An Annapolis couple thought by sending their daughter to Florida, she would get help from a mental health program, and later, enter a drug treatment program. But now they’re grieving her death and questioning if more could have been done to save her.
Jade Kothe, 20, was an alumna of Baltimore School for the Arts and Annapolis High School who aspired to open her own dance studio. She died June 28 in West Palm Beach. She had been living there to receive treatment, according to her mother, Lana Kothe, a fashion show and events coordinator, and father, Konan Ellerbe, a disc jockey popularly known as “Konan” at Urban One Radio.
“She was a young girl, talented and beautiful,” her mother said in an interview Saturday.
Kothe always loved dancing and exhibited natural talent at an early age, her parents said. When she got to middle school, she was accepted into a magnet program for dance after her audition.
“She took to it so easily,” her father said. Her parents recalled how one dance teacher was so impressed with her abilities she could not believe she hadn’t previously received formal training.
Kothe attended the Baltimore School for the Arts for ballet for her first three years of high school but transferred to Annapolis High School her senior year to be closer to friends, her mother said. She graduated in 2018 and decided to take some time off to figure out her next steps, and had moved in with a boyfriend.
Her parents grew concerned, they said, after she started acting differently. Suspecting she had been using drugs, her parents asked her in March to take a drug test.
Their fears were confirmed. Kothe told them she was struggling with anxiety and depression. She had begun using drugs to cope, they said.
Quickly, they arranged for her to receive treatment in Florida. Kothe was reluctant to accept help for the drug use, they said, but she agreed to attend a program at a behavioral health center for treatment of anxiety and depression. She was later voluntarily transferred to a second facility in Florida for drug treatment.
Her parents said Kothe attended the program for about two months and was doing well. They said she spoke up in group sessions and appeared to be making progress. Her parents said they were also relieved she was away from the local circle of friends who had introduced her to drugs.
On June 28, West Palm Beach Police and the Fire Department were called for a possible overdose at a home Kothe had been renting with a boyfriend, according to a police report. The report said three police officers attempted to resuscitate Kothe until firefighters arrived on scene and provided more advanced medical care.
A body-camera video that West Palm Beach police provided Saturday to The Baltimore Sun showed teams of officers, and apparently paramedics, working to revive her for about nine minutes. Officers applied constant CPR and pleaded with the young woman to pull through.
“Come on. Come on. ... Come on, dear,” a female officer can be heard saying as the team continued CPR and applied a ventilation device. At the end, when the paramedics had taken over full control of the rescue efforts, an officer noted they had helped her before and can be heard saying, “I don’t think she’s going going to make it this time.”
They could not revive Kothe, and she was pronounced dead at the scene, the report said.
Kothe’s parents have expressed concerns that their daughter was not given adequate care by the first responders. They suggest that because police were called twice before for drug overdoses involving their daughter, the third call was not treated with the same urgency.
In both previous calls to the home, the police reports say, Kothe was initially unconscious but breathing. When police were called on May 28, for example, an officer ultimately rode with Kothe to the hospital where she received treatment. The police report did not say if Kothe was given Narcan, an antidote to overdoses.
When police were called for another apparent overdose a week later, on June 5, a firefighter gave her Narcan, and Kothe was later taken to the hospital, the police report said.
The parents are questioning why their daughter wasn’t immediately administered Narcan, and rushed to the hospital during the final overdose.
Attorneys for the family are also questioning whether the officers’ actions exacerbated Kothe’s injuries. Maryland attorney J. Wyndal Gordon, who has been retained by the family in addition to counsel in Florida, said the family’s account is based on eyewitness accounts from the scene.
The body-worn camera footage shows an officer appear to quickly pull Kothe by her arms from the backseat of a parked SUV onto the ground where the officer begins immediately doing chest compressions.
Later, when fire personnel arrive and take over treatment, a firefighter can be heard asking for Narcan, but it’s unclear from the blurred video whether Kothe was given the Narcan.
An autopsy to determine the manner and cause of death has not yet been completed because of pending toxicology reports, said David Lefont, a spokesman for the West Palm Beach Police Department.
Lefont said narcotics investigators, which respond to overdose deaths, are continuing to investigate Kothe’s death.
After the department learned of the family’s concerns, he said, an assistant chief attempted to reach out to Kothe’s parents, who ultimately directed the assistant chief to their attorneys. Her parents said the assistant chief did not provide them with information and didn’t appear to be trying to help the family.
“It’s so difficult for me because she was down there to get help,” Kothe’s mother said. “She wasn’t down there running the streets. It hurts me that there might be a chance that she could be here.”