Grad Student Found Dead in Apartment

April 29, 2003
By Marc Zawel
Sun Managing Editor

In the wake of three student deaths in the past month, Cornell students were again faced with the loss of another classmate on Friday.

Mihoko Kajikawa grad was found dead at her 111 Ferris Place residence by Ithaca Police Department (IPD) officials at an unspecified time, according to Linda Grace-Kobas, director of the Cornell News Service.

Kajikawa was found after “police had been alerted that she hadn’t been seen that day,” Grace-Kobas said.

Details surrounding Kajikawa’s death, and whether or not it was a suicide, are still unclear.

“I don’t have the why or the how,” Grace-Kobas said.

Medical examiners have yet to fully examine Kajikawa, making it difficult to speculate on the exact cause of death, according to Grace-Kobas.

Kajikawa, a student from Japan, had been studying in the Asian studies department.

The office of the dean of students held a community support meeting on Sunday to discuss possible plans for a memorial service, Grace-Kobas added.

“Her family is arriving today. We won’t know [of the plans] until they get here,” said Susan H. Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services, yesterday.

“These are tragedies,” President Hunter R. Rawlings III told The Sun last week in an interview. “Each is an individual and each has its own circumstances.”

The death of Kajikawa is the fourth in a string of student deaths at Cornell beginning on April 1, several of which are still being investigated.

“I don’t think anybody could explain why this happened in such a short period,” Grace-Kobas said.

“When they come in succession, [deaths] are even more devastating,” Rawlings said.

Grace-Kobas said that the Cornell News Service has not yet received toxicology reports for Vinod Kundnani grad and Kristen Osborne ’04, which are being conducted by the Binghamton medical examiner’s office.

Osborne died on April 14 of head injuries sustained during a fall at her Collegetown residence. Kundnani collapsed on March 31 under mysterious circumstances.

The length of time that officials have been waiting for the reports to be released is “a little bit unusual,” Grace-Kobas said.

“I checked with the [Cornell University Police Department] today and they have been in contact with the [IPD], but they haven’t received any reports yet,” Grace-Kobas said.

She added that reports can take several weeks to compose.

IPD officials remain tight-lipped about the events surrounding Osborne’s fall from a third-floor stairwell and are unwilling to speculate on whether or not her death was caused by drug or alcohol use.

According to Grace-Kobas, there are also no new leads regarding the series of events leading up to the April 10 suicide of Karl W. Brown ’04 and whether or not drugs or alcohol were a factor in his death.

“We strongly oppose the use of illegal drugs,” Rawlings said. “You don’t want to say that some drugs are okay.”

If University officials were notified by the IPD about problems surrounding certain drugs, this information would be made available to students, according to Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president for University relations.

Asked to speculate on what could be causing the series of student deaths, Grace-Kobas said, “I don’t know. We’ve never had this type of situation before. Each individual situation is unique. There is no pattern in each individual’s circumstances.”

Grace-Kobas again stressed the services available for students seeking guidance or support. Programs such as Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at Gannett: Cornell University Health Services and Empathy, Assistance and Referral Service (EARS) as well as chaplains of Cornell United Religious Works (CURW) are all available to students.

“We do everything we can,” Rawlings said. “We have many, many programs, counseling services, outreach and special programs.”

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