News

Police suspect drug overdose in death of Federal Way girl, 12 | Lakota Middle School pays tribute in yellow

Students at Lakota Middle School in Federal Way honored Jessica Griffith (also known as Jessica Wood) with a display near the school
Students at Lakota Middle School in Federal Way honored Jessica Griffith (also known as Jessica Wood) with a display near the school's entrance. On Wednesday, dozens of students at Lakota honored Jessica by wearing yellow, her favorite color.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/The Mirror

Tacoma police believe a 12-year-old Federal Way girl may have died from a prescription drug overdose.

On Oct. 18, Jessica Griffith (also known as Jessica Wood) was discovered not breathing at her aunt's residence in the Newport Lane Condominiums on Nassau Avenue Northeast in Tacoma. Medics pronounced her dead at the scene at 12:34 p.m. Monday.

The cause of death is under investigation and requires a toxicology test. Results from that test could take two weeks or more, said Mark Fulgham, spokesman for Tacoma police. Based on detective interviews with family members, investigators believe the prescription drug Methadone may have played a role, he said.

On Wednesday, dozens of students at Lakota honored Jessica by wearing yellow, her favorite color. Students penned heartfelt notes for a display in the school library that included yellow flowers.

In one note in the library, a student wrote: "I remember how you used to stand up for me while the other kids bullied me. I liked that about you." Another student wrote: "There are so many things I could say but the one thing I can't is goodbye."

This week, the school provided grief counseling for groups and individual students. Lakota will hold an assembly on Friday, with a moment of silence, to pay tribute to Jessica. A poster with student and staff signatures will be presented to her family at an upcoming memorial service (time and date to be announced). One student started a Facebook page in memory of Jessica.

Despite lingering questions surrounding the investigation, Lakota Principal Pam Tuggle wants to set the tone in her school by encouraging the middle school students to celebrate Jessica's life.

"My goal is to create an atmosphere of calmness and caring," Tuggle said.

Leslie Montgomery, a Young Life leader, offered counseling and conversation about the situation Tuesday evening at the Starbucks on Dash Point Road. About 15 to 25 students met Montgomery at the coffee shop across the street from the school, with Starbucks even donating pastries.

"I would describe her as bubbly," Montgomery said, noting Jessica's sense of humor and talent for photography. "She had a bright personality."

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Aug 29 edition online now. Browse the archives.