The mother of Deneathia Service, the 11-year-old girl who died accidentally while playing a game sometimes called suffocation roulette, wants to help keep other parents from suffering a similar tragedy.
"I think definitely this is an eye-opener for families,'' Deneathia Smith, 34, said on Wednesday during a news conference in St. Petersburg.
She urged parents to talk to their children about the game, which is called by different names and has resulted in dozens of deaths around the country.
Before the news conference, Smith said any family could be affected by the suffocation game that is said to give children who play it a brief high.
"It doesn't matter what walk of life, no family is exempt,'' she said.
"Deneathia was raised in a good Christian home, taught good Christian principles. She knew not to curse, not to use drugs.''
The St. Petersburg girl died June 15 after attaching a belt to a shelf in a closet, then tying it around her neck, according to a police report. Her 12-year-old brother found her and cut the belt from around her neck, but she showed no signs of life and was later pronounced dead at Bayfront Medical Center.
Smith, who has five other children and hopes to become a registered nurse, said she wants parents to talk to their children about the game and tell them it is definitely not a way to play.
"I had heard of the choking game,'' but never thought it would affect her, she said. "I didn't see any signs that she knew about the game.''
In retrospect, though, Smith said she remembers occasionally seeing an open space in the closet.
Smith's pastor, the Rev. Troy Jones of the Church of God of St. Petersburg, sat beside Smith and said he wanted other pastors to help educate the community about the dangers.
Jones said Deneathia died only hours after being honored at the church for her achievement in school, in a ceremony with cake and ice cream. She was a student at Gulfport Montessori Elementary School and was on the honor roll, he said.
Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283.