After being recruited by a number of major golf schools, Erica eventually enrolled in the University of Arizona in 2002. It was there that she went saw success after success, winning both player of the year and freshman of the year. Not to mention getting her face on Golfweek magazine’s cover, quite the honor at such a young age!
In 2005 the aspiring top golfer joined the LPGA tour – but although her displays were far from disastrous, they were also a long way from being triumphant. Then, in May of that year, Erica suffered disqualification from a charity championship for what she described as a trivial mistake.
By this point, Erica’s parents had separated, and Mel could no longer afford to attend all of his daughter’s tournaments. And without the wealth of more successful players, Erica was unable to jet in family and friends to support her. Moreover, lacking a network of people behind her, the young woman may well have become isolated.
Concerned, Erica’s parents jetted out to see her on the tour; and yet by that point the young golfer seemed to have recovered. Indeed, even though LPGA officials offered her the opportunity to take a sabbatical without repercussions, Erica decided to continue playing. And in time her career finally appeared to be on the up.
What’s more, off the course, Erica didn’t seem to be faring much better. By this time, she had asserted her independence by buying her own home close to Las Vegas in Henderson, Nevada. However, she knew few people in the area.
At Southern Highlands, Erica also reportedly often found herself the center of attention – particularly from the older men who frequented the club. And in February 2010 she turned to one of them, a married doctor named Thomas Hess, to treat the bronchitis that had recently been afflicting her.
That being said, on May 2, 2010, witnesses apparently spotted Erica and Hess looking close while viewing a hockey game on TV at a Henderson hotel. And according to rumors, it wouldn’t have been the first time that Erica had been involved with a married man. Still, whatever the nature of Erica and Hess’ relationship, she returned home alone that night, while he went back to his family residence.
Apparently, Hess had gone to check on Erica – only to find her lifeless body in bed, a plastic bag tied around her head. On the call, the doctor told the dispatcher that the golfer had been drinking the night before – but that he did not believe she had been suicidal. However, as police launched an investigation, a different picture began to emerge.
Meanwhile, although Erica’s death would eventually be ruled a suicide, Hess was subsequently arrested for obstructing the course of justice. And after submitting a plea of guilty, he was sentenced to a stint of community service and 12 months’ probation. Erica’s parents were unsatisfied with this result, however, and launched a civil suit accusing their daughter’s doctor of malpractice and causing wrongful death. But in May 2014 the lawsuit was dismissed, with the jury ultimately seeing a picture similar to that painted by the contents of Erica’s note – namely, that no one was to blame and that a deep depression had led the young woman to tragically take her own life.