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."
Sleeping It Off?
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.
There was no party at the frat house that night and no one had admitted drinking with Spady, Sigma Pi President Darren Pettapiece told ABC News affiliate KMGH-TV in Denver, adding that the frat's members have always been responsible when it comes to alcohol consumption and risk management.
Other members of Sigma Pi declined to comment on Spady's death.
The national fraternity has suspended the CSU chapter of Sigma Pi, meaning the residents can still live there but cannot hold any social activities, The Associated Press reported. The national executive director said the move was not intended as punishment or an indication that the chapter was seen as having done anything wrong.
"We're taking control. We want to make sure what's going on," Mark Briscoe, national executive director of Brentwood, Tenn.-based Sigma Pi, told the AP.
The Greek community on the CSU campus does not allow parties involving alcohol at fraternity and sorority houses. Parties with alcohol are allowed only in third-party locations, such as bars or hotels, and guest lists must be submitted to the Greek Life office, a school official said.
A fraternity member was giving his mother a house tour Sunday when they found Spady's fully clothed body in an empty sofa-filled lounge on the second floor. Witnesses said that there was no vomit near her body and no drug or alcohol paraphernalia around her.
Police estimated that Spady died Sunday morning, so she may have been in the empty room about 12 hours before they were called.
CSU officials are waiting for Fort Collins police to complete their investigation before deciding what action to take.
"The university will continue to work closely with Fort Collins police and will take appropriate action pending results of the investigation," said Linda Kuk, CSU vice president for student affairs. "[The] administration is very concerned about the situation and has sent counselors to help university students and families affected by this tragedy."
'Out of Character'
Spady's friends in Nebraska said she was an honor student, head varsity cheerleader, homecoming queen and senior class president before graduating from Beatrice High School in Beatrice, Neb., in 2003.
Family friend Nile Dragoo called Spady "bubbly, refreshing, a breath of fresh air," who would light up a room as soon as she walked in.
Her family and friends are suspicious of the circumstances surrounding her death and say it's unlike her to binge drink and go into a frat house by herself.
"This just doesn't seem like her at all," Adam Tatro, a friend from high school, told KMGH-TV. "Sam, she was a smart girl. If you knew her at all through high school, she wasn't getting in trouble. She wasn't out doing stupid things. She was an all-around nice girl. This was out of character."
Spady was a former member of the Chi Omega sorority, just down the street from Sigma Pi, and still had many friends in Sigma Pi, friends told KMGH.
She was majoring in business and came from a prominent family in Nebraska. Her father, Rick Spady, owns several businesses, including Spady-Runcie, a car dealership in Beatrice, a town of about 13,000 located about 40 miles south of Lincoln.
Friends told KMGH she had said she wanted to go to school at CSU so that she could get away from the small-town life she knew.
A neighbor said Spady's parents were vacationing out of state when they got word of their daughter's death and immediately headed to Fort Collins.
ABC News affiliate KMGH-TV in Denver contributed to this report.