Cheerleader’s Sudden Death Stuns Anaheim Classmates

Times Staff Writer

Initial autopsy results failed to pinpoint the cause of death of a 14-year-old Anaheim cheerleader who collapsed during team practice, authorities said Thursday.

Shauna Stuewe, a freshman at Esperanza High School and a gymnast, was being tossed into the air by teammates in what was called a routine move shortly before she passed out Wednesday afternoon.

“Everything happened so quickly,” said school spokeswoman Rosemary Gladden. “It was a normal cheerleading practice. They had just finished some routines, and [Shauna] said ... she either felt faint or dizziness. Then she passed out, and we called the paramedics.”

School officials also called Shauna’s parents, who arrived quickly enough to accompany their daughter to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Anaheim, where she died.

Thursday’s autopsy was inconclusive, said Jim Amormino, spokesman for the Orange County sheriff and coroner. Further analysis, such as microscopic testing of tissue samples and toxicological testing, will take six to eight weeks, he said.


“Nothing is ruled out,” he said.

Shauna’s parents declined to comment through a family representative. But the teenager’s page offered a glimpse into her life.

Shauna had written that God was her hero, she enjoyed movies and all kinds of music except country, and hoped to have children. Several friends posted messages on the site mourning her death.

“Can’t wait until the day we get to see each other face to face and be on the same cheer team together in heaven,” one unnamed cheerleader wrote. “That will be the best day ever.”

At Esperanza, counselors were available Thursday for students shaken by Shauna’s death. Her fellow cheerleaders hung signs and banners memorializing their friend, including one beneath a cluster of red balloons that read, “Our Lil Cheerleader Is Flying High.”

Nikaila Ruiz, 14, shared a language arts class with Shauna and remembered her kindness.

“She was smart. She was really nice too,” the freshman said. “Some kids who weren’t really cool, she would reach out and hang out with them.”

Sophomore Ashley Toth attended Friends Christian School in Yorba Linda with Shauna during their elementary and middle school years, with Ashley playing basketball and Shauna on the cheerleading squad.

Ashley most remembered Shauna’s infectious laughter.

“She was very down-to-earth and nice, and very dedicated to school and church,” she said.