added. She was on the honor roll in ninth, 10th and 11th grades.

But she also had trouble with drugs, her college friends said. Lately, as a psychology student at FAU, she was having problems coping with her father's ill health, said Sanam Talasazan, 18, an FAU freshman.

Phillips got to know Cardinale – a construction worker with a history of arrests for fraud, larceny and possible a marijuana possession – while he visited a friend in Heritage Park Towers, Talasazan said. They had started spending a lot of time together in recent weeks, she said.

Monday night, about 10 of her closest high school friends gathered in front of her parents' home with candles, flowers and a statue of an angel.

Many said Phillips never spoke of Cardinale.

"She was having the time of her life," said Jessica Granite, 19.

Fixler, who dated her for three years, said he knew her to experiment but she also knew her limits. "She was the happiest of the happiest people I ever met," he said.

Her parents, George and Renee Phillips, were headed for Boca Raton on Monday. A memorial service will be Saturday at Weston High School. FAU will have a memorial after the Thanksgiving break, Brogan said.

Staff Researcher Barbara Hijek and Staff Writers Scott Travis and Chrystian Tejedor contributed to this report.
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Freshman teen, friend found dead of overdoses in F

That's really saddening news…what a shame…
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Freshman teen, friend found dead of overdoses in F

Hate to say it but…
Stupid is as stupid does
What a waste
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