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

    theway, i totally agree with you.

    October 1, 2010 at 12:27 am | Report abuse |
  2. John McRoy Davies

    Why do CNN and other reputable news outlets LOWER the level of public debate in this country by allowing posts like some of the above? All types of views should be aired.... (including those distateful to some) but .... what happenend to editors doing some "editing."

    October 1, 2010 at 12:34 am | Report abuse |
    • chinarules

      STOP complaining already!!

      October 1, 2010 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
  3. J Bergen

    I am calling for CNN and all other news networks to discontinue the comment sections of their websites. MOST of what I read is inflammatory and causes victims and their families undue distress. Please, please, please stop giving audience to those intolerant, hateful people who have nothing better to do with their lives than judge others . These comments are hurtful and do not serve to solve our societal problems. So sad to hear about this bright student's struggles.

    October 1, 2010 at 12:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Madcap

      First Amendment sucks huh?

      October 1, 2010 at 1:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris H

      @ Madcap. While I agree with you that free speech protects all speech, even that with which we disagree. I'm not sure it applies to a posting board run by a private party. Otherwise, there would be no moderation of any kind of the comments before they are posted. So, if someone wanted to lobby CNN to remove all the posts that offended themselves or a member of their collective (organized) group.

      October 1, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. EM

    He was a good man and deserved to live, not because he was a musician, or a great friend or had good marks or whatever. He deserved to live because he was a human being. It's as simple as that.

    Why does CNN and all the rest of the press have to make it sound like victims have to have some special qualifications first before we accord them the respect of life?

    "Ooo, she was a cheerleader, ooo he was a football hero, ooo she was so pretty, ooo he was planning to become a veterinarian..." and on and on.

    People have value simply for being people. But not in the USA. In the U.S., you apparently have to 'accomplish' something to be deemed worthy of life, if you are to believe CNN and all the rest of the media trash.

    Disgusting.

    Absolutely disgusting.

    October 1, 2010 at 12:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Maya2007

      Very well put.... Status seems to be very important in this day and age.... What about all the other gay/lesbian who killed themselves?? We will all be judge one day and the accomplishment these people have done in their lives will not save them...

      October 1, 2010 at 7:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Maya2007

      Heterophobe: just like you have a choice whether to accept Jesus as your savior or not... We all have choices since Adam and Eve came into this world.

      October 1, 2010 at 7:23 am | Report abuse |
  5. Michelle

    The families and there victims are not reading this right now. They are mourning because someone died. All of these comments will be deleted within hours anyway as if the blog never happened. CNN does not read,edit or put a 2nd thouht into their own writing so why would they ours? If you don't like the program change the channel. Simple as that!

    October 1, 2010 at 12:49 am | Report abuse |
  6. Pastor Long

    #1balla: I am looking forward to meeting with you this evening. My driver will be along shortly. Remember its our little secret....

    October 1, 2010 at 12:55 am | Report abuse |
  7. jorkey

    Those two individual should be charge with murder. He killed himself becaus of their action. http://jorkey.wordpress.com/2010/10/01/why-so-much-hate-towards-gays/?preview=true&preview_id=233&preview_nonce=8affa1f3f1

    October 1, 2010 at 12:55 am | Report abuse |
    • DSolomon

      The only way they will be charged with murder is if prosecutors can prove intent, and unless they posted something on Facebook/Twitter specifically stating they intended to drive this guy to kill himself, that will be exceedingly difficult.

      October 1, 2010 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
  8. angie

    What is wrong with you people! this young man took his life! and a mother lost her son!! and a family is suffering because of this,put yourself in there what if this your son,brother,dad,uncle, you would not like it. regardless if he was gay or not that was his buisness to tell ! what they did was wrong and the two people who did this should go to jail for the crime! they knew what they were doing !!

    October 1, 2010 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
  9. angie

    @china rules Get out of here with that u sound stupid!! stupid.

    October 1, 2010 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
  10. Paula

    This is utterly heartbreaking. What a beautiful young man. I can only imagine what his parents and family are going through. What is wrong with people?

    October 1, 2010 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
  11. msl

    another mother grieving for her son . . its very sad story and all should have respect to the family . . this world needs more compassion !

    October 1, 2010 at 1:06 am | Report abuse |
  12. angie

    I am really sick that there is alot of nonsense in this world truly all of u who are trashing gays what buisness do u have in what goes on in there bedroom.

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

    i will pray for the family and this world!! please let it go!! i am just sick have a heart people!!

    October 1, 2010 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
  14. mike

    i see me an amry of trolls in here boss!!!

    October 1, 2010 at 1:20 am | Report abuse |
  15. sweety245

    Gay or not he shouldnt be dead rite now. How would u like it if somene hid a cam in ur room an then streamed it for the whole world to watch an laugh an judge u?? How would u feel? I knw how you'd feel you'd be mad an feel betrayed an you'd want somene to do smthn abt it an somene to pay. Hes no difrent than u. God made evryne equal in his eyes. An gods eyes are the 1 that matters. Not ppl that have to hurt somene to bring there self up.

    October 1, 2010 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
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