A sixteen-year-old girl is found dead during a visit with her father.
In the summer of 1997, Carson City, Nevada, resident Sandra Jennings received an urgent call from her brother, Clarence Jennings. He was trying to locate his 16-year-old daughter, Natasha, who was visiting from California:
Sandra told Clearance that she had found Natasha on the floor. She’s wasn’t breathing:
Natasha Jennings was already dead when the paramedics arrived. Ultimately, three theories about the cause of her death would emerge: drug abuse, sexual assault, and foul play.
When Natasha Jennings was very young, her parents divorced. Natasha lived with her mother in southern California. By the time she was 16, Natasha wanted to reconnect with her father, Clarence. She hoped an extended visit to his home in Nevada would bridge the years of separation. At first, Natasha’s mother, Tammy Stelton, wasn’t keen on the idea:
Sandra, Natasha’s aunt, was the last person to see her alive. They ate lunch together around 1:00. Later that afternoon, Clarence placed several calls to his daughter. He became more and more worried when he couldn’t reach her.
When police arrived at the scene, they found Natasha slumped on the bedroom floor. Her hair was damp as if she had just taken a shower. An electric fan lay on top of her.
There were no signs of trauma. Still, investigators turned their attention to a young man Natasha had become close to, who we will call Chris. Allegations had been raised that Chris had sexually assaulted her just days before. The investigation revealed that Natasha and Chris went to a party together a few nights before she died. Those who had been drinking were invited to wait until morning to drive home. No one saw what Natasha and Chris did the rest of the night. According to Ingrid Cotar, a friend in California, a confused and traumatized Natasha called the following morning to tell her something had happened after the party:
Chris was interrogated, but according to Scott Burau, detectives concluded that whatever happened between him and Natasha could not be considered criminal:
As soon as Natasha’s mother, Tammy, learned about her daughter’s death, she rushed to Carson City:
Then, one day, a woman approached her at a shopping center with some new information:
The woman claimed that Natasha’s father, Clarence, was a drug informant for local law enforcement. She said his cover had been blown and the drug dealers killed Natasha in retaliation. Clarence Jennings denied the claim:
Natasha’s mother said she and other relatives confronted one of the Carson City detectives assigned to Natasha’s case:
Scott Burau claimed that Tammy was mistaken:
But soon, another theory emerged. Investigators thought that Natasha might have overdosed on drugs. A scrap of plastic recovered on a landing outside Natasha’s bedroom contained traces of speed and cocaine. And there was a very small amount of the drugs in her nose. Forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht outlined a possible scenario:
Tammy Stelton rejected that theory:
During the autopsy, the medical examiner found no drug residue in Natasha’s system.
Today, the investigation has hit a dead end, leaving Tammy Stelton frustrated:
Scott Burau said his department is stumped:
Officially, the investigation into the death of Natasha Jennings is still open.