2 Teens Die in Apparent Suicide Pact

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Heidi K. Chamberlain and Christopher Mills chose a rugged and remote precipice at the edge of Rancho Palos Verdes--a rustic area of expensive homes, dirt-bike trails and jogging and hiking paths--to end their lives.

It was early Sunday morning, not long after midnight, when the teenagers, 15 and 16, parked Heidi's family Plymouth on a scenic cliff overlooking the ocean, hiked about 100 feet down a path, descended more than a dozen steps and went through a hole in a chain-link fence to what the locals call "the diving board," a 10-foot-long concrete ledge overhanging the rocks.

It was from there that they jumped 150 feet to their deaths in what was an apparent suicide pact, Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies said.

"We believe it was a double suicide that was planned by both of them," said sheriff's spokeswoman Carrie Stuart.

The bodies were found among the rocks about 8 a.m. by a jogger at the bottom of the cliff below Marguerite Drive.

Sheriff's deputies said a suicide note written by Christopher was found in the car, a white Plymouth Horizon. Another note was found in Heidi's house in Rancho Palos Verdes, investigators said.

With details still sketchy, Los Angeles sheriff's deputies said they would not disclose the contents of the notes. It was unclear why the teenagers wanted to take their lives, and little could be learned about Christopher on Sunday.

Heidi's death was the second of a Palos Verdes Peninsula High School student in three days, said Brenton Goodrich, president of the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District board of education.

On Friday, junior Koichi Tasaka, 17, was killed when the car he was driving struck a tree about a mile from campus during lunch hour. Passenger Alan Wang, 17, also a junior, was in stable condition in intensive care late Sunday at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

School administrators spent Sunday making arrangements to help students cope with the losses. Extra psychologists, counselors and parents will be dispatched to the school this week to speak with students.

Investigators said the two teenagers jumped from the concrete ledge, built below the end of a culvert. The platform is known as the "diving board," locals said, because it juts out over a 150-foot drop and because it has been used for suicides before. The chain-link fence built to keep trespassers out has long since been pierced by holes big enough for people to clamber through.

On the narrow ledge, the pair left a blue cigarette lighter, a cigarette pack and cigarette butts arranged in an arrow pointing to the end from which they jumped.

"It looks like they wanted to be found," said sheriff's investigator Bob Snapper.

A statement released by the Chamberlain family said that "Heidi was known for her love of life. She was free-spirited and knew how to live life to its fullest."

The high school sophomore played soccer for a club team and her school and loved animals, particularly her horse, Brit--her prized possession. She was "an avid rider and showman of horses for five years," the statement said.

The girl, who was recently baptized in the Mormon faith, showed no sign that she was going to take her life, the family statement said.

A visibly distraught Wayne Chamberlain, Heidi's father, spoke briefly outside the family house in Rancho Palos Verdes.

Asked whether he had seen anything like this coming, he said simply, "No."

"At about 6:30 a.m. we knew the car was gone, and she was gone," he said. He said that his daughter and Christopher had been dating about six months.

It wasn't serious, he said. "They are just teenagers."

On Marguerite Drive, the scenic street overlooking the spot where the two teenagers jumped to their death, the quiet of the neighborhood was disrupted by the buzz of helicopters, the comings and goings of fire engines, and detectives searching for answers to the tragic deaths.

"Not too many people except locals go up here," said Ralph Domino, 69, who has lived on the block 17 years. "It's unfortunate these two kids had to choose that way to go. . . ."

Ilene Clow, who has lived in the neighborhood four years, said it is not the first time that young people have chosen the cliffs to end their lives.

"It's happened before," she said. "Parents knock themselves out for their kids--raising money for the schools, going to baseball games, and the kids think it's a horrible place to grow up in."

Times staff writer Duke Helfand contributed to this story.

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