Cho and Blasberg's favorite place to hang out in Henderson was the Balboa Pizza Company, where they would play video poker at the bar. "Guys were constantly hitting on her," says Cho. "Erica attracted so much of that kind of attention, but she kind of laughed it off. She never talked about that part of her life. I don't think I ever heard her say she was going on a date." Blasberg had a reason to be secretive—in the final year of her life she was involved with a wealthy married man twice her age.
The two had a messy breakup around the end of 2009, when apparently he was unwilling to leave his wife for her. If Blasberg was looking for another man to replace him, she had many potential suitors at Southern Highlands, where she had always been a source of keen interest among the graying membership. Says one, "When Erica was at the range, there was never a shortage of guys eager to set up next to her. She's young, she's friendly, she's pretty, she's out in the sun getting hot and sweaty—what's not to like?"
In February 2010 Blasberg sought treatment from Hess for her lingering bronchitis. After that their friendship flowered at Southern Highlands. "We'd practice together and then go play a few holes," says Hess. "She helped me a lot with my game." He was happy to break 100 during their two or three full rounds together.
While Erica was getting healthy and playing a little recreational golf, the new LPGA season began without her. In late March father and daughter finally broke their long silence; when Erica didn't call Mel on his birthday, he rang her. They talked about a lot of things, including golf. After her extended break from the LPGA, Erica was ready to give tournament golf another shot. Mel was ecstatic, and they spent much of April working together. "We had some great practice sessions," says Mel. "She was fired up. And for me the feeling was a little different. I felt more like her father and less like her coach." For her part, Erica seemed more open to her dad's counsel. He suggested that she begin speaking to a sports psychologist, and instead of the usual push back, Erica enthusiastically agreed.
Blasberg's withdrawal from Q school left her with little status on the LPGA tour. To get into most events she would have to go through Monday qualifying, a Darwinian shootout in which dozens of players compete for two spots in that week's tournament. At the end of April, Erica successfully Monday-qualified for the Tres Marias Championship in Morelia, Mexico. She made the cut and finished 44th. While there, Blasberg had a lengthy heart-to-heart with Cho. "The conversation was very positive, and she seemed excited about golf, excited about the season," says Cho. "And we were excited to hang out together."
Blasberg returned to Henderson on May 3 to prepare for the following week's Bell Micro LPGA Classic, which was to be played in Alabama. (On May 9 she was supposed to leave for the Monday qualifier, at which Cho's caddie, Missy Pederson, was going to work for her.) On May 7 she and Hess played golf at Southern Highlands and then met at the M Casino, where they watched a hockey game on TV. He went home to his family, and Blasberg went home alone. At some point near the end of her life, Erica had a couple of confrontational phone calls with the wife of her former lover. On the night of May 8 or early the next morning, Erica tried to text-message the man but failed to execute it properly, and he never received the text. In that same time span, Pederson received a terse text from Blasberg saying she wouldn't be making the trip to Alabama.
Hours later Erica was dead.
From the very beginning the Henderson police were stingy about providing details on the death and subsequent investigation, and rumor-mongering and innuendo have been rampant in this information vacuum. A few days after Erica's body was discovered, Nancy Grace, the CNN Headline News carnival barker, devoted nearly an entire show to the case. Grace reported that Blasberg had been "... possibly smothered to death." One of her guests, lawyer Gloria Allred, wondered, "Was there a sex game involved?"
The speculation was fueled in part by early reports that Blasberg's bags were packed for Alabama and that friends and family had reported her to be in good spirits. Dr. Alane Olson, the Clark County medical examiner who performed the autopsy, says these kind of contradictions are normal in suicides: "When people are at the depths of their depression, they don't have the energy to formulate a plan and carry it out. If you interview the survivors of suicide victims, a common sentiment is, 'But they seemed to be doing better.'"
Olson ruled Blasberg's death a suicide not only by examining the body—there were no signs of foul play or sexual trauma—but also by other evidence, including the two-page note Erica had left behind and additional writings. A police inspection of Blasberg's computer revealed that she had researched suicide methods on the Internet. The toxicology report showed she had alprazolam (an antianxiety medication), temazepam (a sleep aid), butalbital (a migraine medication) and pain relievers codeine, hydrocodone and tramadol in her system. "What all of these drugs have in common is that they produce a sedative effect," says Olson. Rebreathing is a fairly common method of suicide in Clark County, in which 367 people took their lives in 2009. Significant quantities of drugs, usually sedatives, are almost always used by the victims "to put them in a state where the natural inhibition to death is lowered," says Olson. A loose-fitting plastic bag is placed over the head, and a person is slowly poisoned by the exhaled carbon dioxide. The level of drugs in Blasberg's system was toxic, but asphyxia was the primary cause of death.