September 30th, 2010
08:29 PM ET

Rutgers student remembered as dedicated musician

Tyler Clementi

In the week since Tyler Clementi updated his Facebook page with the status, "jumping off the gw bridge sorry," web pages dedicated to the Rutgers University freshman have cast him as a victim of harassment and homophobia.

But to those who knew him in his hometown of Ridgewood, New Jersey, Clementi was a kind friend and talented violinist whose passion for music was his main focus.

Details about Clementi's sexual orientation are unclear. New Jersey prosecutors are considering bias charges against Clementi's roommate, Dharun Ravi, and friend Molly Wei, for their alleged roles in streaming a webcast that showed Clementi having a sexual encounter with another man. Clementi's body was found Wednesday in the Hudson River.

Rutgers University student Danielle Birnbohm, who lived next door to Clementi and Ravi in the dorm, told CNN affiliate WPIX that Clementi was gay.

"It was obvious," she said.

Two Facebook pages established in Clementi's name have more than 42,000 fans, most of them strangers offering condolences to his family and lamenting the prevalence of bullying against homosexuals.

Tributes to Clementi by those who knew him before his tragic death, however, cast him in a happier light.

"I loved hearing you play your violin every Sunday morning at church. It saddens me greatly to know that you will never play again and never get to experience so many things in your life. I pray for you and your family everyday when I cross the bridge. You were a sweet young man who touched many hearts. You will be missed," Nicole Voight wrote on the page, "Honoring The Life Of Tyler Clementi."

A graduate of Ridgewood High School's class of 2010, Clementi played in the school orchestra and received the National School Orchestra Award from his high school. He was a member of the Ridgewood Symphony Orchestra and the Bergen Youth Orchestras, and worked as a violinist last year for a local theater production of, "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," the Ridgewood Patch reported.

"He was so professional, so talented, everyone liked him. It was just a shock to hear. It's such a loss, he was such an incredible talent and such a great person," Ryan Pifher, director of Porchlight Light Productions, told the online publication.

A longtime resident of Ridgewood, Clementi attended Travell Elementary School, Benjamin Franklin Middle School and Ridgewood High School in 2010 before starting at Rutgers this fall.

"In the 3 years Tyler was at Ben Franklin School, I saw him often in the office. He was ALWAYS respectful, polite, and a thoroughly pleasant kid. This is a tragedy beyond measure. My sincere condolences to his family and friends... all the people who loved him and will miss him so much," Pat Guerin Lang wrote on the Facebook page.

Authorities say Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge between New York and New Jersey on September 22, a few days after his roommate allegedly Tweeted about him.

"Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay," Ravi is believed to have said on September 19 on his Twitter account, which has since been deactivated.

Middlesex County prosecutors said Ravi surreptitiously positioned his web camera in the dorm room to capture Clementi's sexual encounter and broadcast it on the internet. Ravi tried to use the webcam again two days later, on September 21.

"Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes it's happening again," Ravi is believed to have tweeted. The next day, Clementi was dead.

Friends of Clementi's said he never came out as gay or had a girlfriend in high school, ABC News reported.

His top priority was always his role in the school orchestra, friend Rob Righthand told ABC.

"He was one of those kids who never had a girlfriend and never had a boyfriend. You just thought he wasn't open for dating or anything like that," said Righthand.

Ravi and Wei are each charged with two counts of invasion of privacy for the September 19 broadcast, according to the prosecutor's office. Two more counts of invasion of privacy were leveled against Ravi for a September 21 attempt to record another encounter, and additional bias charges are being considered.

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soundoff (127 Responses)
  1. SickofIgnorance

    Really? How can you say that after reading such a tragic story? That is half the problem, ignorance. "Gay men are gross?" What is wrong with you? Numbaoneidiot

    September 30, 2010 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amy

      Debra, I understand your desire to reach out to this family, but it is a VERY BAD IDEA to post your personal information on such a public forum and strongly advise you somehow try to remove it before you are inundated with unwelcome spam, hate mail, etc.. Please take my advice and refrain from doing this–your information can be used in ways you can't even imagine and you may truly regret posting it, regardless how sincerely you wish to help and comfort this family.

      October 1, 2010 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |
  2. anonymous

    He was an hero.

    September 30, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. clayton

    you are absolutely right kate!

    September 30, 2010 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Anonymous

    Very sad! Just pray for him.

    September 30, 2010 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Suzanne

    This is a terribly sad story. My condolences to Tyler's family.

    September 30, 2010 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. sosad

    Don't worry numbaoneballa, no gay man would be interested in your "gross" ignorant ass. And from the sounds of you pathetic message, neither would a woman.

    September 30, 2010 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. duke

    I'm with numbaoneballa.
    I don't agree with the gay man thing but,I don't think harm should come to them whether it be mental or physical.
    This kid doing his self in is tragic, however,I don't see why everyone is trying to ruin the young promising lives of the other two(coLlege kids) albeit stupid what they did how can you hold me criminally responsible because someone was not mentally strong enough to deal with his own embarrassments??

    September 30, 2010 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • querida

      people do not have a right to do what the roommate did. That is a violation of someone's rights. When you violate someone's rights, you are responsible for what happens TO THEM as a result. It is the roommate's fault. The kid was obviously a very sweet and sensitive guy (musician/etc.) The roommate is insensitive and selfish and probably bigoted. How can you say people should not be held responsible for WHO they are? It doesn't make sense to say the roommate is not responsible for the kid's embarrassment. If he killed himself of embarrassment over the video, it was a DIRECT link. Do not, for one minute try to say it wasn't. You try to suggest the kid's sensitivity was the problem. No, see, that was the tragedy, because sensitive people are so RARE, and idiots, like the one who humiliated him are so common. Then people like you try to defend it. Sensitive people ROCK, Insensitive people SUCK.

