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.

Post by:
Filed under: Crime • Facebook • New Jersey • Twitter
soundoff (127 Responses)
  1. estela

    ALL THE PEOPLE THAT R DOWNING THIS BOY CUZ HE IS GAY YALL NEED TO GO GET A LIFE AND STOP TRYING TO GET IN SOMEBODY ELSES I GIVE MY CONDOLENCES TO THE FAMILY AND AM VERY SORRY THIS HAS HAPPENED TO A TALENTED YOUNG MAN.

    September 30, 2010 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jordan Collins

    I cannot believe CNN hasn't disabled comment for a story like this....get a grip CNN.

    September 30, 2010 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Austin

    This story is a huge tragedy and makes me both sad and extremely angry. It never ceases to amaze me at how cruel "normal" every-day people really are. You don't just commit suicide because someone humiliated you like that, although what the room mate did was no doubt traumatizing. I think that Tyler's decision was probably a result of him feeling alienated and alone because of the way we as a society treat people who aren't considered part of the "norm." The webcam thing was like the last straw. It makes me really wish I could have been there for the guy. Also, to the people who think they are comedians and are mocking him in his death, you are no different than the ones who helped directly cause it. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

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

      I would not describe thoese evil fools as "normal". Twisted, malevolent, unfit for society yes, but certainly not "normal". The intolerance and cruelty in today's world frightens and saddens me, and I feel as if I am participating the the fall of the empire.

      October 1, 2010 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
  4. tom- e chrstn

    This is a twisted world we live in now. Most of you, especially you who are more holier than thou, need to be praying. Like the Capital One commercial, "What's in your closet?"

    September 30, 2010 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Really

    Not 1 of my 5 comments have been posted...

    September 30, 2010 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • MotleyDogg

      1 of 6 obviously were though!!!

      October 1, 2010 at 5:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Jon O

      I like the people who think their comments are read and reviewed by the mods in real time. No one reads it between you clicking post and it hitting the web, you dolts. Yes... cnn pays an army of people to police its 1000 active boards at any one time.

      Yuuuup, it's all a major conspiracy. What they MAY have, is some kind of filter, which prevents the positing of posts with certain words or word combos that they've found tend to be a violation of the terms of service. Guess what? You agreed to any of that kind of thing when you signed up, so sorry. Maybe you should just me more careful your posts aren't so full of hate and vulgarity that they can't get past a filter.

      And, if you genuinely don't have trashy, nasty posts and you're still not seeing them, chalk it up to the internet and crossed wires. It happens to all of us, but seeing how some people REACT when they believe that Non-Existent Big Brother is censoring their posts, I have a hard time believing the original content was anything quality.

      And really? Do you read these posts? If they have a filter, it's pretty liberal and lax, so quit whining, copy your post before you press the post button, and try again if you have to... its what those of us who know how the internet REALLY works solves the problem of server handling the incoming requests of thousands of posters across the CNN boards at once.

      October 1, 2010 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
  6. pointless1

    I'm an equal opportunity hater.. Pull the plug.. the experiment has gone wrong.. If your going to hate anything or anyone.. just look at the human race as a whole and hate that. Bigotry and intolerance comes in many shades of stupidity..

    September 30, 2010 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Really

    Oh so you finally post my 6th comment when it doesn't actually say anything?

    September 30, 2010 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ray gibbs

    Poet's balm of peace.

    September 30, 2010 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Maria

    Gay or not, his roommate had no business broadcasting him without his knowledge.

    October 1, 2010 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
  10. professor j

    It's incredibly sad, and devastating for his family.

    October 1, 2010 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  11. bailoutsos

    "Dharun Ravi" and friend "Molly Wei" -- "Ravi, Dharun" and friend "Wei, Molly"

    October 1, 2010 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
    • acceptance please

      HUH?

      October 1, 2010 at 12:13 am | Report abuse |
    • bailoutsos

      acceptance please HUH? @@@ Just did that in case a future prospective employer googles their name.

      October 1, 2010 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
  12. Really

    Ok then here is comment #7-apparently a few men here have issues w/ their own $exuality or they wouldn't have to clarify where they stand on the issue to begin with combined with a statement meant to convey sympathy. Hence the name #1balla-this guy obviously has to give himself a specific name that implies something...hmmm, once you have convinced yourself of your own $exual prowess you'll be secure enough to not have to be so convincing to the rest of us!

    October 1, 2010 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  13. whit

    it was a very selfish thing for him to do. he was not a hero, if he was a hero he would have gotten killed by fighting in a war or taking a bullet for someone else but he didnt. he couldnt accept who he was so he killed himself. he was a weak person.

    October 1, 2010 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |
  14. Theway

    Very sad for young man and his family. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us, and the events that may have led up to this young man taking his own life we may never fully understand. This young man is now in one of two places at this very moment.I hope its with the Lord. Do you know were you will be when you draw your last breath? John 14:6 Jesus is the only way.

    October 1, 2010 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
  15. #1prostatepounder

    Hey numbaoneballa when we gonna get together?

    October 1, 2010 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6