Drugs and Death

Stephanie Slater did excellent workon the Florida Atlantic University drug overdose death of 18-year-old Nicole Phillips and 19-year-old Richard Cardinale. Slater definitely has the bug, man -- you know, that thing that drives you to tell the whole damn story. It's in maybe 20 percent of reporters in the business. Maybe that much, maybe not. Anyway, Slater has it and she tracked down all kinds of people, the key source being dorm mate Megan Manary, who told Slater the basics:

Manary said she saw Phillips and Cardinale in the stairwell around 2 a.m. Sunday and she could tell they had been using drugs. Cardinale was wearing Manary's white Gateway Field Hockey Camps T-shirt, which was splattered with purple paint. She let him borrow it because the clothes he had been wearing looked dirty, she said.

"They had been drinking, eating Xanax bars all night and snorting powdered morphine," Manary said. "I told them, 'Don't do any more morphine.' Ricky said, 'I'm on cloud nine.' Those were his last words to me."

Let's see, "drinking, eating Xanax bars all night, and snorting powdered morphine." That's some serious senses-dulling going on there. Still, it's extremely odd that both of them died at the same time and it makes me wonder if there wasn't something extremely unpleasant cut into that morphine.

Phillips, who went by Nikk and just turned 18 last month, was a beautiful girl who may have had a death wish. You can see her Myspace

page here. I was struck by the strange almost ominous -- or omen-ous -- tone of some of her own words on the page. First the song playing: Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb," a great song, but one that, in this context, is a little more than eerie. Then the main quote on her page: "A little loaded, she was stealing another breath..." The words conjure up drug use and death -- and they come from the Red Hot Chili Peppers song Dani California, about a girl who dies young. On her pictures page, there are several references to death as well.

Under one is the quote, "give her the guilt trip, and maybe she'll quit livin...". That comes from a song from rapper Eyedea called Paradise about drug addiction and death (or at least near-death). The chorus of the song:

"We've rediscovered the long-lost art of dying Only too lonely resent angels for flying Addicted, afraid to take control of my own life This is paradise."

The longest passage on her Myspace page is a collection of quotes from a song by a rap band called Atmosphere. It's of the same theme as the rest:

It's all in vain if there's nothing left to gain... And somethin's in the way she looks at her prey... There's no way she'll allow you to live... Swallow the fight, inhale the night... There's not much else left for you to give... Whos leaving, there she goes whos breathing... as opposed to who's bleeding... Carress the rooftop and stare at the space... For the flesh that you gave just to get a taste... It goes... nothing comes close... Scream of the smile and choke boy choke... Passion come death, and death bring power... At the top of the hour we sing for the monster... And here she goes, with that look in her eyes... The souls of those that got took by surprise... Crooked little smile that clings to her lips... On a night like this I sing for the bitch....

welcome to hell ...

Under another of Phillips' pictures is, apropros of nothing, the words: "already lived too much." Another is a picture with a boy in a cap where she clearly looks addled by drugs. The caption: "welcome to hell... yeh i dont remember who this guy is."

You wonder if her friends -- or anyone at the university -- saw this dark end coming as clearly as she seemed to have. There is an indication on the page that Phillips was caught smoking pot in her dorm room and that she was on "probation" for it. So there were signs, just not enough help.

Not that anyone is to blame. She was just so damn young, and it's just so damn sad.

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