Student gets threats after aiding police Girl gave information about fatal overdose of 15-year-old; 'I just don't feel safe'; Senior will be allowed to finish classwork for year at home


A 16-year-old girl who provided information to authorities in connection with the overdose death of a Westminster High School student has received two death threats and has been repeatedly harassed, her family said.

After the latest threat Monday evening, school authorities granted senior Jennifer Sarsfield permission to finish classwork at home for the final three weeks of courses at Westminster High.

Shelley Sarsfield, Jennifer's mother, said yesterday it is "grossly unfair" that her daughter has become "imprisoned," while a girl charged in connection with the death of 15-year-old Liam O'Hara has been allowed in school.

"Jennifer's a 4.0 [grade point average] student, a model student, skipped her junior year to graduate a year early, has received early acceptance to a prestigious college, and she's the victim. It's just not fair," Mrs. Sarsfield said.

One of the three defendants charged in connection with O'Hara's death screamed at her and threatened her at school Friday, Jennifer said, and two anonymous telephone threats on her life were made to the family's home Monday evening.

"We didn't sleep all [Monday] night, and Tuesday, I stayed home because that was the day I was supposed to die," Jennifer said. "I just don't feel safe in school anymore. I already may go away for the whole summer."

Because the matter is under investigation, state police and Edward J. Puls Jr., an assistant state's attorney who specializes in prosecuting juvenile offenders, declined to comment yesterday.

Sherri-Le Bream, principal at Westminster High School, the county's largest high school, could not be reached for comment.

The first death threat came Monday while Jennifer was out, her mother said. Jennifer returned home to find a state police car parked outside.

"My dad told me about the threat, and an investigator [from the state's attorney's office] was talking to me when another call came in," Jennifer said. "The trooper told me to take the call, and a male voice -- late teens or early 20s, I think -- said, 'You're going to die, bitch.' "

Authorities helpful

Jennifer said she has been told repeatedly not to say anything to the female defendant, who is being monitored while awaiting a hearing in juvenile court this month.

"I don't, but it doesn't help. [She's] back on the street and I have to be home by dark," Jennifer said. "They [police] tell me never ever go anywhere alone. It's not doing any good to stay quiet."

Mrs. Sarsfield said the school, police and the state's attorney's office have been wonderful.

"We don't want this to blow up in our face, but something has to be done with the way the juvenile [authorities] handle these matters," she said.

The Sarsfields own the Burger King on Route 140 in Westminster, where Jennifer works as a training coordinator. She knew Liam O'Hara, who also worked there.

She knows Kristopher Olenginski, 16, who has been charged as an adult on heroin distribution charges as well as with reckless endangerment in connection with O'Hara's death.

She knows the other two defendants, a girl and a boy, both 17, who were charged as juveniles.

Jennifer said her problems began about five weeks ago after she received a subpoena to testify and investigators for Olenginski wanted to interview her.

"We had an understanding that a transcript would be made of the taped interview and we would have the chance to see it and make sure everything was correct," Mrs. Sarsfield said.

Before that happened, a girl whom Jennifer saw at a mall relayed a message indicating that the female defendant knew what was said.

Hallway encounter

When the Sarsfields saw the 23-page transcript of their interview two or three days later, Jennifer said she knew immediately that the defendant had seen the transcript.

The investigators denied giving it to anyone, but "I was hearing things [from my friends and from her friends] that were quotes of what I had said [in the interview]," Jennifer said.

On Friday, the female defendant was "screaming and came running at me," in a school hallway before two of her friends held her back, Jennifer said.

She went to the office and called her parents, she said.

Police came but couldn't do anything because they said "nothing had happened," Jennifer said.

Mrs. Sarsfield said the girl was disciplined and not allowed to attend Saturday's prom, so Jennifer did enjoy that evening.

"But she was back in school early Monday," Jennifer said. "I'm tired of all the dirty looks and the laughs I get. I haven't had any problem" with the two boys.

Mrs. Sarsfield said she and her husband, Neil, were watching television when the first death threat came.

"I answered and a voice said, 'Your daughter is dead,' " Mrs. Sarsfield said. "I didn't say anything, and then he said, 'If she isn't already dead, she will be tomorrow. I will kill her.' "

State police were called and heard the second threat, she said.

"This whole matter is a tragedy, and it shouldn't be happening," Mrs. Sarsfield said.

Pub Date: 5/14/98

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