      October 1, 2010 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Gabe

      No, it WASN'T a direct link. You can't charge the two perpetrators in the same way you would charge them if they just went up to him and shot him. That's a direct link. I believe the correct sentence should be manslaughter (+ the intrusion on privacy), but I don't know how many years they would deserve behind bars. Clearly, both parties are responsible for the death, not one or the other.

      October 1, 2010 at 1:14 am | Report abuse |
    • BF

      I'm very annoyed at the person(s) responsible for video taping him, but I can also see how a young person would think that this was nothing more than a hilarious prank.... as you know, pranking people.... or otherwise exposing them doing something embarassing.... is very stylish these days. It is what young people do.... and it is often rather funny! This situation, though, went horribly wrong. It is a young person's mistake. Those jerk's should get minimal penalties if any. I'm betting they have more than learned their lesson.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:40 am | Report abuse |
    • cecilia

      Well Duke, if you do not understand the seriousness of the actions of his room mates, then you will probably not understand that their actions are the result of a society that has not regard for another's privacy or respect of for human life. I hold the tea party people responsible for their actions. What? you say. go back and read some of the hate filled statements by the likes of ms. palin, ms o'donnell, ms angle – yep that's where it comes from – there are lots of ways to kill someone besides second amendment solutions. the right has blood on their hands they may have even more if the hate talk does not go away

      October 1, 2010 at 7:58 am | Report abuse |
    • DavidMichael

      Actually Gabe, if a burglar is caught he is charged with burglary. If the victim has a heart attack while the burglar is in the act, an additional charge of murder will be added.

      October 1, 2010 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
    • ScottH

      To cecilia,

      You are reaching really deep and besides I don't think you understand either. The roommate actions are not the results of the our society. I know this (as a father of two), it's not what you take away from your children are important but what you put into them. We cannot watch over our kids 24/7 therefore as a parent we must teach and prepare them for whatever society will throw at them. That is our duty as a parent and if we expect our society to teach them moral and ethical standards than we have failed. I hold the parents of these kids more responsible. They allow the family value to crumble.

      October 1, 2010 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  8. molly

    Wait im confused.. So the man was gay or wat

    September 30, 2010 at 11:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • couldubanydumber?


      September 30, 2010 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      Yes, obviously.

      October 1, 2010 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  9. pat

    What an embecile.

    September 30, 2010 at 11:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Madcap

      What kind of imbecile cannot spell the actual word "imbecile"?

      October 1, 2010 at 1:00 am | Report abuse |
  10. bobby g

    definately let these two kids off with a slap on the wrist. his suicide is not their fault. they should still face the music for the violation of hi personal privacy.

    September 30, 2010 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • nonesuch

      "Definately?" Oh, please, dear, go back to 5th grade and get a do-over. If you were any dumber, we'd have to water you.

      September 30, 2010 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sennen

      Yes, there is a direct link. Their malevolent actions, which were taken with malice aforethought, are the proximate cause of this young man's death. Therefore, they are as responsible as if they had put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger, and should face an appropriate penalty. He will be greatly missed as someone whose contributions to society would be uplifting, and they are as dirt beneath our feet.

      October 1, 2010 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |
  11. barbara jennings

    I don't understand why we have to have a say in the way other people live their lives be it straight or gay. It is like kids with autism or down syndrom we are so like treat them different And they are o normal compared to stupid straight people

    September 30, 2010 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • cecilia

      Barbara, I agree withs some of what you said, but being gay is not like Down's or being autistic. It is not an affliction or a disorder – and that is the crux of the problem of understanding

      October 1, 2010 at 8:04 am | Report abuse |
  12. bobby g

    whose the imbecile?

    September 30, 2010 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • nonesuch

      You are. If you had a brain and the sense to get an education, you'd know how to use apostrophes, ya moron.

      September 30, 2010 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • sambarber

      answer hint: check the person who can't write "who's"

      September 30, 2010 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • nonesuch

      Sam, GMTA, bud!

      September 30, 2010 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
  13. miles

    the comments should be closed. Cnn, this is very poor taste and bad judgement to allow your site as a host for idiotic bigotry in the wake of this tragedy. No more but condolences should be left for his loved ones. Shameful. Terrible leaders.

    September 30, 2010 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • VoiceOfReason

      Your kind of ignorance makes this world a dangerous place. The way we learn best is by hearing opinions of all kinds, even those we may disdain. The latter is the insidious evil of so-called political correctness. “The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” John Stuart Mill

      October 1, 2010 at 6:06 am | Report abuse |
  14. somal

    another bullying victim

    September 30, 2010 at 11:40 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Brandy

    I hope we all learn to value a life again in this world. He was a person, he was a wonderful person from the sound of it. We all have opinions as Americans but do we all have compassion for other people who are different from
    ourselves. Like Kermit the Frog said, it's not easy being green. I wish us Americans would really absorb what that means. I believe the day will come when the fight of the oppresion against LGBT will prevail, may this young handsome young soul rest in peace. I will do my part by believing the one day that we will all learn to live as one. Ignorance in people makes me really sad and makes my soul ache with disgust. My thoughts and heart are with his family at this time.

    September 30, 2010 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
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