In high school, Samantha Spady was an honors student, homecoming queen, class president and captain of the cheerleading squad -- an uncommon young woman who police believe fell victim to the most common killer on college campuses: alcohol.
Spady, who friends said was popular in high school and a natural leader, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.43 percent, more than five times the legal limit for driving in Colorado, when her body was found Sunday at a Colorado State University fraternity house, according to a report in The Rocky Mountain News, which cited anonymous sources.
The 19-year-old sophomore's body was found in an unused room at the Sigma Pi fraternity house, Fort Collins Police Department spokeswoman Rita Davis said. Autopsy results showed no signs of physical trauma, the young woman was not sexually assaulted and foul play is not suspected, but Davis said investigators believe alcohol contributed to Spady's death.
Toxicology tests are also planned, but the results will not be known for 10 days, police said.
If alcohol was to blame for her death, Spady fell victim to a killer that is blamed for the deaths of 1,400 college students per year, according to figures from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Police at Princeton University, the University of Michigan and McGill University in Montreal are also investigating the unexplained deaths of students found on those campuses over the weekend. There was no immediate indication that alcohol played a role in any of those deaths.
About 500,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are injured annually while under the influence of alcohol, more than 600,000 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking and more than 70,000 students are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape, according to the NIAAA.
A new study released of college student alcohol abuse found that binge drinking is usually at its worst among younger students and at the beginning of the school year.
More than 24 drinks in a row among freshmen male drinkers is not uncommon, according to the study by the Prevention Research Center of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, which was funded by the NIAAA.
The survey of California college students found that overall, college drinkers may have 12 or more drinks 10 percent of the times that they go drinking, while young men in college will have at least 12 drinks 20 percent of the time.
"These are levels at which drinkers are at risk for the very serious problems posed by peak drinking, including alcohol poisoning," said Paul Gruenewald, senior researcher at the Berkeley, Calif.-based Prevention Research Center. "When you see just how much some students may drink, it's easier to understand how these young people may suffer from many alcohol-related accidents and injuries, some as simple as falling out of a dormitory window."
Detectives were investigating whether Spady and a friend were involved in a one-car accident over the weekend. They believe Spady may have been drunk at the time, abandoned her car and called a member of Sigma Pi for a ride, police said.
Investigators were not clear whether Spady drank at the fraternity house on Saturday night, but they said they believe members of the fraternity checked on her periodically and thought she had passed out.