Two teenage friends in Texas were found dead within hours of each other in apparent suicides on Sunday, leading police to investigate whether the deaths were connected.
Ritu Sachdeva and Hillary Kate Kuizon, 17-year-old seniors at Plano East Senior High School, were found in different locations — Sachdeva at home and Kuizon in a wooded area near a middle school, according to police in the town of Murphy, a Plano suburb.
Authorities did not say how the girls died, but the circumstances led investigators "to presume they were both self-inflicted," police said in a statement. There was no evidence of foul play.
"We are treating these two cases with the care and compassion they deserve, and will continue to seek answers for the families," Murphy Police Chief Arthur Cotton said.
That includes interviews with the girls' relatives to determine whether their deaths were linked.
Sachdeva's older sister said her family did not notice any signs that she planned to kill herself. Ritu struggled with depression and anxiety but regularly saw a psychiatrist and therapist and took medication, Suchi Sachdeva, 21, told NBC News in an email.
In fact, her sister said, Ritu "seemed much happier than she had been in a while. You could even say she was becoming more confident, happy and excited for life."
Part of the reason was she'd been accepted to Drexel University in Philadelphia, and was chatting with members of a group for incoming students.
"I just wanted to say that this was just so unexpected," Suchi Sachdeva said. "My parents and I care so much for her."
Kuizon's family could not be reached.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among children and young adults aged 10 to 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC warned last March of an increase in young people suffocating and strangling themselves, including by hanging.
If it turns out that the girls went through with some sort of suicide pact, the case would be a rarity. It's estimated that such acts make up less than 1 percent of all suicide deaths, said Jeffrey Bridge, director of the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Most suicide pacts involve married couples over the age of 50, he said.
Experts urge relatives and friends to be aware of suicide's warning signs:
- Talking about wanting to die
- Talking about feeling trapped
- Talking about feeling unbearable pain, or feeling like a burden to others
- Acting anxious or agitated
- Behaving recklessly
- Becoming socially isolated
Those worried about someone harming themselves can call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
The day after the girls were found, about 100 students and families showed up for a communal counseling event, spokeswoman Lesley Range-Stanton said. Counselors remained on campus Tuesday.
"We join with the students and staff at Plano East in mourning this loss and in extending our sincere condolences to the students' families," Range-Stanton said in a statement.